How to Line Dry Clothes Like a Pro

July 12, 2014

How to Line Dry Clothes Like a Pro

Nothing beats the scent of clothes dried outside on the line, and with summer here, now is the perfect time to reap the many benefits of using your “solar dryer.” Clothes last longer when dried outside because they don’t get overheated, and sunlight provides a natural sanitizing and bleaching agent. Follow these handy how-tos, and you’ll be saving energy, eliminating static cling, and savoring sniffs of naturally fresh clothes in no time.

  • Check the rules. First, check to be sure that your homeowners association or town allows line drying of clothes. Oddly enough, some places have banned it for being unsightly and supposedly driving down property values. Determined line dryers in these areas have gotten around bans by drying in their garages with doors half open or stringing lines under their decks, or behind shrubs or a screen. (If you live in an area where it’s not allowed, you might consider joining the “right to dry” movement to help change the rules.)
  • Choose your spot. Clothes dry faster when they are exposed to more they air and sun, so you’ll want to set up your clothesline (retractable or permanent), umbrella-style drying rack or clotheshorse accordingly. Take into account conifer trees, which drip sap, and roosting birds, which drip, well, other things that you don’t want on your clean clothes. Put your line at a comfortable height so you don’t get sore from over-reaching. Consider having a line on your porch: clothes won’t dry quite as fast, but you don’t have to worry about sun bleaching or if it’s going to rain.
  • Scan the forecast. The best drying weather is sunny, warm, and dry, with a moderate breeze, which will “iron out” the wrinkles and speed up drying time. To ensure clothes get dry, put them out early in the day.
  • Hang with care. Clothing dries fastest if it’s hung in a single layer, with nothing folded in half over itself. Bright colors should be turned inside out to prevent fading, if in direct sunlight. (The sun provides natural bleaching for your white items.) Most items can be line dried, though duvets and sleeping bags do better if they are draped across two lines so their filling doesn’t pool at the ends. If you hang clothes directly on the line, be sure to wipe down the line with a damp rag each time so you don’t end up with dirt on your clothes.
  • Pin properly. Clothespins provide the most security when used at a slight angle, rather than straight up and down. They’ll last longer and stay cleaner if you don’t leave them on the line between washdays. Instead, keep your pins handy in a portable bag or other container that you can hang on the line while pinning up your laundry.
  • Prevent “stiffness.” Some people complain that their towels get stiff when dried outside. You can help prevent or mitigate this by adding three-fourths to one cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle (which also provides disinfecting and odor neutralizing), giving items a “snap” both before hanging and after, or tossing towels in the dryer with a couple of clean tennis balls or dryer balls for a five-minute fluffing before folding.
  • Speed things up. Line drying does take more time than throwing clothes in a dryer. One way to minimize that extra time when you’re in a hurry is to run an extra spin cycle on your washing machine,if you can (skip this if you’re not in a rush–it does use extra electricity). This will help remove excess water and save drying time.
  • You can also hang clothes on plastic hangers on your line, with rubber bands or binder clips to secure them on windy days. This way, clothes get maximum exposure to air, and when they are dry, they can go straight in your closet.

Laura Dobbins

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