A couple weeks ago, Carey wrote to me and asked:
I was wondering if you could talk a little bit more about line drying your clothes. I am just beginning to do this and I'm sure there are more efficient ways than I am using. Do you line dry through the winter as well?
Hanging my laundry outside to dry is something I really enjoy doing! It's such a great "excuse" for me to take the children outside for some fresh air, even when the weather is chilly. Sometimes when I am busy with all the work in the house, I think, "Oh, I should just throw the laundry in the dryer; I don't have time to take the children out and hang it up."
Frugality almost always wins, and I find myself out at the clothesline, breathing fresh air and hearing Yehoshua (2) laugh and play. Somehow, being outside, peacefully hanging up clothes, helps me forget about all the work that waits back in the house. And quite often Yehoshua and I stay out there playing, even after the clothes is all hung. ;)
How I got started line-drying our laundry
When I was small, my father added an extra line to my mom's outdoor clothesline: one that was a child's height, and could be used for hanging up smaller/shorter things. So since before I can remember, I was helping my mom by hanging socks! During all of my years at home, my mom never owned a clothes dryer, so there was always plenty of laundry to hang. (There were 8 in my family.)
When Joshua and I got married, there was a small clothesline at our apartment. It only held about half a load of laundry, so we added another line that tripled my hanging space. I learned how to squeeze lots of clothes on it in such a way that they would still dry quickly. I did own a clothes dryer, but given the climate (we lived in southern Missouri) and my diligence at watching the weather and hanging laundry outside, I only used the dryer a handful of times each winter.
Now, we live at a house that has a nice little backyard and a perfectly lovely clothesline! My clothesline has 3 lines and can hold two large loads of laundry, or 3 medium-sized loads, quite comfortably.
Why I like line-drying my laundry
1. It's financially beneficial. I don't know exactly how much it costs in electricity or gas to dry clothes in a dryer, but hanging them outside is free!
2. The clothes has fewer wrinkles than dryer-dried clothing. This, of course, does depend on one's hanging techniques. But my line-dried clothes is virtually wrinkle-free, and my denim and khaki skirts don't get those annoying rolled hems like they do in the dryer.
3. I get fresh air and the children love to play or help hand me pieces of clothes to hang. It's therapeutic to me. Okay, maybe I'm crazy! There's just something soothing about hanging up all our shirts in a nice neat row and watching them flap in the breeze!
4. In the winter, I hang laundry indoors on a wooden clothes rack. We have natural gas heating in our house, and the air indoors can get quite dry in the winter. Hanging laundry to dry indoors boosts the humidity noticeably, and is cheaper than running a humidifier.
Also keep in mind that in the winter, your clothes dryer is taking warm air from your house to dry your clothes and then venting it outside. So not only do you pay to run your dryer, you're paying for more indoor heating!
My personal method for hanging laundry
This is my personal preferred way of hanging up laundry. I feel as though it gives good results and/or satisfies my perfectionist tendencies. ;)
Shirts: I hang shirts from the bottom. If hanging a dress shirt, I use a clothespin on each side and one in the middle where the shirt buttons, which holds the shirt neatly together. T-shirts just get one clothespin on each side. Baby "onesies" are hung upside down, folded slightly over the line, with a clothespin on each side.
Pants or skirts: I hang these using two clothespins, one on each side, hanging right-side-up (from the waistline). Jeans can be hung upside down, with a clothespin on each leg, but they dry more slowly that way. Skirts can be hung upside down and spread out, using multiple clothespins for full skirts, and will dry more quickly that way, but take up a lot more clothesline space.
Dresses: I hang dresses from the top, using 2-4 clothespins near the neckline and shoulers, and try to get them to hang without sagging or bunching (to prevent wrinkles -- can you tell I hate ironing? ;D).
Socks: I hang socks from the toes, and I try not to fold the sock over the clothesline at all (so it will dry more quickly).
Underwear: Undergarments can be hung from one clothespin if short on clothesline space; I hang with two clothespins, one on each side, so they dry quickly, unless I'm out of room. By the way, if you're worried about people seeing your undergarments out on your clothesline, they can be hung on a line that is between other full lines of clothes. Personally, I never worry about it. :)
Bed sheets: I fold sheets in half over the clothesline and secure with 2-3 clothespins. If I need more space, I fold the sheet in half and then drape over the line (4 layers total) and secure with 2 clothespins.
Towels, washcloths, dishrags, pillowcases, etc.: I hang all of these with one clothespin on each side. Small items can be hung from just one corner if needed.
Rugs: I hang rugs horizontally so that they dry more quickly, securing with as many pins as needed. Rugs can be hung vertically, but take longer to dry that way.
"Stuff" I use
1. My clothesline, of course. You can make a clothesline by buying some line (it's inexpensive) and stringing it between posts, poles, trees, etc.
2. Clothespins. I like the wooden spring clothespins that have a few grooves at the top so my fingers don't slip on them.
3. A clothespin bag. Mine is a cloth homemade bag that has a hanger that slips in the top. That way I can hang it on the clothesline while I hang laundry, and clothespins are within easy reach. I never leave my clothespins on the line indefinitely, or leave my clothespin bag outside permanantly. Rain and weather will make your clothespins dark and moldy and just plain gross! I've been using my clothespins for years and they still look like new because I store them indoors.
|4. A plastic "spinner" hanger. This isn't a necessity, it's just something I found at a garage sale once. It's kind of handy, though, and gives me even more hanging space outdoors.|
How long does it take to hang out laundry?
This depends on several things. First, it depends on how large your clothing items are. Small items, of which there could be 50+ in one load, will make it take longer for you to hang one load. However, a load of 10-12 large items (like jeans or large t-shirts) will only take a few minutes to hang the entire load. A load of bed sheets could take as little as 5 minutes to hang outside on the line.
Time spent hanging also depends on how quickly you work (and how much practice you've had at it). If I am hurrying, and not having to chase after disobedient children, I can hang a load in a short amount of time. If I am leisurely hanging laundry, and stopping to play or care for children, it will take a lot longer. :)
How long does it take for your laundry to dry outside?
How quickly laundry dries outside is dependent on the temperature, sunshine, and wind. On a hot summer day, with lot of sun, and a little breeze, laundry could be dry in just a couple hours (or less!). On a warm but breezy day, laundry will dry just as quickly. On a cooler, cloudy day, laundry could take 8 or more hours to dry. I have had thin items (like sheets) dry in as little as 20-30 minutes on the clothesline. My usual procedure is to just start the laundry early in the day so it has plenty of time to dry and I can take it down at my convenience. (Although too much sun can fade clothing.)
Do you hang laundry outside in the winter, too?
Winter line-drying depends on the climate and weather where you live. My main "rule of thumb" is that on sunny to partly-sunny days, I will hang laundry outside if the temperature (high for that day) is 40 degrees or above. For cloudy/overcast days, I will hang laundry out if the temperature (high for that day) is 50 degrees or above.
However, even if I can't hang laundry outside all winter, I can still line dry our laundry using a wooden indoor clothes rack. My rack holds about one load of clothes.
How long does it take clothes to dry on an indoor clothesrack/clothesline?
Depending on how warm you keep your house and how dry the air is inside, as well as how loosely your laundry is hung, it could take 6-24 hours for clothes to dry.
A lot of times in the winter, I wash one load each day, and hang it up inside. By the time I'm washing the next load, the first is dry (from the day before). So I have a constantly-filled clothesrack. I keep the clothesrack in the warmest room of the house, near a heat-vent.
If your house is cooler or more damp, and your laundry takes longer than 24 hours to be completely dry, then you need to either spread it out more, or not line-dry indoors, because you don't want mold to start growing on your clothes or in your house!
Tammy's Tips for Successful Laundry Line-Drying
1. Watch the weather forecast so you know when a good laundry day is approaching.
For example, if I have 3 loads of laundry to do, and the forecast for today is hot and sunny, but rain is predicted for tomorrow, I make sure I get the laundry all caught up today, so it can be all dried outdoors.
On the reverse, if today is rainy but tomorrow (or the next day) is supposed to be sunny and nice, I wait (if at all possible) and wash on the nice day.
This is easier to do in the summer than in the spring, fall, or winter, simply because there are so many nice washdays to choose from. :)
2. Start your laundry early in the day. On cooler days, this will give your laundry ample drying time. On hot summer days, it will allow you flexibility on when you hang clothes up and take it down. I find it's best to get things hung out early no matter what! :)
3. Shake each piece of laundry briskly before hanging it up. This removes any lint and wrinkles, and results in softer laundry when it's dry. It makes it easier to hang pieces neatly, too.
4. Take the children along. If they aren't old enough to hang some themselves, have them shake pieces and hand them to you to hang. If they aren't old enough for that, let them run around and play. For babies, take out a car seat or swing, or just throw a blanket on the grass so they can watch!
5. Use fewer clothespins (and save a little time and line space, too!) by connecting the sides of t-shirts, towels, or sheets.
6. If you find yourself running out of space on your clothesline, consider doubling up thinner things (thin towels, cloth napkins, sheets, thin baby diapers, etc.). You can also save space by "squeezing" things, as shown in this photo. The thin diapers in this picture are also doubled.
I only hang this way if I really need the space, since it tends to produce more wrinkles.
7. If you're short on time, hang out the loads that have a lot of larger, heavier items. Those loads are quick to hang, but would cost a lot to dry in the dryer.
8. If you use cloth diapers, make sure they get plenty of sun! Sunlight will whiten your cloth diapers and kill germs naturally. Sunlight not only whitens cloth diapers, but will help keep away diaper rash, too. I was utterly amazed when I hung out a diaper that had a bright yellow stain on it and found that a few hours of bright yellow sunlight had completely erased the stain!
9. If the weather is chilly outside (but you know it will be warmer later, or you have some diapers that really need the sun, etc.), wearing rubber gloves while hanging the laundry helps keep one's hands warm.
And now you know more than you ever thought there was to know about line-drying your laundry! :) This is just some of the things that work for me, and what I've learned in my years of hanging laundry. It remains one of my favorite tasks, especially in the summer.