Let’s take a minute to word-associate. When I say the phrase “line-dry,” what comes to mind? Maybe the dread from youthful chores resurfaces—and, to go with it, cramped hands from years of pinning shirts and pants. Maybe you reminisce about the feel of sun-warmed laundry infused with the scent of fresh country air. Or perhaps idyllic images of clean, white linens flapping above a bright-green lawn are about all that your imagination can muster up.
Clothesline to Dryer—and Back
For many, especially younger generations, the latter statement is closest to being true. When the clothes dryer entered the America household in the 1950s, line-drying soon fell out of vogue and families began to rely on this modern appliance to quickly and easily complete a necessary household chore. While we’ve all probably had to hang something to dry at one point or another—a wool sweater that could shrink under intense heat or a scarf with delicate fibers that could be damaged by a tumble cycle—line-dried clothes are more often seen on laundry-detergent bottles than in backyards. As a result, fewer people have hands-on experiences with line-drying. On a far more disappointing note, many homeowners associations have made it illegal to hang laundry outside to dry.
However, whether due to economical difficulties or a movement spurred on by Project Laundry List and other homesteaders to reclaim the right to line-dry, the number of people who view the clothes dryer as a must-have appliance has decreased in recent years. (See “Recession Obsession” in the infographic below.) In 2009, a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center found that 66 percent of Americans considered the clothes dryer necessary.
How to Line-dry
While it appears many people are returning to the simple task of line-drying, many willing homesteaders still lack the fundamental knowledge to do it right. Use the tips below to properly line-dry your laundry.
- Hang shirts by the hemline, not the shoulders. Place one pin on each side, and one in the middle for button-ups. (Button the collars and cuffs, too)
- Hang jeans by the waistband.
- Fold pants for crease lines, and hang by cuffs.
- Turn out the pockets of jeans and pants for faster drying.
- Hang skirts by the hemline.
- Hang socks by the toes.
- Hang dresses by the shoulder seam.
- Hang underwear on inner lines, hidden from view.
- Hang linens and towels with one-third to one-half folded over the line, and pin in place.
- Add 1/2 cup white vinegar to wash to keep clothes soft after line-drying.
- Avoid line-drying outside on rainy days, and aim for days with a slight breeze.
- If your line-drying clothes happen to get caught in a rain shower, just let them dry longer.
- Shake laundry before hanging to remove lint and wrinkles and keep fabric soft.
- Smooth clothes as you hang to avoid wrinkles.
- Space clothes well for air circulation to increase drying speed.
- Hang clothes in the morning.
- To avoid bird droppings and other natural elements dirtying your clothes, do not hang under a tree.
- Keep fabric colors bright by avoiding hanging in direct sunlight.
- To decrease creases and wrinkles in your clothes, avoid folding over the line.
If you’re new to line-drying (or you need a reminder to keep your laundry helper on task), print out the infographic below containing these tips and other line-drying facts.