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How to Dry Clothes on a Clothesline

Updated on October 15, 2015

Clothesline 101

So you want to dry your clothes on a clothesline? Good for you! Not only will you be helping the environment by not using the energy required from a clothes dryer, you will be saving money and getting some physical activity as well.

Step-by-Step clothes drying instructions

Step One: Know ideal drying conditions. You must have suitable weather or else your clothes will face perils such as: taking f-o-r-e-v-e-r to dry, not drying at all, or blowing away in the wind (to name a few). Common sense should prevail, as you will need to have a combination of sun, wind and warmth for good clothes drying weather. Suffice it to say fabric will not dry if it is freezing, raining or damp outside. Don’t hang clothes too early morning or late in the evening to avoid the dewy condensation.

Step Two: Use the proper clothes pins. There are two types of clothes pins you can use, either clip on or slide on. The clip on type are more readily available for purchase, and are appropriate for most any type of clothing you may be drying. You can find then in wood or plastic, and also stainless steel. The slide on variety is more of an “old fashioned” wooden clothespin. They must only be used on sturdy fabric that will not stretch or be pulled out of shape by tightly sliding on the pin.

Step Three: Hang them up right. Yes, there is a right way (or at least a pretty good way) to hang clothes on a clothes line. Seriously, ask my Grandma!

  • Shirts: Hang them upside down, from the bottom hem and pin on the sides. If you have a button up, you might need a pin in the middle, too.
  • Pants: Hang them upside down, with pins on the outside and inside seam.
  • Dresses: Depends on the cut of the dress. Hanging from the shoulder straps will work for most dresses. Strapless can hang from the bodice or under arm seams. For a very full skirt or odd cut on top, try folding over and pinning at the waist.
  • Shorts and skirts: Hanging by the waistline will be fine for most shorts and skirts.
  • Socks: To hang or not to hang? That is the question. To hang, pin the toes in pairs so that they are open on the bottom. Because they dry so quickly, I usually just hang them over the edge of my clothes basket. I think it saves time not to hang them, as I find it tedious to hang up small items like socks. They seem to dry just as well off line.
  • Underwear: Hang underpants by the waistband, bras can get hooked right around the clothes line (no pins required). You may want to use discretion when hanging your skivvies, as not everyone wants their unmentionables on display. Hanging out undergarments will depend on your location and modesty level.
  • Sheets and Blankets: Fold in half and pin every few feet. Gusts of wind can turn your bedsheet into a boat sail so make sure it is secured to the line quite well.

Step Four: When your clothes are dry… If you have good drying weather, you can estimate about an hour of line drying time. Check for dryness as you unpin. If your clothes look and feel nice as you unpin them, fold them and place them in your clothes basket. They are ready to go inside and be put away. If they are too stiff for your liking or look wrinkly, set them aside and throw them in the dryer for 5-10 minutes to loosen them up a bit.

Step Five: What NOT to dry on a clothesline. While technically you can probably dry most anything on a clothes line, there are some things that do better lying flat to dry, hanging on a clothes hanger, or just going right in the dryer. Delicate items that could tear or lose their shape, or anything that may fade in the sun should not go on the clothesline. I also prefer not to hang my towels on the clothesline. They get a bit too “crunchy” for me even if I throw them in the dryer after.

Benefits of Line Drying Clothes

There are numerous benefits of drying your clothes on the line. Clothes that are dried the right way on a clothesline will smell fresh and clean when dried. Sunlight can also act as a natural sanitizing and bleaching agent. Air drying is often easier on your clothes, as the heat of a dryer can be harsh on fabrics and elastic. You will be saving energy and the cost of operating your clothes dryer. You are protecting the environment by consuming less energy. If you’re already using your energy efficient washing machine and eco-friendly laundry soap, then drying on a clothesline just makes sense! And don’t forget the added health benefit of getting some extra movement in your day and breathing in some fresh air.

Happy drying!!

Laundry List - Clothesdrying 101

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Find your clothes drying basics from A to Z


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