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My top 5 clothes line drying tips

Posted by on Monday 27 September 2010 in frugal, green | 12 comments

Environmental blogger The Crunchy Chicken is having a line drying challenge for readers of her blog next month – getting people to give up their default use of clothes dryers and make them think about greener alternatives instead.

From both the green and frugal perspectives, I fully support the idea but think it’s a strange time of year to have the challenge – if the purpose is to convert new people to line drying, then now, when it’s getting colder and damper, is not the time to do it. It’s a hard time to line dry. But I guess that is part of Crunchy’s challenge – anyone can line dry in summer, it’s easy to convert people to line drying in summer but if you can show people how line drying is possible all year around, it’ll be more sustainable – not just fair-weather converts.

Here are my top five clothes line drying tips:

1. Find the clothes drying rack/airer that’s right for your home & garden
This feels like a bit of an obvious point but there is a lot of variety. Think about what you’ll use it for most and how you’ll use it rather than buying the first one you see.

Our last house was very short on floor space so we had a ceiling-mounted rack that could be raised or lowered. Here, we’ve got more space but only heat the rooms we’re in so an easily portable airer is better (those vertical concertina style ones fold up and can be carried even when stack with clothes). Radiator ones can be a useful, neat overflow but be careful not to use them for bulky items – it reduces the air flow too much for the middle rows to dry.

Outside, rotary ones give a lot of hanging space and can be folded away easily and quickly. However, they’re awkward to use for bedsheets and other big items – a basic line is better for those (you can get retractable lines too, so they can be folded away easily as well).

And if you live in an area which is frequently showery, you’d be best thinking of an outdoor line you can cover so you can make the most of the warm sunny bits in between the rain — rotary driers can be covered or you can buy ones that are essentially an airer in a tent.

2. Get a peg clothes dryer thing
One of these things. Use it for socks, underwear, tea towels – small, light-weight stuff that are washed in bulk. They take up a lot of space on the clothes line/airer, which could be better used by bigger items. Plus, if you’re drying outside, these babies are quick and portable to carry inside if it starts raining.

3. Don’t overload the airer
Don’t use every line/rail of an airer – to dry or air, clothes need … dry air. Hanging stuff on every rail prevents air circulation and just holds moist air next to your clothes, leaving them smelling and feeling damp. Ick.

If you really need to use all the space, alternate between long and short items so there isn’t layers and layers of solid fabric all hanging together.

4. Hang things in the most suitable way
Hanging tshirts, jeans or towels etc in half over the line means you don’t have to use pegs to hold them on – but the inside-side will dry considerably slower. If you need to do that because you can’t use pegs on your airer, flip those items halfway through the drying period.

On the other hand, sheets are so thin (and quick to dry) that it’s fine to fold them/double them over – and often necessary given the size of them.

Peg tops and shirts to the line by the hem so you don’t get peg marks on the shoulders. Ditto socks & jeans/trousers – peg them up by the toes/foot end so you don’t have the already-thick hem at the top/waistband doubled over under the peg.

5. Get organised
Line drying takes longer than machine drying. In the summer, it’s a few hours longer; in the winter, it’s days longer. It takes more planning than getting up in the morning and deciding you want to wear something that’s in the laundry basket at lunchtime. This is the reason I do the laundry in our house and why John does the can-be-ready-in-an-instant washing up.

I’ll wash the day before an expected-to-be-sunny day so it’s ready to hang out in the morning or, in the case of in the winter, I wash the evening before I expect the current-drying clothes to be finished on the airer. Unless it’s perfect drying weather – hot, dry but windy – don’t bother hanging stuff outside later in the day because you’ll only have to bring it in still damp and rehang it somewhere inside – twice the work. In the winter, I accept that half of my clothes, underwear, towels etc will be out of action at any one point. Sure, it’s not convenient but it can be worked around.

Do you line dry? If you don’t, what’s stopping you? Any of your own tips or suggestions that you’d like to add?


Join the conversation and post a comment.

  1. Lynsey aka Swirlyarts

    We have to line dry as we have no dryer! I will wash clothes the
    evening before so I have the maximum time for the clothes to be on
    the line. I’ve even been known to put the washing out when it is
    still dark in the mornings in winter! Remember that it doesn’t have to be warm to get clothes dry – it can be very cold and windy and you can still dry
    clothes although sunshine is always good. Don’t pay any attention
    to the weather forecast – look outside and see what it looks like
    and be prepared to come back from work/out to ‘have got wet again’
    clothes especially if you live in the UK!

  2. louisa

    Hi Lynsey,

    Good point about the temperature – warmth certainly isn’t essential if it’s windy.

    I have a terrible tendency of only noticing it’s raining about 10 minutes after it started – as I’m home most of the time, I’m tempted to rig up a sensor to beep (in the house) when the rain starts. It’s so annoying to have very-nearly-dry washing get wet again unnecessarily.

    -louisa :)

  3. Alice

    What I can’t work out is why so many people seem to do so much ironing. I find the seams and shake everything out when I take it out of the washer, then hang it as flat as I can. If things dry flat they don’t generally need ironing, thus saving huge time, energy and boredom.

    I even hear of people ironing bedclothes and children’s clothes – why???

    BTW I dry all my washing indoors ‘cos the line in the garden 4 flights of stairs away is tiny. Stuff gets draped on all the radiators, over all the doors, on the back of the sofa, over the TV… In my nice warm flat it doesn’t take long to dry as long as it’s spread out properly.

  4. louisa

    What I can’t work out is why so many people seem to do so much ironing.

    Me either! John and I have both ironed one outfit each in the last, maybe, three years – John for a wedding, me for an interview. We were both incredibly surprised to find we still owned an iron.

    Admittedly we’re utter scruffpots so perhaps should iron a bit more than we do – but bedclothes? children’s clothes? underwear and hankies (hi Mum!)? It’s nuts.

  5. strowger

    As the homeworker in this household, this stuff mostly falls to me. We don’t have a tumble dryer (evil things) but do have a proper old-fashioned clothes dryer hanging from the ceiling in an out-of-the-way place. Some thoughts:

    1 – If something just *has* to be dried quickly, it can be propped in front of a hairdryer and dried in a few minutes.

    2 – The peg dryer thing is a brilliant idea. I always hang up small stuff (socks, pants, etc) indoors because it’s such a pain to unpeg & move it all if the weather changes while it’s hung out.

    3 – Dryer space can be maximized by folding stuff on the dryer. Artificial fibres and anything really thin will dry fine folded so long as there’s reasonable airflow. I don’t really agree about overloading an airer – with good ventilation I find it can be loaded up v heavily and everything still dries in a couple of days.

    4 – Ironing is the devil’s job. Nothing except funerals, weddings, job interviews is worth it.

    5 – Drying indoors in winter means all the moisture from your wet clothes has to go somewhere. If you have good ventilation, it goes outdoors, but your house gets cold – and avoiding £2 worth of tumble-dryer electricity at the cost of £5 of central-heating gas is silly. If you don’t have good ventilation, it makes your house damp – which is bad for its health as well as yours.

  6. louisa

    Hi Strowger,

    The peg dryer things are ace – although as with everything, there is a huge variety of build quality. I’ve had one from Wilkinsons for a few years and it’s been fine; I got a second one from an even-more-budget-than-Wilkos place recently and it’s already broken a few times (not hard to fix but frustrating).

    I don’t really agree about overloading an airer – with good ventilation I find it can be loaded up v heavily and everything still dries in a couple of days.

    I think it depends on the airer – our hanging rack one could be loaded really heavily and there was enough air flow to dry things. Our accordian style one’s rails are too close together and long things can hang down from above so I have to be more careful.

  7. Mary

    I air dry all of my clothes. I like this clothes drying rack. W
    What I like about it is that I can hang up a whole load of jeans
    or towels.

  8. Pet

    Thanks for the tip of the peg dryer thing. I made one myself today with some electricity pipe, an old iron coat hanger, some rope and pegs.
    With two little daughters, I’ve so many little knickers (is that the right word?), taken up too many space on my drying rack. This is perfect for them.

  9. louisa

    Hi Pet,

    Any chance you could send me a picture of the one you’ve made? I think I’ll probably end up making my own when my current ones eventually break – and I’d love to see others for inspiration!

    -louisa :)

  10. d

    we went a full year test driving the whole line drying thing 100% of the time, then we sold our dryer. That was a year ago. I love to line dry, except I do have some problems with lint on dark clothes. Here in TN, we can hang outside usually 8 months of the year.

    In the winter, I find the clothes adding moisture to the air to be a good thing for us, not excessive enough to cause health issues.

  11. louisa

    That’s a good point d – some moisture in the air is a good thing and a lot of people get dry skin in the winter because heating/stoves make the air too dry. I guess it’s just making sure it’s moist but not too moist.

    Thanks for the comment.

  12. Prentice Lennon

    I just bought a 4 line retractable clothes line by the HILLS. This is a brand known in Australia and although a little costly – it is worth EVERY PENNY! You can now find them on ebay although I bought mine online and saved 10% by doing a search. I can’t tell you how much I’m loving reverting to my childhood just from the incredible smell of line dried clothing. There really is nothing like it. I live in the Hollywood Hills and space is limited, but I can put a few loads at a time on this thing. I remember growing up, one of the things on our “dream list” was a washer and dryer. I guess once again the old saying “if it ain’t broken – don’t fix it” holds true. I have a high end gas dryer that I will not use unless the weather is bad, or I need something dried FAST. Some how we all got caught up and forgot the simpler things in life and want every thing instantly. Some things are just worth waiting for. It’s time for me personally – to get back to basics. I now bbq with natural wood, grow my own herbs, fruits and veggies & have a small flock for fresh eggs. I’m not sure that line dried clothes rank up there with fine wine but arguably – it might be close!


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