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A Line Drying Revolution

Sometimes I’m a slow learner. I dismiss certain frugal doing as ‘too difficult’, ‘inconvenient’, or ‘not for me’. Someday I will learn, that short of separating my two-ply into single, well that’s just dumb. Clotheslines are one of those things. Specifically the outdoor variety. I’ve got a couple indoor models in use in my basement. As a resident of rainy, overcast, damp Seattle, we are lucky to be able to use those all year round. But frankly, they kinda suck. Limited and inefficient. They save our shirts from a trip through the money guzzling heat box (what I’ve taken to calling our dryer). For anything of substance though, towels, jeans, sheets, pet bedding it takes too long, and there is simply not enough real estate to put the accursed appliance completely out of commission.

Oh, for summer time! Or spring. Or even a breezy dry fall day. Any day without precipitation really. I’ll take it. So begins my love affair with outdoor drying. Clothesline! How I love thee!

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Just Add Wind. The Husband, generally not a fan of crunchy towels. Or stiff socks. Or anything he knows has been on that line. I get a grudging acceptance, and gentle sabotage, should he do the laundry. For indoor drying we prioritize, based on what dries in a timely manner and what he will tolerate. I’ve also been known to throw items into the dryer for 5 minutes once they are dry. Softens the blow – financially and in a tactile sense. Outside, this is not such a problem. The more wind the better. Items blown around are softened significantly compared to when they hang stiff as a board inside. Nowadays, he has to question what has come from the line. I provide vague responses, and hope for a cool breeze.

The Blessed Smell. There is nothing like bed sheets dried on the line. Fabric softeners, detergents, need not apply. I can not even describe it, but its bliss. I bury my nose in them for no particular reason other than satisfaction. The smell of sunshine and fresh air, whatever that smells like, photosynthesized into my bedclothes by some mysterious process. I’ll take it. Sheets are my favorite, but this works with everything. Particularly, a certain category of washing.

Dog Laundry. This has become my preferred method of drying all things dog accessory. I only wonder why I didn’t discover it sooner. With entirely too many dogs in residence, too many senior dogs (read: weak bladders), hairy senior dogs, I might add, and my affinity for dog beds. We generate a lot of pet-centric laundry. This is a special category, washed and traditionally dried separately to prevent its hair ridden, smelly-ness from spreading to the rest of our textiles. I’ve used numerous odor eliminating aids, as pre-treatment and in the wash itself. Nothing works to complete satisfaction. These items are still not fit for indoor drying, but outside. Odors eliminated. No purchase necessary. Hung right next to clothes and towels, with no concern of contamination. Why?

Solar Power. The sanitizing power of the sun, employed. Whites are whiter. Poop stains fade in the light of the sun. UV in this particular case is your friend. There is a marked difference in the staining that remains on line dried vs. dryer cooked diapers. One of the draw backs of homemade laundry detergent is its lack of commercial whitening agents. This often leaves us with a population dingy tank tops, socks, t-shirts and other oft pale garments. Utilizing the free and sometimes available (around here) fringe benefit of the rays, brightens up everything. Another tidbit, I shoulda coulda woulda known before.

Money Saved. That dreaded heat box is generally considered the most expensive household machine to operate. Even at that, what’s the cost? $.60/hour or so. A bargain, right? Compared to the Laundry Mat or just buying new clothes all the time. Consider the quantity of laundry you actually do. Add up those hours. If I think about it, we do a lot. Certainly hours upon hours a week. I’d say 6, conservatively. Probably, more like 8 or 9. Especially considering the addition of cloth diapers and wipes, which may need a brief dryer finish to get them baby butt friendly. This isn’t pennies a month. It’s dollars. Worth the time taken to pin and unpin. A happy, domestic excuse to hang out in the backyard. An efficient use of all the space I pay so much for with my Big Fat Mortgage.

My clothesline setup is not particularly sophisticated. Like, at all. The line sags. It’s probably not thick enough for the distance it covers. Or something. I’ve got no nifty clothespin storage that harkens back to days of yore. Rather a bunch of cheap plastic pins floating around in the bottom of my hamper. I’m also not subject to any gestapo neighborhood association business, preventing me from using my yard as I see fit. HOAs and I would not play well together, I can say this confidently. I could improve my set-up. Add to it. Fix it. I’m so enamored with my current barebones arrangement. Imagine how smitten I’d be with something that we actually planned, designed, engineered even. Currently, I can’t be bothered. I’m completely satisfied with the cheap and functional. I’ve embraced the moments of pinning clothes, the crunchy towels, the money saved. You should too.

Do you line dry when weather permits? When did you convert? Or what holds you back?

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Comments

Miser Mom
Reply

Ahh, line drying! We did this in 2009 when my husband (a.k.a., the Laundry Czar) was in Iraq and couldn’t object. In my sheltered little community, though, we’re exactly that: sheltered from real wind. We did indeed have cardboard towels and cardboard jeans all year. I could deal, but The Laundry Czar has re-commissioned the M.G.H.B. for full-time service since then. Sigh.

Tammy
Reply

I first learned about line drying when I was living in England. Go figure. Like you and your Seattle weather, it was a constant flirtation with raindrops, but it was pretty much the only method at my disposal. European driers really didn’t dry the clothes well anyway. I learned that 10 minutes on high at the beginning got things just dry enough that they weren’t stiff when line dried.

Enjoy your time out in the fresh air and all that cost savings!

dogsordollars
Reply

Yep 5-10 minutes at the end or the beginning seems to be the trick to getting things soft. If I remember to employ that, I can keep The Husband blissfully ignorant to my ways. ;)

Oh, the excuse for fresh air is another fringe benefit! I should have mentioned that.

Steph
Reply

I don’t have a yard in NYC, but the cost of using a dryer in my building ($1.90 per load!) makes me want one. I have a couple of folding racks that usually let me cut two washer loads down to one dryer load, but I’m starting to contemplate putting lines up in my room. In summer and winter its definitely hot enough inside to dry everything quickly.

When I go home to my parents’ house though, I usually take my white shirts and put them on a drying rack in the sun to help bleach the sweat stains back to white.

Kris
Reply

I love love love line-dried laundry!

My husband, however, has taken on the task of doing ALL of the laundry, and I have to literally NAG him to use it. He does laundry on Monday, rain or shine, and, I swear, he does a rain dance Sunday nights . . . I’ve tried explaining to him that (A) there’s no law that says the laundry needs to be done on Monday, (B) there’s also no law that says it all needs to be done the same day (that’s why we have our own washer in our own basement – no shlepping to the laundromat!), and (C) I actually PREFER my laundry to be line-dried, thankyouverymuch. Oh, and (D) PLEASE do NOT put my hang-to-dry blouses in the dryer again.

But still – he’s doing all the laundry, so at least there’s that, right?

dogsordollars
Reply

Husbands (or inattentive spouses in general) doing laundry is often a double edged sword. The indoor line has potentially saved our marriage that way. I’ve at least got him to use the line 10 ft to his left if he won’t shlep outside. And he finally believes me that dryers shrink shirts. Finally.

Done by Forty
Reply

We did this for a while, and then stopped, because I am lazy. Still, here in Phoenix, why not use the sun? Clothes probably dry more quickly outside than in the dryer…hmmm.

dogsordollars
Reply

In Phoenix I would do an experiment on total time invested. It might actually be less time to get it up on the line AND dried vs. throwing it in the dryer.

Trish
Reply

Line-drying laundry is one frugal/environmental thing my husband has bought into. It still frustrates me that he doesn’t pay attention to packaging (I try to buy the least packaged item) or accepts a bag at the store for items he could easily carry. But I am thrilled to report that he willingly hangs laundry. We use cotton dropcloths to cover most of our furniture (who knew when I purchased them that my beautiful leather couches would really just be big dog beds.), and I strategize all winter to get them dried on the line – saving them up for a rain free day. In fact I have been able to avoid ever having to use the dryer for the drop cloths which are pretty hefty and would take a significant amount of energy to dry.

I use an indoor drying apparatus (I don’t know what to call it) for socks and underwear – things usually abundant in the laundry that take forever to hang on the line. I can just quickly throw them on the drying thing. I use the drying thing in winter for all the laundry when we have a stretch of weather that isn’t suitable for outdoor drying.

I am a pretty lacksidasical person, but it’s the environmental aspect that motivates me to line dry my clothes. I use less energy, and my dryer should last forever, as I use it so infrequently.

Betsy
Reply

I too, was dog bedding almost constantly. I’ve got one of those energy/water efficient washers with a detergent dispenser drawer and an opening to put fabric softener. I don’t buy fabric softener, but instead fill that container with white vinegar. That does a pretty good job of killing the dog odors. I do that with my husband’s work clothes, too.

dogsordollars
Reply

Vinegar is another frugal god send, for so many things really. I’ve been using it similarly for year. But, I think I like fresh air and sunshine even more!

Leah
Reply

We use indoor drying racks since we don’t have much space for a line outside. It’s awesome in the winter, when our area tends to be really dry. Humidifier + line drying our clothes sometimes makes the humidity about 30%, which is the lowest I can tolerate.

I’m aching for the day when we can dry outdoors and harness the awesome power of the sun. Sometimes, I take my racks outside, but the wind that makes clothes feel so good outdoors does not help my rack stay upright.

Donna Freedman
Reply

I now live in Anchorage, Alaska, and we use a combination of clothesline and drying racks. Things that freeze will eventually dry — people have lived in cold climates without dryers for a long, long time.
When I visited an expat American in Cornwall she told me she was surprised to learn that the typical British home doesn’t include a clothes dryer. Her husband had grown up without one so it never occurred to him to install one when he built his own place.
I do like the option of tumbling items (especially towels) for a few minutes to soften them up a bit. The majority of the drying comes from the rack, though.
It certainly extends the life of the clothes. I wore some T-shirts regularly for more than 10 years without noticeable fading or stretching. Bras are especially vulnerable to heat, and given how much bras cost I am very careful to air-dry mine, always.
When I lived in an apartment in Philly I hand-washed and rack-dried all the diapers because I couldn’t afford the laundromat. They turned out just fine, probably because I used a little fabric softener (didn’t know about vinegar at the time, or I would have tried that). I will admit, however, that I was very happy when she was toilet-trained.

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