Working Around The Drawbacks Of Line-Drying Your Clothes

One way to cut down on gas and electricity use is to abandon your dryer in favor of a clothesline. That’s easier said than done, however, because the old-fashioned method poses a bunch of negatives.

Prairie EcoThrifter notes some of the disadvantages of line drying and recommends ways to get around them:

* Bad weather. On windy or rainy days, you can drape your clothes on racks and let them dry off indoors.

* It takes a long time. It can take several hours for clothes to line dry, so you’re best off hanging them in the afternoon, when the temperature is usually the highest. Leave space between clothes in order to expose as much surface area as possible to the air.

* It’s a lot of work. Streamline the process by keeping your supplies nearby and placing your clothesline in an easily accessible location.

Should You Line Dry Your Clothes? [Prairie EcoThrifter] (Thanks, Tara!)

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  1. belsonc says:

    *pops some popcorn, gets ready for the comments*

    • Platypi {Redacted} says:

      You should have it ready made for the first have of each day. Although last week seemed slower, like someone was on a vacation.

  2. phil says:

    I often line-dry clothing indoors (particularly jeans – which seem to last longer without the extra wear that comes from tumble drying). The air movement that comes from running a small fan in the room makes a big difference in the dry time.

    • GrayMatter says:

      I visited some friends in Norway. In the basement they had what looked like an oversized wardrobe. Put clothes in it. There is a very low wattage heat element in it, and air vents. Even jeans dry quickly at less energy than a drier.

    • ChuckECheese says:

      When I lived in France, a few homes had indoor drying racks that lowered from the ceiling – they were a large square frame with clothesline strung on it, and a pulley system to lower and raise the rack. These homes also had rather high ceilings.

      • Dallas_shopper says:

        In the UK we hung clothing over the radiators in winter. In summer we line-dried them outdoors. Never had any issues with either method!

        I have a folding drying rack here in Texas and it gets used…a LOT!

        • ChuckECheese says:

          That’s a decent solution if you have access to the outdoors for a clothesline. You might need a lot of radiators to dry a family’s worth of clothes.

    • Anna Kossua says:

      That’s what I do, too, hang clothes to dry indoors.

      Not only is it good for the electric bill, it keeps the clothes in better condition. Most of my clothes are black or may shrink, but others aren’t so critical, like towels or old t-shirts. So here’s what I do:

      Hang damp clothes on hangers
      Hang these on shower curtain rod over tub, about 6″ apart
      If winter and running furnace, just let them air-dry
      If summer and running AC, run a box fan in the bathroom

      If I run out of space on the curtain rod, the hangers can be hung on door frames, or even on a broomstick laid between the washer and dryer.
      And if it’s not warm enough in the house, they might mildew, hence the box fan.

  3. Rabbitmancer says:

    Bugs. That is all.

  4. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    My dryer broke over a year ago, and I suspect there is an issue with that particular line/breaker on my breaker box. Anyway, the prosect of buying a new dryer and then laying out money to replace the breaker box has kept me from doing much about it.

    Anyway, I have my clothes dry on two rolling racks in my den. It takes a day or three depending on the item, but I think (most) of my clothers are better off. They don’t shrink, stay in good condition, etc.

    Except socks are a pain in the rear.

    • AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

      BTW, in my den, is my air conditioner/heater return, so it draws air past all the clothes.

      • phil says:

        Try running a typical household fan, blowing air directly over the hanging clothes. I find that blue jeans dry overnight without problem this way.

    • RandomHookup says:

      If your socks are a pain in your rear, you are wearing them wrong.

  5. Sneeje says:

    My issue is pollen. Given my allergies, I need to wash my clothes to REMOVE pollen, not have them collect more of it.

  6. Gman says:

    Don’t forget the ever present:
    – Action movie hero steals your clothing – Especially common in California and the North East. You can walk outside to find out a gun and explosion fueled chase has gone by your home and several garments of clothing have mysteriously dissipated from your line.

    To prevent naked wandering heroes out for revenge [or saving the nation] from taking your clothes and getting them all bloody and cut up, always invite minions from your local evil laboratory or lair over for meals. That way they can easily catch the wandering hero before he or she can escape with any of your clothing.

    • The Porkchop Express says:

      Werewolves too, they take them in the morning so as long as you don’t leave stuff out in the morning you should be fine.

  7. alternety says:

    Don’t forget birds!

  8. HowardRoarksTSquare says:

    Thanks for this great tip Phil.

    Since I live in an urban area with no yard or line to hang clothes from I’ll be sure to pass this tip along to my grandmother whom would love to save a few pennies.

    • Lethe says:

      I do too. There’s a simple solution – it’s called a drying rack, and it folds away and takes up next to no space when not in use.

      • AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

        Even if you have a dryer, it’s good to have a drying rack for items like sweaters.

      • missy070203 says:

        I put my drying rack right next to the radiator in my bedroom – heat it gives off dries the clothes overnight

    • SissyOPinion says:

      Such unwarranted snark.

  9. Phil Keeps It Real [Consumerist] says:

    Don’t forget lack of classiness !

    • Jenny8675309 says:

      How is using an outdoor clothes line tacky?

    • whogots is "not computer knowledgeable" says:

      Welcome, traveller from 1986! Many of us here in the fu-ture like to con-serve en-er-gee, whether because we find pointless excess consumption “grody to the max” (to use the parlance of your charming times) or because we have been in a re-cess-ion for several years and our wallets ache.

      Hey, wait a minute. How did you even find your way onto the in-ter-net?

  10. missy070203 says:

    I have not owned a dryer for the past 4 years- mainly because I have an old Federal Pacific screw in glass fuse box and connot plug one in (at least not without burning the house down) ….I could get a D box but that comes at a cost of about $5M (lowest estimate I’ve received so far)

    I have noticed however that line drying whites outside keeps them brighter as the sun has a natural bleaching affect on them, my sweaters, knit items, and jeans last longer because they do not endure the wear of a dryer-

    huge downside is of course the time involved in drying them inside when the weather is not ideal to put outside, I have pets that shed and I do not get the benefit of having their fur removed via a dryer, and last but not least! LINT on my darks…. It does not matter how I wash them or what I wash them with there is always some amount of lint left behind that a dryer would normally remove…. and lint does not shake off like pet hair…. I go through tons of lint rollers and lint combs …..

    annoying and time consuming…. only thing that has stopped me is cost of being able to use a dryer in my home versus $$ saved……

  11. maxamus2 says:

    Don’t forget most HOA’s won’t allow it.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      That’s when you just get a drying rack. I’ve lived in apartments the past few years so it’s not like there’s really an outdoor space to line dry anything. Some materials shouldn’t go into a dryer so we put it on a drying rack or we put it on a hanger and leave it in the bathroom to dry.

    • Dallas_shopper says:

      Indeed. Thank god I don’t have to live with one.

    • BigDragon says:

      Yep! Mine bans everything green. No clothes lines, no solar panels, no windmills, no solar-powered garden lights, and more. When asked why clothes lines are banned the responses are normally “I don’t want to see your underwear” or “it looks trashy.” Also, drying racks placed in windows visible from the street are also against the rules. The HOA militants will spot underwear from a mile away.

  12. TakingItSeriously is a Technopile says:

    Living in the Pacific Northwest we line dry in the summer every year. It saves signifcantly on our electricity.

    • missy070203 says:

      I live in the northeast and I line dry etc. etc. my electric bill in the summer is about $40.00

      • crispyduck13 says:

        I live in the northeast and use my electric dryer and window A/C. My electric bill in the summer is also $40.

  13. kataisa says:

    I grew up in small town where we used to air dry our clothes all the time. The clothes lasted longer and smelled great. Sometimes the jeans would dry a bit stiff but otherwise I think air-drying is better than tumble-drying in the machine.

    Regarding SnagglePuss’s comment above, I don’t understand how some people think line-drying is a “low class” thing to do.

    • Rachacha says:

      I think it is part perception an what we see on TV. It is always low income families who are hanging clothes to dry on a line, but you never see any rich people (or their help) hanging clothes. Reality also plays a part as in our society it is frowned upon to display your undergarments. While almost everyone wears underwear, if my neighbor or guest came over to my back yard with boxers, briefs, t-shirts with holes in them, panties and bras on the line, especially if they were well loved and stained, it could be embarrassing (or perhaps uncomfortable).

    • crispyduck13 says:

      I think if you grew up with your family doing it, then it wouldn’t seem “low class” or in any way strange. However, as someone who grew up never seeing this it does seem odd to me.

      Sheets or towels don’t phase me but when I see our neighbor hanging up her whole family’s clothes, underwear and all, it does make me wish I had the money to put up a privacy fence. It just looks…trashy to me, and honestly I don’t mean to offend although I’m sure I am.

      Now that I think about it it’d be cheaper just to buy them a damn dryer than put up a fence.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        Yep, this is pretty accurate. My grandma used to line dry because she didn’t grow up with that newfangled technology and my parents made her learn to use the dryer because anyone with a secnd level deck could see into several yards and my grandma would put up everything from socks to sheets to a kitchen rug and it just looked kind of trashy. It was her backyard so she could do whatever she wanted, but my parents had gotten her a dryer so she wouldn’t have to go outside.

      • whogots is "not computer knowledgeable" says:

        I grew up in the suburbs and only saw things being line dried when I visited poor country relatives. However, I know that (a) many prejudices I take from my car-bound, class-conscious, climate-controlled, storebought-tomato-eating upbringing are ridiculously counterproductive, and (b) my clothes smell AMAZING when they’re dried outdoors on a sunny day.

        Anyway, yeah, I do still carry enough baggage to worry about the underwear. I hang some towels on the outside lines and put all the underwear on the inside lines between them so it’s not visible from most angles.

      • missy070203 says:

        I never hang underwear on the line outside…..never…bras and underwear of any kind are always hung inside at my house…

        Not really comfortable with everyone on my street seeing my private stuff

    • Jevia says:

      I started line drying my clothes (in the late spring, summer and early fall) when I finally bought a house and we were trying to save extra money. I was amazed at how much it affected our electricity bill not running the dryer. I wondered why my mother never did this when we lived in Los Angeles, where its hot/warm year round, but probably because electricity was so much cheaper then (and people’s wages allowed more discretionary spending).

      I actually enjoy some of the peace and quiet when I hang out the clothes. The only problem is that I can really only do it on the weekends (due to work), so if its raining, I’m back to the dryer.

      Going to try the vinegar thing, since the only thing I don’t like in line drying is stiff towels.

  14. catskyfire says:

    My yard backs onto an alley. As dusty as my car gets, no way I’m putting my clothes out there.

  15. chemmy says:

    Atlanta: POLLEN! (unless your clothes are already yellow, then by all means….)

    • missy070203 says:

      I was in Atlanta earlier this month and I have to agree with you there – Everything was yellowish/green with pollen and those little bugs were everywhere

  16. Tank Fuzzbutt says:

    Hello everyone. I’m from the future, 2012 to be exact. Believe it or not we have machines that can dry laundry in a fraction of the time of using your traditional methods. And we even have rooms inside our homes that we can sanitarily poop in. The future will be amazing!

  17. dulcinea47 says:

    I line dry almost everything INSIDE. No pollen, no bird poop, no apartment management complaining (I dont’ think we’re allowed to have clotheslines on the patios, but guess what, several people do), no concerns about the weather. I spent about $30 for two drying racks which have now paid for themselves many, many times over compared to paying $1.50/load in the communal coin-op dryer.

    The only thing I tumble dry is towels, they get way too crunchy otherwise.

    • phil says:

      I don’t always line dry towels – but the key is to line dry them until they’re just slightly damp – then finish off quickly in a dryer. No crunchies; the towel last longer, and the dryer uses little energy.

    • Mrs. w/1 child says:

      We use a outside line for most clothing, towels, and sheets. I use the folding racks inside for bras/panties/boxers since we live in a fairly densely populated area.

  18. ArizonaGeek says:

    Here in Arizona I used to line dry my clothes in fact we didn’t have a dryer for many many years. For most of the year, by the time I would get done hanging the last row the front row would be dry, even jeans. The only time I had to use a dryer was December and January and I would just take them to a laundromat. Now I have allergies so I need to keep pollen and dust off my clothes as much as possible so I have a dryer.

  19. curmudgeon says:

    I moved into this house and never got a dryer. I love the feel and smell of line dried clothes. Also since I just drape things over the line and don’t use clothes pins the clothes are half folded when I take them off the line. During the winter they dry in a couple of hours and during the summer they dry in 15 minutes. Of course I live in the desert.

  20. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    OK, I’m just a dumb PA redneck, but I prefer windy days to dry the clothes, as long as it’s not raining of course…they dry faster! Why would you hang clothes inside or use the dryer on a windy day?

    I also have a hanger in the living room above one of the forced hot air vents, so in the winter I hang my work clothes there overnight to dry. One end sits on the top of a book case, and the other end goes through a loop on a plant hanger. I couldn’t imagine what my electric bill would be if I ran the dryer all the time.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      You hang clothes inside because you can’t hang them outside? That’s pretty much one of the easier answers. Also, no one wants to walk around with pollen smooshed onto their clothes and allergy sufferers definitely don’t want this. And some people live in apartments or condos where they don’t have their own outdoor space. And some people have HOAs that disallow line drying outdoors.

      • SissyOPinion says:

        Um, love was asking why one would hang their clothes up inside or use a dryer on WINDY days. She wasn’t questioning why one would avoid line drying under any circumstance. She even went on to describe how she dries her clothes inside! Why the outrage?

  21. KyBash says:

    Another greenie-wannabe that doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

    Clothes should be hung up in the mid to late morning. The greatest excess of water will evaporate quickly at moderate temperatures — you need the mid-afternoon heat to drive out the last little percentage. (Growing up, I had my own ladder so I could hang my clothes, and mom always knew if I hadn’t washed them first thing in the morning because they’d often still be damp when she got home from work.)

  22. yurei avalon says:

    You forgot, “I live in a condo or apartment”. :/

  23. Squeezer99 says:

    lets not forget that its against most homeowners associations rules to hang clothes to dry

  24. bobloblaw says:

    i havent used a dryer in over a year. you just do laundry when it doesnt rain. the smell of fresh clothes with no wrinkles is well worth the extra time. if its going to be a nice day, i set the laundry up the night before, hit the button 1st thing in the a.m, then close are dry in the afternoon. NP.

  25. mmbb says:

    Indoor drying of one load of laundry increases the humidity in my basement by nearly 10% for two days.

  26. HogwartsProfessor says:

    I love drying my sheets outside, but I generally don’t put my clothes out there because the sun fades them. Towels, only occasionally.

  27. Naked-Gord-Program says:

    My tips for saving on laundry:

    1) There’s always a cheapo brand of laundry detergent. In Canada the liquid version is called Xtra and sells on sale for $2 bottle (32 loads). Regular price $3

    2) Buy thin material clothes (microfibre etc) – much quicker drying time for air drying

    3) You don’t need a drying rack or clothes line. Little nails all over your place (even plastic thumb tacks) can be used to place the clothing out to dry with a coat hanger.

    4) Always be naked when milling around the house to reduce clothing that needs washing. Keep a robe handy in case someone knocks at the door.

    5) Always wear a thin undershirt under your real tshirt, dress shirt, sweater etc. Then you can just wash the thin undershirts more often (cram them all in since they’re thin and small) while needing to wash the bulkier items less.

  28. Hawkeye says:

    I have a “Hangaway” clothing rack. Great for apartments. Highly recommended.

  29. Snip says:

    I went through an extremely broke period where I had to wash my clothes in the bathtub and dry them on a rack over the heater. I am so glad to have regular access to a washer and dryer now.

  30. legolex says:

    The biggest thing I dislike about line drying my clothes and towels is how stiff and rough they get. I figured that alone would be listed as a drawback.

    And I can’t really line-dry all my suits and dress clothes that I wear to work soooo yeah.

  31. GoJints says:

    I do not have a dryer, don’t ever plan on having one. I have a line in the basement and wooden drying racks as needed. In the winter, I bring most of the laundry upstairs to dry, putting them in front of the radiators. Instant humidifiers! I have a dehumidifier in the basement, so the clothes dry quickly in the summer. (No air conditioning in the house at the moment.) I used to have a line outside, but got sick of the bugs. I do miss that lovely smell of freshly sun-dried sheets though.

  32. samandiriel says:

    I dry my clothes on an indoor rack myself. Probably not practical for families with more than one kid, but it’s a huge energy and money saver as my clothes last a LOT longer. I have shirts that I’ve been wearing regularly since high school that are still in great shape twenty years onwards. (thank god men’s fashions don’t change as much as womens’!)

  33. maruawe says:

    Maybe to the “Modern” housewife this is a problem, But they would scream about a washboard or wringer washer.. Modernism has lost touch with reality. Clothes dried on a line smell better, look better, and last longer. I would hang clothes outside anytime rather than use a drier

  34. Fishnoise says:

    When I was growing up in a family of five, we had a washer but no dryer. Yeah, when the sun’s shining and you’ve only got yourself, sun-dried laundry is wonderful and saves scarce resources. For a family, having to rely on line drying is a royal pain in the butt.

    I remember hauling loads of wet clothes and towels up the basement steps to the back yard, and the constant bending and struggling trying to get the clothespins on before the sheets or towels dragged in the grass or dirt. We had three lines, but we’d have to move the wettest stuff out of the shadows by the afternoon or they’d never get dry. If it began to rain, we’d have to rush out and bring everything in, then rehang it all later when the sun came back out. On wet or wintery days, we’d hang clothes in the basement, where they’d take forever to dry and likely end up musty. Jeans would end up as stiff as corrugated cardboard.

    With all the extra labor and having to block out hours just to sort, wash and hang/takedown a load, laundry day was easily four or five days a week.

    The main convenience of a dryer is being able to wash and dry a load without having to worry about budgeting huge blocks of time. Nowadays, through the week, I’ll just accumulate a pile of clean, dry clothes in the laundry room for sorting on the weekend.

  35. OMG_BECKY says:

    Living in Las Vegas, clothes dry faster inside (hung on my Bowflex) than they would in the dryer anyway, and I don’t have to heat up my condo in the process (which costs me MORE money since the AC gets forced on)!