Drying Clothes on the Clothesline

Save money, cut carbon emissions, and extend the life of your clothing—all with a few bucks’ worth of rope.

By Jean Nick

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Save money, cut carbon emissions, and extend the life of your<br />
clothing—all with a few bucks’ worth of rope.Here are some other tips to help you become a line-drying believer:

Watch the skies (and the weather forecast).
Line drying does require some weather awareness and forward planning. If you have a covered outdoor area, such as a porch, where you can hang a rainy-day line that will expand your options. If you use an umbrella clothesline and the weather won’t get worse than a gentle shower, you can hang your clothes on the inner lines, toss an old shower curtain or sheet of plastic over the hung washing, and clip this cover to the outside lines to hold it in place.

Know your fabrics.
Sunshine is a natural germ- and odor-killer and can help bleach out stains. But it can also fade bright clothing. Hang sun-sensitive laundry inside out, or in the shade if possible, and bring those articles in promptly as soon as they are dry. Certain fabrics are prone to stretching, or will show puckers where clothespins were clipped to them, so hang those on plastic coat hangers (metal ones are likely to rust and stain) and then clip the hangers to the line.

Tumble your towels.
Line dried clothes and towels don’t feel the same as those that have been tumbled dry in a dryer. I grew up without a dryer and much prefer the feel of a line dried towel on my bare back when stepping out of the shower. But you or your family members may find crunchy towels or stiff jeans a turnoff. Hanging out wash on a windy day can reduce stiffness, and so can filling the fabric softener dispenser in your washer with white vinegar. If those measures aren’t enough, dry everything on the line and then toss problem items into the dryer for a few minutes—set on air fluff—with a couple of clean tennis balls or sneakers to soften them.

Eliminate lint.
While line drying does lengthen the life of your clothes by not sucking bits of them into the lint trap, it doesn’t remove loose lint and pet hair (a big deal in our multi-pet household). You can toss any line dried but “furry” items into the dryer set on air fluff, with an all-natural dryer sheet, to loosen and remove offending fibers. I don’t have a dryer anymore (it gave up the ghost last year, and not replacing it was part of my 2008 carbon footprint reduction effort), but I do have a secret weapon: A damp hand rubbed firmly over the surface of hairy or linty items picks up the offending fibers better than any lint or pet hair remover I’ve ever tried.

Extend the drying season.
Drying laundry indoors can be an option, though in humid weather it will take a long time, boost indoor humidity levels, make your AC work harder, and perhaps exacerbate any mildew problems. In dry climates and in the heating season when indoor air tends to be too dry anyway, drying lines or wooden racks in the house are a great option. I have wash lines in my basement for winter use, and I use a box fan to move air gently through the drying laundry to speed up the process. In spring and fall, you can hang wash outside on cold days; try wearing rubber dishwashing gloves (or a larger size of rubber gloves over a thin pair of winter gloves) to keep your hands warm while handling the wet items.

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