Some people don’t think they have enough room for hang drying clothes. But you really don’t have to have a long clothesline to be able to dry a full load of laundry!
Here’s a lesson from the Chinese: to conserve space, they hang shirts, blouses, and dresses on clothes hangers before putting them on the line. They also clip socks and washcloths to the lower edge of other things.
Drying clothing on a hanger makes it super easy to put the laundry away once it’s done. However, large shirts (such as my husband’s!) will have a pucker where the end of the clothes hanger was in the sleeves. To avoid this, it’s best to hang larger shirts upside down by the hem.
Those are my two favorite tips when it comes to hanging drying clothes – but trust me, there are millions of other great “hacks” you need to know about when it comes to hanging drying clothes – even on a short line.
Check the Weather Report
You probably already know to check the weather forecast for rain if you’re going to hang dry your clothes. After all, why waste all that energy hanging your clothes on the line if they’re just going to get wet an hour after you’ve hung them up? However, it’s not just precipitation you should be on the lookout for.
Particularly if you or anybody in your family suffers from allergies, you need to avoid drying clothes on days when the pollen counts in your area are particularly high. You can find this information on most weather websites and apps.
Avoid Air Drying Down Garments
Down not only takes forever to dry in this way, but it won’t dry effectively. So if you’re going to use the dryer, save it for your down comforters, vests, and jackets. Otherwise, down will dry in clumps and leave your garments lumpy and misshapen.
Keep it Clean
The clothes – and the clothesline, that is. Believe it or not, clotheslines can get remarkably grimy over time. From dust to pollen, bird droppings to regular old dirt, there’s all kinds of nasty stuff that can end up on a clothesline.
Between loads of laundry, don’t just leave the clothespins clipped to the line – they’ll get dirty and can rust, which will stain your clothes. Remove them and store them in a clothespin bag and then give your line a good wipe down before you hang another load.
Resist the Urge to Hang Super Heavy Items
Although I’m a huge proponent of hanging just about anything on a clothesline to dry, there are some clothes that you might be better off laying flat on a drying rack.
Certain garments, like knit sweaters, will develop saggy shoulders and misshapen sleeves should you choose to hang them in this way. Instead, lay out bulkier items on the rack, and turn them once or twice as they dry to maintain the evenness of moisture.
Avoid Drying Vibrantly-Colored Clothes in Direct Sunlight
You don’t have to position your clothesline right in the sun, nor is it always the best idea. Direct and intense sunlight will break down the dye used on your fabrics and can cause them to fade.
If you’re going to be drying a lot of bright-colored or dark-colored clothes outside (basically anything except pastels or naturals) your clothesline should be positioned in a shaded spot to help prevent fading.
You don’t have to worry quite as much about white clothing and other fabrics. These can be dried in full sun. In fact, doing so will actually help kill bacteria on fabrics and will naturally bleach them to help them retain their white vibrancy.
Dry the Largest Items First
If you’re going to be hanging clothing, towels, sheets, and a variety of other items on the same clothesline, start with the biggest items first so you can make the most efficient use of the space. Hang the sheets first then the towels, and then the clothing.
Try to leave at least an inch or two between all of these items so that air can move more effectively among the clothes and hasten the drying process.
Hang Garments by Type
Not all clothing should be hung in the exact same way. You need to pay attention to the garment type as you hang your wet laundry so that it can dry quickly and as wrinkle-free as possible.
When it comes to pants, for example, you need to line up the inside seams and pin them by their hems rather than the waistband. For knit fabrics, like skirts, hang them upside down so you don’t have sagging or visible clip marks on the shoulders.
For shirts, make sure you hang them by the bottom hems and cuffs. That way, they won’t create odd marks around the shoulders. Small garments don’t sag much when they’re wet, so you can hang them however you’d like (this includes things like socks and underwear).
When you are hanging sheets, pin them up by the corners. Secure them with an extra clip so they don’t blow away on super windy days.
Fold Your Laundry Immediately
As soon as you pull a load of laundry off the clothesline, you need to fold it (I know, so much work!). If you don’t, your clothes will become wrinkled and misshapen.
Get them folded as soon as you take them off the line and you won’t have to worry about adding ironing to your list of chores.
Shake it Out
Before you hang each and every garment, take the time to shake it out. This will help reduce the likelihood of stiffness that can result when you hang clothes on a line to dry – one of the biggest inconveniences I’ve noticed when drying my clothes in this fashion!
Make sure your fabrics are fully stretched out on the line and aren’t clinging to themselves or crumpled up. This will help reduce wrinkles so you don’t have to waste time or energy ironing later on.
Take Your Time
It takes a while to hang dry our clothes. Even when you’re drying your clothes on a clothesline on the hottest, driest day of summer, it’s still going to take longer for them to dry than in the machine. You will need to give yourself at least two to four hours for most kinds of fabric on a warm day with a light breeze.
Don’t rush the process, or you could find yourself folding and putting away damp linens and clothes – which in turn will invite mildew and mold.
Use the Right Equipment
Believe it or not, all clotheslines are not built alike, and not any old piece of rope will do. Here’s why – ropes rot in the sun. They also discolor, hold water, and will shed fibers onto your clothes that will make you itch.
You can use a piece of rope to dry your clothes temporarily, but for the long term, you should invest in a piece of vinyl-coated cording that is specially made for clotheslines.
You also need to use the right clothespins. I highly recommend avoiding those tiny plastic pins – they break easily and won’t hold your heaviest items. Use large wooden clothespins instead.
Use a Fan
If you have to air dry your clothes indoors, consider using a fan. It will help whisk away moisture in a quick, efficient fashion, creating great airflow around your wet duds. It might seem like a waste of energy, but even when you run a fan all day, it’s still much less energy than what is used by your dryer.
Don’t Fold the Item
When you’re hanging small items, don’t fold them over the clothesline to dry. Unless it’s a tablecloth or a sheet, you should just pin the edge of the item. Otherwise, you’ll be left with an unsightly fold mark.
Elevate That Clothesline
Stop that line from sagging! You don’t want your clothesline positioned so close to the ground that the clothes brush the dirt. Make sure it’s lifted high enough off the ground so you don’t have to worry about your longest items (usually bedsheets) touching the ground.
Try Not to Mix and Match
If you can avoid it, don’t mix your clothes and other garments. Sort them by their color and by their weight, as mixing them can cause lighter garments to become wrinkled.
Avoid Overloading the Washing Machine
When it comes to air-drying your clothes, the hard work starts with your washing machine. Don’t overload it, as this can prove to be a serious detriment at drying time. Instead, pack your machine loosely and use lots of water. This will let the clothes agitate freely. Rinse the clothes in cold water to help fight wrinkles.
You might also want to use the fastest spin cycle available on your washing machine. This will wrong as much water out of your clothes as possible to hasten your drying times.
Do Laundry More Often
You’re going to find that hang drying your clothes is way more of a hassle when you let all the laundry pile up. Wash and hang your clothes whenever you have enough for a full load so you can minimize the amount of hanging space you need to dry your clothes.
You may want to allow up to a full 24 hours to get a full load of laundry done, so I recommend doing one load a day. It will seem less daunting that way!
Hang Them At Night
Let your clothes wash during the day, hang them in the evening, and let them dry while you’ll sleep. You might find a bit of dew on the clothes in the morning, but a few hours in the bright morning sun should take care of it. That way, you won’t have to wait around for the clothes to be done, either.
If, despite the tips I’ve told you above, you still find that your clothes feel a little crunchy when you pull them off the line, use a bit of vinegar. All you have to do is add white vinegar to the rinse cycle, and you won’t have to worry about that crunchy feeling when you dry them.
Dry Inside Out
It might help if you dry some of your clothes inside out. Turn your clothes inside out, and pull out the pockets. You won’t notice the clothespins marks that way – plus, when you pull the pockets out of your jeans to dry, you won’t have to worry about them remaining wet after the rest of the garment has dried.
Why You Should Hang Dry Your Clothes
If you constantly find yourself pulling clean laundry from the washing machine and tossing it into the dryer, it might be time for you to change up the routine. There are so many good reasons to let your clothes air dry.
For starters, you’ll save a ton of energy and money. The electric dryer uses more energy than most other appliances in your home (up to 6% of a home’s total energy consumption on average, in fact!). That means less waste, more money saved, and a more eco-friendly approach.
Another one of my favorite reasons to hang dry my clothes is that it makes it a lot easier to maintain the quality and fit of my favorite clothes. It doesn’t matter how expensive or cheap your clothes might be – when you toss your clothes in the dryer, it degrades their quality over time.
There are all kinds of fabrics that will shrink when you toss them in the dryer, from wool to cotton, linen to rayon. What a waste of money!
Even if your clothes don’t shrink, they’ll likely suffer from some serious wear and tear. As your clothes tumble away in a dryer, the combination of heat and movement pull at the fibers of your clothing, making little bits break away. If you’ve ever checked the lint trap of your dryer (which, for the name of all things safety, please do this often if you don’t want to start a fire in your house!), these little fibers in the trap are the leftovers of that damage.
Even if it means stringing a line across the beams of a covered porch, hang-drying clothes is a great way to use the natural heat of the sun to get your clothing dry without the use of expensive electricity! If you aren’t already doing it, consider hanging a line this week!
Have you tried hang drying clothes instead of using a dryer?
updated 09/22/2020 by Rebekah Pierce
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.