Monday, November 19, 2012

Small pleasures: line dried clothes

I almost always hung my clothes to dry, even when I lived in my condo.  I had a drying rack that I set up and put every article of clothing I could on it, and then hung others up on hangers to dry that way.  The only things I tended to put in the dryer were sheets and towels--sheets, because I didn't have the room to hang them, and towels because the dryers went for a certain amount of time anyway and I figured I'd throw them in there if I was drying my sheets in there.  (Oh, and I would dry my comforter in the dryer, too.)

I'm now renting a house, and I was so happy to see a clothesline set up out back.  I have made very good use of it.  I used the dryer once--it started to rain one day when I did a sheet wash--but that was it.  Otherwise, I have used the clothesline.  Even though it's getting pretty raw outside. 

First, my clothes and linens smell heavenly.  There is something about drying things outside that really does beat drying them inside--the fresh air seems to get into the clothes.  Second, they will last longer--the lint that ends up in the dryer comes from what you were drying, after all.  Although I dry my clothes on the clothes rack even if a line dry outside isn't an option, it's nice that I now have that option for sheets and towels as well.  (I am not against buying another condo, but I have to say, condominiums and homeowners associations really tend to side-eye clothes lines.)

I know some people don't like the fact that jeans are stiff and towels are scratchy after being on the line.  I don't mind, actually.  The towels soften up pretty quickly once you use them and the jeans soften up once you wear them--though I've never found them to be like cardboard or anything.

I had recently finished a book where the author was musing about doing different things to save the earth (instead of unbridled hedonism like yours truly). She couldn't bring herself to line dry things because of the scratchy towel issue and the fact she was self-conscious over neighbors seeing her underwear fluttering in the breeze.  That did occur to me to at first--I'll be honest--but then I thought, well, line drying used to be a thing.  Everyone did it.  It was no big deal.  Heck, when I was growing up, my mother did it (she finally stopped when we had an influx of Japanese beetles that would cling to our clothes and linens).  If someone is going to gawk and point at my underwear, they should be prepared for me pointing at them and mocking them for being pervs.

I'm no purist though.  I'm not going to lecture anyone who doesn't do it.  I'm well aware that it's a lot of work, that the weather doesn't always cooperate, and that some people just plain do not like doing it.  That's okay, as far as I'm concerned.

So readers, do you air dry your clothes? 


  1. Growing up we did. And that is why I love my dryer.

  2. We have many rainy days here in Seattle, so most of the year if I want to air dry laundry it has to be indoors. I only put it all on a rack every once in a while. When my kids were little I air dried almost everything (in winter I'd machine dry the diapers). Our family room looked crazy, if you can imagine 5 people's worth of laundry all over the place.

    But I've been thinking of buying a new rack. My old one is rusted out.Thanks for the reminder.

  3. It took a long time to break down my husband's resistance to a pole in the yard, until he came up with a design he could live with. Finally overcame that barrier and the line went up this summer. Love it. I grew up with line drying, and prefer it (and the scratchy towels) over the dryer. Winter is coming on, though, and I have to decide how much freeze drying I want to do. (Or else set up lines in the basement, which is a less than ideal solution.)

  4. Hey, you spend good money on underwear, why not show it off to the neighbours?? :D

    Apparently the way to stop things being scratchy is as follows: for most things, add a little fabric softener to the wash. For towels, NEVER add fabric softener to the wash (apparently they absorb it too well and it clings to the material). If you want super fluffy towels, I've read it's best to put a little white vinegar in the rinse cycle. I haven't worked out how to do this on our machine yet, so I can't guarantee it works, but apparently it smells fresh, not vinegar-y! :)

  5. LIne dryer here as well for both environmental as well as economical reasons. I am also in a rental home. One of the first things I addressed was getting a used (1 y.o.) washer/dryer set for $200, then an umbrella clothes line for $55 plus tax. COld weather and snow has already hit CT, and Hurricane Sandy took out my clothsline (will be hopefully reinstalled this weeK when a handyman returns for msc jobs of me). I now air dry on a large clothes rack adn hang longer items up on a rolling coat rack. I am trying to cut my electric expenses.

  6. My wife hates the idea of it. Too many neighbors too close by, and the extra work of hanging everything up one by one, and then taking everything down one-by-one. So she uses our dryer for almost everything. I think it might be neat to try, but then again I'm not the one who would be doing the work of it, so...

  7. I was getting the clothes off the line for my mother when I was about 7. Shortly after than, I started hanging clothes of the line. I love drying my clothing outdoors.

    There are a few times that don't--when it is too frigid out, when I don't think I can make it down and up the side steps one more time, when the privet is spewing allergens, and when it is raining. I do not want to drag allergens into the house to sleep with them.

    I live in an Historic District and heard someone is trying to get an HOA in place. That cannot be good news.

  8. I always dry outside.Its no harder than a dryer and if you fold the clothes when you take them off the line some of it doesn't even need ironing. I hang shirts and t-shirts on coat hangers on the line so that I have less ironing.
    I hate ironing.

  9. My mom had a method for line drying, to wit: underwear on the inner lines, concealed by larger items on the outer lines. Modesty problem solved! Happy new home to you!

  10. I don't totally get the underwear issue. If someone is concerned about underwear drying on line, they are thinking WAY too much about nothing, and maybe should broaden their horizons a bit.

    Thanks for making me think about how I can start to use this smart utilitarian process that most *everyone* did well into the 60's. I've gotta find those clothespins.

    One caveat for those with children: our favorite game as kids on laundry day was "hide & seek" between the sheets, invariably pulling them down with our shenanigans and upsetting our long-suffering mom!