How to Line Dry Laundry Without Losing Your Mind

AKA, How to Break Reliance on a Dryer.

Do you like to see how people do things? I certainly do. But what I dislike is seeing how people start a new system and then never getting to see a system they have had in place for years – a tried and true method, including variations and insights that just don’t exist on the very first day we try something new.

And so I humbly present a little info about line drying laundry for a family without losing your ever-lovin’ mind and turning into a big pile of bad words. I’ve been doing this for years.

My dryers are always second hand, inefficient, and prone to dying without warning. Also, there are definitely times when we can’t afford to run the dryer multiple times a day. Having choices and knowledge to make it work is never a bad thing.

A dear mentor of mine once explained to me how she raised 4 children on a pastor’s income. She said that she line dried everything because she didn’t have a choice, and said that I, too, could do this. It isn’t rocket science but it’s nice to have someone show you the ropes (see what I did there?).

First of all, remember that lots of people in lots of climates and varying situations do this, and that your ancestors certainly did their share of drying. You can do this.

Second, know that I only line dry in the reasonably good weather that happens from like April to October in my little corner of the world. I would love to have a good indoor set up for the cold months – dream!

For a family of 5, I do laundry every day that it’s not raining – usually one big load and anything “special” – delicates, muddy clothes, swim suits, sheets.
Here is my process.

  1. Wash a load of clothing in warm or cold water, it doesn’t matter. The sun will do a lot of decontamination for you without any additional effort on your part. Do this first thing in the morning.
  2. I recommend an unscented laundry detergent. You will need to rely on your sense of smell in this endeavor. (So many times, perfumes mask an unpleasant musty smell in people’s clothes, have you noticed?)
  3. As SOON as that machine turns off, hang those suckers out to dry. I have done this with drying racks or on a line. I prefer the line because it enables you to hang more, doesn’t fall over on a breezy day, and your clothes won’t fall off because you will anchor them firmly with clothespins.
  4. Wait a good 6-8 hours on a nice warm sunny day. On colder days, you need to get it out very first thing and bring it in right at sundown. If you use drying racks, just drag those in and out as the weather predicts. If you use a line, transfer the wet clothes to your drying rack indoors overnight.

Tips for Success

Musty smells: Wash in hotter water and make sure your clothes are 100% dry before you put them away. Use vinegar if you want – it helps!

Towels: Wash in HOT WATER no matter what the label says. Do you want to dry your clean self off with a nasty towel? I thought not. So wash in hot and use an additive as needed. Check your Wal-Mart laundry aisle. πŸ™‚

Look carefully at the pictures with this post. Everything is laid out well, with ample space. See where I did the clothespins? This is to ensure that you don’t get drying lines or pin marks on your clothes.

Why To Bother

Ironically, I prefer this method of doing laundry over an electric dryer. I feel less rushed, and the laundry to be folded rarely overwhelms me. When I bring in clothes in the evening after dinner, I told in front of the TV and then have my family members put away their clothes in the morning. (Verity still needs help with this stage!) Since I can really only fit 1 or 2 loads on my line each day, the amount of laundry is minimized.

Furthermore, it costs about 50 cents on average to run a medium load of clothes in an electric dryer for an hour. Meanwhile, nature is free.

Did you know the sun will bleach out stubborn stains for you?

I also make my children come outside with me, and they run around for a while first thing in the morning while I hang laundry.

What I Learned in Latvia

You knew it was coming, didn’t you?

In Latvia, I had this really tiny machine that would fit 1.5 outfits in at a time, took 3-4 hours to run, and was super noisy so I didn’t want to run it at night.

And no dryer.

And it was late March/early April, which is not known for it’s beautiful weather in the Baltics.

Nevertheless, people had their drying racks out on balconies even when it was drizzling or snowing. And thus I thought: I can do what they are doing, and it will work out, even in bad weather.

Once, M said, “You don’t know how to do this because we don’t have dryers here like in America.” I laughed and said that actually I’ve been without a dryer for months and I know the methods.

And it did work out. I washed yucky soccer-playing clothes, sandy beach clothes, and muddy clothes. I dried it all overnight in front of the radiator and put it out during the day. It worked.

If I can do it there, jetlagged as all get out, I can do it in America too.

Congratulations if you made it to the end of this utterly fascinating post about laundry. πŸ™‚


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