A Clothesline Comeback

Want to save money? Think clotheslines. They're making a comeback. We offer solutions to some of the problems you might face for going line dry.

While clotheslines may seem old-fashioned to some, they are making a comeback due to their considerable economic and environmental benefits. Clotheslines have always been around, but sadly, in some places driers have become so common that it is illegal to hang your clothes outside at all!

Here are some compelling reasons why you should hang your clothes out to dry:

  • Dryers are a major household energy consumer as well as producer of CO2 emissions. Depending on your dryer efficiency and how often you use it, running one can cost from one hundred to several hundred dollars a year. Give yours up for a month and check out the effects on your electricity bill!  You’ll be doing the environment a favor at the same time.
  • Ditching your dryer means a longer life for your clothing, since putting clothes in the dryer wears out fabric–just think about how much dryer lint you remove after every load.
  • That fresh, clean, smell store-bought detergents advertise comes naturally from drying clothes in the sun. Sunlight kills bacteria that create odors, and it helps bleach stains naturally. Try to hang stained clothes in direct sunlight.
  • Clotheslines drastically cut down on your ironing time. Shake out clothes before you hang them on the line–the weight of the wet cloth pulls out most wrinkles without you lifting a finger. Enjoy the freedom of not needing to be there when the dryer stops to make sure clothes don’t wrinkle.

Are You Line Drying Your Clothes Properly?

Check out these tips!

Common Clothesline Hangups

There are understandable reasons people don’t use clotheslines (rainy weather, stiff clothes, too little space, pollen, etc), but the benefits often outweigh the challenges. Here are a few simple solutions to make using a clothesline work for you.

1.Take it inside
If you are expecting cold or rainy weather, are embarrassed about neighbors seeing your undergarments, don’t have a yard, or live in a neighborhood that does not permit outdoor clotheslines, hang your laundry inside–you won’t get the same fresh, outdoor smell, but you’ll still save energy, and your clothes will be less stiff than if you hung them outside.

2. Get creative
Worried about space? Use a retractable clothesline or fold-up drying rack that stows easily. Drape sheets or towels over your shower rod, and hang smaller items from door knobs. Strategically place wet clothes near open windows, air conditioners, fans, or heaters, and they will even act as a humidifier in the winter!

3. Just add vinegar
Line-dried laundry can get a little crunchy because of excess soap that remains in the fabric. Some people like the feel but if you don’t, vinegar removes the residue. Add half a cup to the wash and you’ll have fluffy towels in no time! Also try reducing the amount of detergent, or use gentler homemade laundry soap.

Shaking out laundry vigorously before and after hanging also softens things up. If all else fails, throw overly stiff laundry in the dryer for five minutes on the air setting with no heat. Add tennis balls that will bounce around and beat the fabric until it is soft.

4. Tumble … but just for a moment
To remove allergens/pollen from line-dried clothes, toss them in the dryer for 5 minutes.

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Kristen Hewitt

After graduating from Bates College in 2009, Kristen attended the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Maine. She lives in Western Massachusetts where she works at Orion magazine."

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Nae

Add vinegar to wash or rinse cycle?

Nae

I googled it and it says to use a fabric Softener, that the vinegar will break down the detergent and not clean as it should

Jean

In the rinse cycle!! I have been doing this forever and I always hang my clothes out on the line in the summer

cin

I find it’s not soap that makes the line dried stiff. It’s the hanging still. When living in a very windy area the clothes dried as soft as if in the dryer. But I will try the vinegar anyway when the weather warms. Here’s hoping.

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