Top Tips For Line-Drying Clothes The Right Way

Is there a right way and a wrong way to hang clothes on a clothesline? Yes! These top tips will have you line drying your clothes like a pro so there are no time-wasting re-dos!

While waiting for a technician to fix our clothes dryer, I realized we’ve lost the fine art of hanging laundry on the line. One evening my husband washed a load of clothes and hung them up at dusk, unsupervised. The next morning, I had to re-do the job. His T-shirts were all twisted and his underwear hung in a bunch by one pin. He folded his thick socks over the line, dashing all hope of their ever drying.

It’s not his fault he wasn’t taught to hang clothes properly. My mother taught me. She was fastidious about the job. Pondering this, I realized I never taught my younger two sons, either. So, here’s my tutorial—for my sons, and for Almanac readers.

Top Tips For Line-Drying Clothes The Right Way

Start With the Right Equipment. Use vinyl-coated cording made especially for clotheslines. Any old rope won’t do. Ropes dry rot in the sun, hold water, discolor, and shed fibers into your clothes that make you itch. If you must use a rope temporarily, so be it. But for the long haul, get a true clothesline.

Give the Line A Wipe. Before hanging laundry on a line, wipe it with a towel. This keeps it, and your clothes, clean.

Shake Each Item Before Hanging. Shaking throws out the wrinkles, un-bunches hems, plackets, and sleeves, and softens the garment. After shaking, finger press hems or plackets that like to roll.

line drying clothes

Hang Properly. Don’t just hang things willy-nilly like my husband. Clothes and towels hung properly dry faster and with fewer wrinkles.

  • T-shirts: Hang shirts by the hem. That way, any marks left by the pins get tucked into your pants. Also, the upside-down sleeves will dry faster.
  • Knit Shirts: Hang a knit shirt loosely without stretching out the hem and use four to five pins to support the weight.
  • Button-Down Shirts: Hang as though it were buttoned, with front and back together. Use one pin at each side seam and one in the middle to hold the front pieces together. Don’t actually button it closed as that’ll increase drying time.
  • Bottoms: Hang jeans by the waistband. Match the side seams of both legs of dress pants at the hem so the front and back creases form the fold. Hang from the hem but pin only the inside of the legs. The airflow into the leg will speed drying. Other bottoms to hang by the waistband include shorts, boxers/underwear, and skirts.
  • Socks: Matching socks before hanging saves time when taking them down and folding. Hang them by the toe in pairs.
  • Towels: Shake towels hard, too. I also like to sort them as I hang them. Then, I fold them when I take them down and they’re already sorted to put away.
  • Dresses: Hang dresses on a hanger to dry. If it’s windy, make sure they’re secure, or hang inside.

Large wooden pins are the best for hanging clothes.

Buy Large Wooden Pins. Those bitty plastic things won’t hold your heavy items; and in a good wind, they’ll break apart.

Take Your Pins Inside. Pins left on the line can weather, turn dark, and leave spots on your clothes.

More Tips

  • Unless it’s a sheet or tablecloth, don’t fold the item over the line. Hold the edge of the item along the line and pin in place. If you fold it, it’ll leave a fold mark.
  • Don’t overload your washing machine. This will help when it’s line-drying time. Pack the machine loosely and use plenty of water. The clothes need room to agitate freely. Rinse in cold water to minimize wrinkles.
  • Don’t mix. Sort clothes by weight, as well as color. Mixing heavy work pants with dress clothes causes lighter weight garments to wrinkle.
  • Don’t forget to check your local weather forecast! And if you’ve got high humidity, your clothes will need more dry time.
  • Shake garments and fold as they come off the line to reduce wrinkles.
  • Be sure your line is high enough so that your clothes are not brushing the ground.

Finally, after your clothes are dry and you fold them, press them up to your nose and take a big whiff. Remember that smell fondly. The memory will encourage you to use the line occasionally even after the dryer is fixed.

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Carol J. Alexander

Carol J. Alexander is a Virginia writer specializing in sustainable/green living, home remodeling, and lifestyle topics. She has written for over 100 national, regional, and local print publications, as well as online. She is the author of Homestead Cooking with Carol: Bountiful Make-Ahead Meals, available on Amazon Kindle and in paperback.

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Lisa Stephens

When I lived in Florida I tried hanging my clothes out but omg the smell when dry wasn’t what I grew up with…clothesline was near a small channel of water and may have been the culprit??? Needles to say I had to rewash…ug


i would have appreciated pictures of each garment as I did not understand all the explanations. I disagree with some of the tips! Living in wet West Wales maximizing the drying function is vital, so I always hang garments by their heavier, bulkier sections so that the water drips down into the lighter bits and gets to dry in the wind. If you hang tee shirts by the bottom hem, then the water drips down through, accumulating in those harder to dry neck and sleeves. Likewise shirts get hung by the collar for the same reason. However I have not done scientific experiments to prove one way is better than the other! When it is really windy folding a cotton sheet over the line may be the only way of securing it, and even then…. and such items dry really easily anyway. My mother also taught me how to hang washing out, and I do notice myself tut tutting when others do it differently. AND I NEVER USE A DRIER. Oh that lovely outdoor dried smell. Use a fragrance free washing product to appreciate the smell of the wind in your clothes,

Susan Higgins

Hi Sally, we’ll try to find images. Which technique weren’t you clear on?

Deb Clark

She said “UNLESS it’s a sheet or a table cloth, don’t fold it over the line.”

Gail Knight

Nothing smells better than getting into a bed with line dried sheets.


Hang pants by the hem so the waistband will dry.


I have been line drying since I was tall enough to reach the line. Really not a good idea to pin the way you suggest without folding over the line. It does not take much wind to put your laundry on the ground with the other method. Besides this gives you a new story to do on ironing.

Susan Higgins

Hi Cin, You can fold some of the clothing over the top to secure the pin, we’re just suggesting not folding the garment in half over the line.

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