DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS
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30 November 2010

Line drying your washing

I'm often intrigued by the questions asked in emails, particularly when they're about the most simple things. It always reinforces for me the need to learn new skills correctly and for that reason I never tire of explaining the most simple of tasks. The other day, Matthew asked how to hang washing on the line and if there are any tricks or ways of doing it well.

With many simple household tasks, knowing the right way to do something, and consistently doing it that way, results in jobs being carried out efficiently and before you know it, it becomes second nature to you. I remember when I first decided that making the bed every day was important to me. It seemed like a big thing to give that time every day to just making the bed. Now, after years of making sure the bed was just right every day, it seems like a tiny commitment to a very small task. Now it's just part of what I do.

One of the other small things we do here is to hang washing on the line to dry and as I often think about what I'm doing while I'm doing it, I have formed a few opinions about this simple task. It is common practice in Australia to line dry. It's been done that way since we Europeans arrived here and it's still the most frugal and effective way. Generally we have good weather, ideal for drying and a line of clothes set out early in the morning will be ready to bring in after lunch. Luckily, Hanno built me an all weather line too, so in addition to our Hill's hoist, that umbrella shaped Australian icon, I can quickly line dry clothes on our back verandah, even when it's raining.

When the washing machine finishes the cycle, take the clothes out immediately and head out to the line. If you leave the washing in the machine, or in your washing basket, for a period of time, you'll have more creases than is necessary. The thing that makes the most difference when hanging washing is to shake and snap. I mean by that to shake the item and give it a sharp hard whip snap before you peg it up. You'll remove some of the wrinkles in cotton and linen, and with terry towels, it will help fluff up the pile. When you remove towels from the line, shake them again to fluff up the pile. When you peg the item to the line, smooth it out with your hand and make sure the edges are straight. You don't want the hem of a skirt or a shirt sleeve to be crumpled up. Straighten and smooth collars, sleeves, facings, pockets and hems before going on to the next item.

Peg towels, tea towels, pillowcases and napkins by two opposite corners, shirts and blouses upside-down on the side seam, jeans (with the zipper undone) and skirts by the waist, and dresses on the shoulder seam. Hang sheets, tablecloths and doona|duvet covers by the two top corners in one layer, then make a U shape and peg the bottom corners to the line behind it. This will create better drying conditions for these large items and sometimes, the wind takes up the sheet like a sail and if you're using a circular line, it will spin the line around. If you have enough room and sturdy coat hangers, you could hang dresses, shirts and anything permanent press on a coathanger and peg it to stop it slipping along the line. Traditionally, socks and underwear are hung near the centre of the line and hidden by the larger items. I have to confess I still do this. If you're using a straight line, hang the heavy items first at the ends of the line, where there is more support, and fill in the middle with the smaller items.

If you have brightly coloured or black clothing, turn them inside out to help prevent fading but all your whites will benefit from drying in the sun because it will have a slightly bleaching effect.

Never hang woollens or any natural fibres like alpaca in the sun. They should be laid out flat on a large towel and dried in the shade.

I use plastic pegs but I like wooden pegs better. Here in our climate, the wooden pegs go mouldy and often end up marking the clothes. Plastic pegs will serve you better in humid or moist climates. And don't do what we do here and keep the pegs on the line. It's best to store plastic pegs out of sunlight, they'll last much longer if you take care of them.

If you intend to iron anything you have hanging on the line as soon as it's dry, remove it when it's still slightly damp. That will make ironing easier. For the rest of it, fold each item before it goes in the basket, or if you don't want to stand in the sun too long, as soon as you go inside the house.

51 comments:

  1. I love line drying and have done it a little over 40 years now. There is something soothing and satisfying in hanging the clothes out to dry. The scent afterwards is wonderful too.

    FlowerLady

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  2. I remember as a girl helping my grandmother hang up the wash. Fast-forward to this summer where I finally lived in a place I could have a clothesline myself. I realized each laundry day better ways to manage the lines. Who would of thought those childhood memories would be recalled in such a manner? The first few times it seemed awkward, but quickly became second nature. I also try to hang by each family member so as to make folding and putting away tasks easier. :) So many things we just never learned, or forgot from disuse!!!

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  3. Great post! I have a couple of things I would like to add that may or may not be relevant to some of your readers. First, because my husband wears his t-shirts tucked in, I pin them from the bottom hem so that any stretching or pin creases are hidden when he tucks in the shirt. Because I like to wear mine NOT tucked in, I hang mine from the shoulder seams. That way, if there is any stretching or pin creases, they are minimal and are usually hidden by my hair.

    I also dry my clothes on racks indoors sometimes. I have a large capacity washing machine and in the beginning I was worried about being able to get a full load on my two racks without overlapping. Then I stopped to think about what I would do if the drying racks were my ONLY option and I realized I was making it too complicated. The goal is to get the clothes on the racks in a somewhat orderly fashion and get them dry. Unless you have a very dark item that might bleed onto to a very light one, then who cares if they overlap a little?

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  4. Thanks for this - having read it I'm happy I've learnt a bit - I taught the children to hang things for line drying and inside drying - many of the tips you have (but I'll borrow some too!) nice to pass these things on. My son and daughter can now hang things properly with the minimum of ironing ever needed..........only for those few bits that need it.

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  5. I dried outside on Saturday and it was -6!!! But it was crisp, dry and breezy. so even here in Blighty, I dry outside! The laundry smells lovely too. xx

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  6. Hi Rhonda

    We are lucky to have weather here in Cape Town where we can dry our washing on the line 90% of the time.

    I love the smell of it as blows in the wind.

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  7. I love drying my washing on the line. A little walk out into the garden, fresh air and the feeling of getting a job done for free (environmentally speaking). Unfortunately there's three inches of snow on the ground outside, and realistically the line drying season only lasts for a couple of months in my spot in the UK, so drying infront of the woodburner it is! (don't worry, the door of the stove stays shut!)

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  8. if you have room on your line, hang towels long-ways they will dry quicker (if time is limited)

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  9. Thank you for this post--quite informative! I confess I've always wondered if there was a method to line-drying laundry (our HOA doesn't allow clotheslines, so right now I just use folding rack to dry things like diapers outside, but there's not enough room for a full load of clothes...someday, someday...).

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  10. Rhonda--
    We love hanging our clothes on the line all summer long. Even my teenagers take great care in how things are hung! But I have one neighbor who constantly laughs at me for doing this--she throws everything in the dryer and rarely spends a moment outside all summer! I, in turn, will leave my air conditioner off and spend a lot of my time outside (I work FT so evenings are spent outside!). I also garden all summer long and I get laughed at by the same neighbor who buys everything at the local grocery store. I gave up a long time ago trying to share my produce because they all think it is grouse to pull it out of the backyard and then eat it! I think the laugh is on them!

    Alice

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  11. I LOVE line drying my washing - among the reasons being that towels that are line dried, dry me a whole lot better than one that's been in a dryer!
    At first thought it seemed funny to explain hanging washing on the line but I've learned recently, once again, that me doing something with ease doesn't make it that way for others! I've been teaching my 8yo this year and last, to hang washing on the line and yes, you've covered pretty much all we do. My 7yo son needs to work a bit on shaking things out before pegging them, but we'll get there with practice!

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  12. Being Australian I always thought everyone line dried until I entered the world of the internet a few years ago and found out that this wasn't the case. Your technique sounds very similar to mine- I just need to ensure that my boys hand clothes on the line like this when it is their turn on the washing!

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  13. flowerlady, I agree. There is nothing better than the scent of fresh sheets and clothes. And going to bed on a freshly made bed with line dried sheets is wonderful.

    Kimberly, I love the idea of hanging the wash according to family members. It would make sorting much easier. Thanks for sharing.

    Annie, you're right, the goal is to dry and it's fine to overlap.

    Orkneyflowers, it's good to know children are being taught these simple tasks.

    Frugal, Wendy and Sarah, your comments show the wide range of temps we homemakers deal with.

    Thanks Brendie.

    Helena, it's good that you can line dry the diapers. I hope you get your full size line one day.

    Alice, the laugh is on them. Keep doing what you're doing and forget the naysayers.

    Mrs B, you're right, it's just practise. They'll get it eventually. It's great to have a acing mum to show the way.

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  14. I love line drying clothes! Here in Wisconsin, USA it is much too cold now to hang anything out. I had my husband build a clothesline a few years back and now I see three more new clotheslines in the neighborhood! It must really be catching on again to hang your clothes outside to dry.

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  15. Being a New Zealander, I didn't even realise until I was into my late teens that a lot of people don't use a clothesline. My first knowledge of that was when a Canadian friend visiting with me in Australia laughed out loud at the peg marks left on the clothes that had been hanging out!
    I love hanging out washing - there's something very cathartic and peaceful about wandering out there with a basket full of clean clothes. I use a peg bag that I tie around my waist like an apron (my grandmother made one for me). But I don't like using wooden pegs either. Even in our hot, dry climate here in Canterbury they still leave marks on the clothes. My husband made my clothesline - two wooden t-shaped anchors at each end with four rows of clothesline wire strung between them. I love it! But even four long rows of wire is sometimes not enough for a family of 6!

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  16. I love line drying also. I live in Georgia,USA. Speaking of leaving the pegs on the line, I have found a wonderful way to handle this. I have an apron with large pockets full of pegs hanging by the back door. I just grab it and put it on the way on the way out the door!

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  17. I just started line drying in the beginning of October. It's wonderful, and I don't see myself going back. Sometimes, when the laundry is really backed up and it's raining and I need that shirt in just a few hours, I'll go ahead and use the dryer, but other than that, I love using the line. Hanging clothes is a lovely excuse to stand outside in the nice weather for a few minutes.

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  18. We choose not to own a dryer so we are not even tempted. Even with a family of eight, we hang our clothes to dry inside in the winter. We have a wooden hanging rack that is right inside our bedroom which is near the woodstove and then a rope hung across the bathroom with clothespins and hangers.
    We manage just fine.
    Warm wishes, Tonya

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  19. I use a line for each family member's clothes- that way when I bring them in they're basically sorted.

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  20. Hope I'm not too late for others to read my comment! When I moved to Cape Town from the USA 20 years ago and watched my in-laws and everyone else hanging-up washing on the line, I thought I was going back in time. I had the mistaken idea as an American that tumble drying was "modern" and line drying was "old-fashioned". Well, here's to moving back the clock, so to speak! I hardly ever use my tumble dryer now despite it being a Whirlpool. I love the environmental aspect to line-drying plus avoiding any shrinkage that dryers can do to clothes not to mention the financial savings. I used to have great chats with my neighbour over our walls as we both hung out our washing before she moved and sometimes my husband & I have deep talks as we unpeg the washing.

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  21. I line dry, and realised as I read your post Rhonda that I do it just as you described, and I don't even think about what comes next. I guess years of a good habit becomes second nature.

    I did a wash at my ex's mother's yesterday, as my washing machine is disconnected until renovations are finished. We were laughing about her plastic pegs being in an old 70's BessemerWare jug, and she said a lot of the pegs were from then or earlier as well, she doesn't remember the last time she bought pegs...she always brought them in out of the sun.

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  22. Good morning Rhonda,
    I also love the smell of line dried clothes and have not had a dryer in about 35 years. Even when we lived in an appartment I dried our clotheson a clothes horse. One trick I have learned over the years and it might be helpful for those who live in a frost area. If you want to make things whiter eg. nappies or diapers, tableclothes, napkins/serviettes, white shirts etc. then just leave them out in the frost overnight and they will be whiter and brighter the next morning when you bring them in to iron them. Isn't it amazing how we can get so interested and excited about washing. I am really enjoying my life of simplifying and find that now we are retired it has become a challenge to find new ways of doing things and learning to use what we have on hand. I think we are becoming happier and living life with more joy these days. We really are living better with less. Great post Rhonda. How's Hanno these days? I hope he is back to feeling 100% again.
    Blessings Gail

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  23. You're brilliant, Rhonda :-) Your explanation of the 'shake and snap' is perfect. It's something I do without really thinking about it, but it makes a huge difference!

    We don't own a dryer - partly a financial decision but also environmental. We have ducted heating so during winter washing hung on racks inside dries very quickly, though we run into trouble when we have a string of wet days in summer! It just means we need to be a little more organised, though, which is not a bad thing!

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  24. Just a tip for those living in units - my neighbour (when I lived in a unit in Sydney years ago) put a retractable line from wall to balcony wall. No folding washing racks taking up space and when the washing was in, line retracted nice and neat.

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  25. I have never had a drier only the outside line or inside radiators. I lived in the Midlands in England most of my life and dried clothes outside for about nine months of the year and occasionally in the winter too.
    I find it hard to believe that you have to write an article on line drying clothes. I too had no idea it was such an issue until I started looking on the Internet. However ladies be green and hang your laundry outside to dry.

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  26. Lovely to get the time to be on google reader again and take a peek at your blog. Rhonda, I love your new photo - goes so well with the person talking to us on the posts :-)

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  27. After reading your post and the comments I have found a lot of things in common with others :). I hang a little differently to you but I do the 'shake and snap' as I like fluffy towels and I dislike ironing. Like Kimberley I hang clothes according to who owns them as a few extra minutes sorting at the line saves many minutes later. It also comes in handy if there is sudden rain as kids are more inclined to 'save' their clothes rather than just general laundry!
    I've always had a dryer but it's reached maturity at 21 years of age as it's only used in emergencies. Line hanging is a social, companionable thing here as there is always one of the cats supervising, or a native bird feeding in a tree or a few chooks stickybeaking at my actions which makes it a pleasant time of day.

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  28. I dry my t-shirts inside out, and folded over the line just under the sleeves so that any peg marks are hidden in the underarms.

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  29. I do line drying too. In wet seasons my husband is tempted to buy a tumble dryer but I don't see why we need it here in Queensland. My mother never used a dryer, neither my grandma. I grew up with line drying in the way pretty much the same as you described. I have clothes to wear everyday even in the rainy season. It works well.

    Only technique I recently discovered is with towels. If you run your hand against the direction of 'hairs' while it's still wet on the line, it helps fluffing up the towel when dry. Everyone likes fluffy towels after shower :)

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  30. We love the beautiful Airedale stitching on the first picture. Who made it?

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  31. I am in Canberra & love the fact that I can get 4 loads out, dried and in during a normal spring,summer,autumn day!
    During the cold winter mornings I often remember a photo of a SnowyHydro wife hanging her washing out in gumboots in the snow. see link here
    http://www.bradcollis.net/snowy/women.html

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  32. Inky and Molly, I designed and stitched it a few years ago. Alice says "woof".

    Great photo, Janet.

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  33. I have been hanging clothes outside and inside for a couple of years now.

    I would suggest using a heavy gauge vinyl coated wire if it's a longer span like mine. (60 foot pulley system) I wasted money buying the "clothes line wire" when I should have bought the vinyl cable wire. It costs more, but in the long run it's better. The first wire would break after a few months and after reattaching several times I bought the thicker wire. (Not to mention having to re-wash some things that fell into dirt) I also set it up in a manner that I can tighten the line where it connects the pole after it stretches without messing with the cable.

    I like to use coat hangers for the light fleece/fabric shirts. Cotton and other heavy fabrics stretch too much at the shoulders if using hangers. I secure the hanger with a pin/peg so the wind won't toss it off the line. It saves a step hanging up clothes in the closet.

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  34. In balmier weather, i love to hang out the towels and jeans. I will hang the kids shirts and my tops, sometimes, but often they have a lot of lint on them if I do not throw them in the dryer. Any suggestions for dealing with lint?

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  35. Hi rhonda, you mention at the end of your post ironing ! whats that ? just kidding. i like you hang all the washing on the line as soon as the machine is finished give every thing a really good shake then as I take it off the line I fold it straight away and hang up all DP work shirts and DS school uniform then I never have to iron any thing..I don't enjoy ironing I comes from when I was about 12 I wanted a packet of chicken in a biscuit savory biscuits and I said I would do all the ironing Of course I ate the biscuits first then I had to do the ironing I regreted my choice and hated every minute of it...It has put me off ironing and I'll be 48 on Thursday...plus it takes up too much valuable time that I could be doing something else that I really enjoy...Might do a blog post about ironing or not ironing ...Have a great day !

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  36. There is only one thing that smells better than crisp cotton sheets dried in the sun & breeze and that is a freshly bathed baby. Hanging our laundry on the line is so calming and refreshing. The fresh air is good for the linens and good for the Mom. I even have a photo of myself as a little girl hanging out my dolly clothes after hand washing them. Those were the days my friends.

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  37. Hi Rhonda,
    This is a great post and a great reminder! I am over here in New Zealand now and I love driving through the countryside and seeing washing on the line in every yard! It's not that way at all in the US- so much electricity goes to waste in drying clothes, and we could probably pull ourselves out of the energy crisis by simply banning dryers and teaching people to hand the laundry outside! I grew up doing it, but haven't lived in a place where I could for so long, and now everywhere we stay in NZ has a washing line- it's such a satisfying task, and things dry so quickly in the strong sun here.

    I'm definitely still reading and keeping up with your blog, it's nice to read it while being in the same hemisphere and same season!
    Thanks again for all your wonderful wisdom.

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  38. Rhonda- I dont store my wooden clothespins outside but for another reason - the wood will dry out and they will splinter when you use them. Taking a wet washcloth out with you to clean the clothesline is good idea too. Those birds sure do like to sit on the clothesline when you arent looking. Another tip - If you dont have time to iron clothes right away, store them in a plastic bag in the freezer. Just let them thaw out before you start ironing them. Also a sprinkle bottle is what my grandma would use to dampen her clothes before she would iron them. I also used to have two clothesline poles when I used to have long lines (now I have an umbrella type). They are long poles with a bent wire on top to keep the lines up when you hang heavy items. Dont know if they still make them or not.

    PS - I always hang underwear in the middle of my umbrella clothesline, just shy I guess ;)

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  39. Rhonda

    Like you I do not use a dryer, but rather hang my washing outside on the line to dry. If I know that the weather is going to be unsuitable for line drying, I do a daily single wash and hang all the items on hangers from rails which I have installed in my laundry / pub fridge / freezer room (http://ecofootprintsa.blogspot.com/p/trying-to-make-difference-start-of-our.html and scroll down to the first photo) The heat from the fridge / freezer motors, as well as leaving the outer door open, ensures that my washing drys in 24 hours - by which time I will then do another single wash. Thus all my washing gets done with a minimum of power used.

    Dani

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  40. Haha! Handy Hanno! ;o) I can imagine you really lóve this wonderful man!

    Here -in Holland- we can only line dry our washing outside from -let's say- april 'till october. Now we have to dry them in the house, one thing that isn't always easy if you want to do the washing on one day in a tiny house. But I can manage! ;o)

    It's always better for your environment and your wallet, than use the drier!

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  41. I love taking the baby out to play with pegs while I hang washing - a simple joy.

    Agree with you on plastic pegs in the tropics. Here in Byron Bay I have lost so much to mold - the downside of abundant rainfall I guess.

    Thanks for this post Rhonda - I've learnt a few tips I'll put to good use.

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  42. Hi there! in eire there are many days that line drying is very hard to accomplish! but even on a sullen day I try to hang washing out for a few hours!luckily I have stables and a line in one of them! not when ponies in though!

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  43. I wish I could hang out year-round. I have entered the dreaded "dryer-season". I hate it.
    Line dried clothes always come out so crisp and wrinkle free. It's calming to go out and take things down at my leisure. With a dryer , you have to race to get the clothes out before they wrinkle, and even then they aren't as good as line dried. And the smell-burnt dryer smell, or fresh crisp sunshine smell---not a hard choice, is it? Can't wait for March when the snow melts and I can line dry again!!!!!

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  44. I love your blog. I look forward to reading it every chance I get. Even though we are continents and years away from each other, I feel that we are kindred souls. I LOVE the hand embroidery picture. Is there an order form or a down load of that picture? I would LOVE to make one for myself and for my friend who also line dries her laundry too. There have been many things that I have learned from you...and for that, I thank you.

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  45. Andrea, thank you. There is a free drawing/pattern for that here:http://down---to---earth.blogspot.com/2007/08/stitchery-patterns.html

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  46. At first I felt like laughing when I saw that there was a whole post on how to hang your laundry! But when I read it, I realized that (just like every task) it's only common sense if you're used to it.
    We moved and have not yet put up a clothes line in the new place. I miss mine. I am inspired by your 'all-weather' version, though. I'll bet I could put up some racks in the basement...

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  47. A couple of months ago, I wrote up my top line drying tips - especially for those in less than clement climates -- http://www.thereallygoodlife.com/519/my-top-5-clothes-line-drying-tips/.

    We line dry all the time but due to the moist UK weather, more inside than outside - or sometimes, start outside and move inside or vice versa. So for me, it's important to make it as easy as possible to move things about - portable airers or at least socks/underwear on portable ones.

    I agree with Joshua - line drying outside is a good excuse to have a few quiet minutes outside. I find it such a calming and relaxing chore!

    I also like Kimberly's suggestion of hanging things by family member or where the item lives in the house for easy sorting.

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  48. I must have the line drying gene in me, because I follow the long tradition of the women in my family of line drying, too. The best advice I see here, that I started doing after I read it here, is the snap and shake. I learned that from Rhonda, and it really makes towels dry less stiff if you make sure you shake them until they snap. Smoothing the hems and making sure everything is hanging well makes line drying such a pleasure. Plus...I get to be outside in the sun and all my clothes smell just great!

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  49. Right now we are living in housing that does not allow outdoor clothes drying. Is that not the craziest thing you ever heard????? And its military housing so its not like its a bunch of rich people that can afford to use a dryer even!!!

    I do have a line set up in the garage and 2 wooden racks but its just not the same as the outdoor smell and the sun bleaching.

    There's something wrong with us Americans I'm thinkin! LOL!

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  50. I am British but recently moved to Kuwait (a very wasteful society, I might add). However, its hot and sunny and perfect for line drying. What I find remarkable is how almost everyone I know here uses a tumble dryer. Sure there are dusty days - then I move my drying rack inside and put it in a sunny window. Unfortunately, its not the weather that seems to prevent people from line-drying, its the time it takes. Sure its easier to stuff the clothes into the dryer but when its hot and sunny outside, I think it is a sin to do this.

    I LOVE line drying my clothes. If I close my eyes and think of my mother, I picture her pegging out laundry in the garden of my childhood home. I intend on making the most of the desert heat :)

    Zoe

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