15 February 2008

Hanging laundry

I had to hang the laundry undercover yesterday as it was raining.

There are a few things I do in my daily life that I think are unchanged since Adam was a boy. One of those things is hanging washing out to dry. Drying clothes outside is a chore that connects you to all your great grandmothers. We might have plastic pegs now but most of the other requirements are unchanged over hundreds of years.

Line drying your laundry is remarkably efficient. All you need is the time and a bit of effort to do it - sun and breeze are supplied free to all with the will to use them. You'll need a clothes line, and that can be rope or wire, and pegs. If there is no wind, you could even do without the pegs and just place the clothes neatly over the line - or a fence or large bush. In the old days many women used lavender bushes to dry their clothes.

Start your task by shaking the item before hanging it. That will take out obvious folds and some of the creases. If you can hang your pillow slips, tea towels, T shirts, aprons, napkins etc. well, so that they hang straight without creases, you won't have to iron them. The more creases and folds you remove at the hanging stage, the more work you save yourself later. Even most jeans and some shirts can be hung like this so you won't have to iron them. Shaking is essential.

If you have a rotary line, start with your underwear and the smaller items in the middle and work out to your larger sheets and towels. If you have a long line, hang the smaller items in the middle and the heavier things on the ends of the line. If you have a lot of shirts it might we worth your while to shake them, hang them on plastic clothes hangers then attach the hanger to the line for drying. This might cut down on your ironing as well. If you live in a wet or humid climate, it is better to use plastic pegs as the wooden ones will develop mould over time, and a mouldy peg on wet fabric could stain your clothes.

When the clothes are dry and full of the smell of sunshine, unpeg them, place them in your basket, take them inside straight away and fold them. I do this on the kitchen table as it gives me enough room to work and stack the clothes. It's also a central place from where I can easily put away tea towels, napkins, dishclothes, towels and sheets as soon as they're folded and stacked. Never put off your folding because if you do you'll have creased clothes that will have to be ironed. I have been able to cut my ironing by fifty percent by shaking wet clothes at the line, careful hanging and folding as soon as the clothes are off the line.

Hanging laundry is a wonderful thing to do. You might think of it as yet another chore but it allows you to take advantage of the outdoors, the fresh air and sunshine. You are using the natural elements of your surrounding environment to help keep your clothes clean. It's one of those things we can do that doesn't rely on electricity - it's just you and the pegs.

If you haven't tried line drying yet, give it a go. Your clothes and household linens will last longer as they aren't subject to the heat and constant tumbling action of a dryer. Yes, it does take more effort on your part to do it, but these gentle exercises are good for all of us. Hanging laundry is one of those little things that gives you the chance slow down and to be mindful of the many simple things you can do at home.

I had a load of moist hand towels from the Centre that needed to be washed straight away. These dried well yesterday under the cover of the back verandah roof.

Electric dryers use five to ten percent of residential electricity in the United States!

Save money (more than $100/year on electric bill for most households).
Conserve energy and the environment.
Clothes and sheets smell better.
Clothes last longer. Where do you think lint comes from?
It is physical activity which you can do in or outside.
Sunlight bleaches and disinfects
Indoor racks can humidify in dry winter weather
Clothes dryer fires account for about 15,600 structure fires, 15 deaths, and 400 injuries annually. The yearly national fire loss for clothes dryer fires in structures is estimated at $99 million.

Washing and drying clothes - Australia

Hanging Items Upon a Clothesline - UK

How to dry your clothes outside - USA

To Fight Global Warming, Some Hang a Clothesline - Canada

How to make a clothes line



  1. We do hanger dry,in the shower, clothes that can not be put in the dryer. Line drying, for all clothes, is not a possibility at this time due, to the lack of space for a clothes line; no yard.

  2. Hi Rhonda Jean.
    I love thos post. There is something something special about a clothes line. For me it allows me to slow down and enjoy the process of ashing clothes. I took 100 pounds of junk out my home yesterday. I have a bit more to go but little by little I am paring down. I love the feeling it gives me to have a lighter load in my home.
    I now have more time to do the things that really matter.

  3. Hi Rhonda, inspiring as always.. I wanted to ask you and it has nothing to do with todays post, but, inspired by knitted dishclothes, I went out in search of cooton to knit with. Spotlight has a VERY limited amount of what seems like thin thin cotton on a yarn and moda has a coton and bamboo mix and thats all I can find at any store! Is bamboo or a bamboo mix ok to knit these clothes with?? I have two children currently back at scahool and with swimming, singing, ballet etc after school i need to be knitiing as i will be sitting!! many thanks Cherry

  4. As soon as the weather allows for it I hang my laundry outside. Even during the winter months I hardly use our dryer, but hang laundry in our bathroom.
    I absolutely love the smell of clothes that have been on the clothesline all day long.
    Real nice post, Rhonda.

  5. Hi Suzen and Elizabeth. : )

    Hello Cherry. I havne't used the bamboo and cotton mix but I think they would be fine. What ply are they? You'll need at least 4 ply, maybe 8 ply.
    Some of the ladies here put me on to bendigo mills cotton. This is where I'll be buying my cotton from now on.

    Hi Ingeborg! : )

  6. Hi! I have hung clothes out all my life and hang them in the basement in the winter. I used cloth diapers on all my boys and there is nothing like putting a soft, bleached by the sun diaper on a little one. It is very sad but some places in the U.S. have banned clotheslines! Dee

  7. popping in to say Happy Valentine's Day!
    Hugs to you and Hanno

  8. I LOVE the smell of fresh, sun dried clothes. It has finally stopped raining today, so I've just come in from hanging all my towels out on the bit of rope I have strung from the corner of the veranda to a nearby tree. Even in the rain I hand the clothes on an airer under our veranda. We don't have a dryer right now, and though I will probably get one for emergencies, I think it will go largely unused. I also plan to put a fold out washing line in my laundry to dry on rainy days.


  9. Rhonda,
    You just gave me a "duh" moment, LOL...I had never thought to use clothespins on a folding rack. Silly me. I could get more clothes on that way I'm sure!

    Sometimes I use a clothesline, but more often I don't just because it can be a strain physically. I do really enjoy the smell of clothes on the line though. Looking forward to spring, but it's a bit away still here in cold New England, and here you are preparing for Autumn. Amazing how the world works!

  10. I don't own a dryer and the few times I have needed one I have taken a basket to the local laundromat and used their dryers!
    I fold my washing as I take it off the line, then bring it inside, sort and everyone puts their own away (mostly). I think the way you hang the items and the shaking really are the key to reducing your ironing. Mine has grown again so one of my list items is to tackle it this weekend!
    Have a good one everyone :)

  11. I would love to hand my clothes out to dry, but 1) it's not allowed in our apartment complex and 2) I have terrible seasonal allergies so sheets and towels covered with pollen is not a good thing! :)

  12. We have always used the clothes line to dry our clothes, except in emergengies, when we used the dryer mum has had since she got married 27 years ago. We had a hills hoist for years, the true Aussie clothesline, and now have a retractable one on the pergola. In winter and when it rained clothes were hung inside, in the loungeroom with the windows open to catch a breeze in summer and in winter on a tall rack by the fire. We rarely had to use the dryer, which is probably why it still works. I love the smell of sundried clothes, and would only line dry now. I was given a dryer when I moved out of home and left it at that house when I moved on.

  13. Rhonda,

    I am a BIG proponent of hang drying clothes. Still working on my landlord to fix up our clothes line here so that I'll be able to hang dry outside come the warmer months. I am concerned though that the tenants who choose to smoke outside would do so near the area of the clothesline. However, one never knows until they try.

    For those who are not allowed to line dry outside due to housing regulations -- have you tried investing in a folding rack? like what Rhonda has in one of her photos? That's what I use in my apartment; I use it in the kitchen and when not in use it folds up nicely and gets hidden away. It would be worth a try. Some of the smaller ones would even fit inside a bathtub.

    You can also purchase ones that you hang onto the shower curtain bar and looks a bit like an umbrella -- there are about 20 arms with 4 pins on each arm. It's great for hanging socks and tank tops. I also use one of those.


  14. Only you could make wet dish clothes look so elegant : )

  15. I always tell the children- when they have clean sheets- "smell the sunshine".
    I got rid of our dryer as I only used it 2 -3 times a year.
    Living in Canberra it's dry in summer and I dry clothes in winter over ducted gas heating on clothes airers.
    LOVE your posts

  16. We live in an apartment with a courtyard, but it's really hit or miss as to whether the weather is appropriate for drying laundry. I don't even bother in winter, because it would have to stand down there for days, and would get rained on at some point. It also rains a lot in the summer here, but if it's a sunny day you can get lucky. ;-) There were big clothesline thingies in the yard where we lived before, but not here. But I do have a collapsible drying rack, and I plan to just take that down to the yard during summer.

    We have an A energy-marked dryer in our apartment, and that's what we use. I know dryers are horrible energy hogs, so I spent the extra to get the best I could afford. I won't dry clothes inside because the damp isn't good if you have asthma or allergies, and I have both.

    I miss summers back where I grew up, it was so hot and dry that clothes were dry after 15 minutes, so it was actually faster than using a dryer!

  17. Rebekka,

    My apartment is so dry in the winter that one of the reasons I did convert to hang drying inside is to add moisture to the air. But I suppose if you have allergies it wouldn't be wise.
    Good luck with your drying rack experiment this summer, we look forward to hearing how it works out :)

  18. Rhonda,
    I too have been on a road to simplicity for several years, but came to a crossroads early last year. I found your blog last fall and absolutely love it. Its just what I have been looking for. :)
    As for the clothes hanging post. My son and I live in an apartment complex and we haven't used the dryer since I can remember. (I am a single mom in graduate school) In fact, it is turned off at the breaker box. We live in the states (mid-west) and with the humidity, we've never had any problems. We put all our clothes on plastic hangers and hang them from the top of the door casing. I have two hangers with about 10 plastic clips to hang the smaller stuff (socks, washclothes, etc.) with. Sometimes I put a fan on them and they are dry in no time.
    Since I'm not working, we cut costs wherever we can, we have even got our monthly electric bill down to $25 in the summer.

  19. I have plans to get my husband to put me in a clothes line this Spring, so I can line dry our clothes. In the past, I have found it to be a very peaceful activity.

  20. Hanging my clothes to dry has become an unexpected pleasure.
    Strange...laundry used to feel like work.
    I can't wait until spring so I can put up an outdoor line!

  21. To Elle,
    I like your thoughts and am wondering if you have a blog? We are trying to cut back costs as much as we can also.

    I'm also wondering where you found the hangers with the plastic clips for socks, wash cloths, etc.? Thank you.

  22. It's very interesting - as a whole most other countries (than the U.S.) don't seem to use dryers.

    Another reason I don't hang clothes out much anymore either due to allergies & a spouse with asthma.

    However, I do find that when I am able I will hang clothes on an indoor rack or a clothesline that I strung on our enclosed sun porch. I can open a window and yet the clothes will still dry indoors without the pollen blowing on them. Not as good or as lovely as outside drying, but it's a different option for those with allergies.

  23. Hi Rhonda Jean,
    Inspired by your blog last spring (and further inspired by the death of my dryer!) I had my husband create a clothesline in our backyard. Our weather in So. California allows for linedrying most of the time. A nice surprise this week was discovering some 'old fashioned' wood clothes pegs in things left by my mother in law. Do you have a pattern for a bag that I could store them in? I remember seeing this on one of your blog posts.
    Thanks for all your inspiration!
    (Oh the dryer is now repaired, but sits quietly.)

  24. Lyn,

    I noticed your blog is private. I would love to trade tips for saving money, but I don't have one yet. I'm finishing my thesis this semester and afraid I wouldn't put in the proper time. As for my clips, I got them at walmart. They come in a bag of about 20. If you can't find any, I also fold mine over wire hangers when my clips are full.

  25. I'm a student at Pomona College in Claremont, California and recently spent a good amount of time looking into the various clothesline and drying rack options since Pomona is going to purchase some for student use and I wanted to make sure we purchased the best available option.

    In my research, I was shocked to find that there is NO good website explaining all the different clotheslines and drying rack options, so I made my own! It's a wiki page on the Tip the Planet sustainable living wiki that ANYONE CAN EDIT. You can check it out here: http://www.tiptheplanet.com/index.php?title=Air_dry_washing

    I'm trying to spread the word so that the site becomes a clearing house for drying rack information, and people have to spend less time scouring the web for the best products. Have a look, share it with your friends, and by all means add your wisdom!

    Take care,

  26. I am a single father and raising 2 of my children here at home. We have been hanging our laundry outside for years. My kids love the smell of the laundry. They do not care for the sorting of the socks before hanging them, but they are okay with it. Now that it is getting cooler sooner in the day, and the sun is setting sooner we will have to start hanging it before school. Will the morning dew make the clothing smell differently? Will it be okay? My job hours have changed and I get off at 5pm now instead of 1:30pm and just do not have the time in the afternoon to get it dried before bed. What do you say? Will we still be happy with this situation?


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