How to hang out laundry

Spring is here, and it’s a great time for all of us to create backyard replicas of those classic springtime images of clean clothes whipping dry on a clothesline.

(Why is there no ACTUAL image today? I tried, but the camera is not cooperating.)

Anyway … as you very likely know, hanging clothes out to dry has many benefits:

  • Uses natural solar and wind energy to dry clothes instead of electricity, natural gas or propane.
  • Adds that fresh, outdoor smell.
  • Does light sanitizing from the sun’s rays.
  • Saves $70-$80 per year if you can hang out laundry for 7 months (compared to using an electric dryer).
  • Eliminates 1,500 pounds of carbon emissions if you do it 7 months a year.
  • Gives you a little bit of exercise and a chance to get outside.

If you haven’t hung out clothes before — or haven’t done it for years — here’s a primer on how to make it enjoyable:

  1. Launder clothes the night before (if your climate doesn’t cause them to mildew by morning) or at the crack of dawn, then get out and hang up the clothes in the morning. I guarantee it will be one of the best parts of your day. Take them down in the evening for a few minutes’ respite. Breathe the fresh air, enjoy the sun pouring vitamin-D-generators into your skin, listen to birds, and be happy you are not stuck in traffic, sitting behind a computer, listening to babies cry or whatever comprises much of your time.
  2. Make it easy. Get the tools you need. Set up a clothesline (a traditional line, a retractable strung between home and garage, a line across your patio or a revolving “umbrella” clothesline).
  3. Get enough clothespins. The wooden ones are more eco-friendly and more lasting. Find them at dollar stores, large Asian markets like Har-Mart, Wal-Mart, etc. Put them in a hanging basket (even a milk jug cut out for access) to easily reach them.
  4. Save your back by elevating the basket. I put my basket on an upturned large flowerpot next to my umbrella clothesline. My former neighbors had put wheels on a basket so it rolled along their line.
  5. Fight wrinkles. Many garments — like linen — come out less wrinkled on the line, especially if it’s breezy. Give woven cotton garments a good shake (or three) before hanging to shake out wrinkles. Take a look after hanging to make sure a cuff isn’t turned up — it will dry that way if it is. For extra wrinkly garments, or “wrinkle-resistant” clothes that wrinkle on the line, throw them in the dryer for a few minutes while damp to get out wrinkles. If you’ve washed the garments several times, they should be fairly colorfast when they are nearly dry, and all colors can go in one load to conserve energy.
  6. Crowd synthetics. It’s not mandatory! But if you are running out of clothesline, remember that 100% polyester and polar fleece dry very rapidly and without wrinkles. In a pinch, I hang my daughter’s fleece PJs by one clothespin and crammed together — and they still dry faster than other clothes.
  7. Simplify socks. I pull socks out of the load as I remove it from the washer (or hang up the load and leave socks in the basket). Then I drape them over a folding rack instead of hanging them on the line. Somehow, working a clothespin onto every single sock just ups the annoying factor a little too far.
  8. Flip shirts over. I hang shirts upside down (from the hem) to minimize wrinkles and ensure that if there are any weird nipply things from the clothespins, they are at the hem instead of the shoulders. (There’s nothing like glancing in the mirror at lunchtime only to see that you have a knob of fabric sticking up from your shoulder.) Or, hang clothing on hangers — but for the broad- or narrow-shouldered among us, double check to be sure the shoulders lie smoothly on the hangers. For button-placket shirts, I hang the shirt upside down with a clothespin at each side hem. Then I lap the plackets over each other and clip the center, too.
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14 thoughts on “How to hang out laundry

  1. Kristina says:

    I can’t wait for the warmer to get a bit warmer. I love hanging out clothes. Like you suggested, I launder my clothes the night before and leave them in baskets on the floor of my laundry room. I then hang them out in the morning — pure bliss! The birds are singing, dew is damp on the grass. I love it! And I love your tip about socks. I hate hanging out socks — it depletes my clothespin supply in no time. I’m going to look for a rack at thrift stores/garage sales. Thanks for the timely topic!

  2. gamemammoth says:

    That’s one thing I miss about living back home– the clothesline! And amazingly, on a nice summer day clothes dry way faster out on the line than they do stuck in a dryer.

  3. mrsdirtyboots says:

    Hi love hanging out the washing (well except when we get a monstor mountain wind that takes it all away!).

    Hanging out the washing neatly on a line means I no longer do any ironing. You can’t get better than that as I detest ironing laundry!

  4. Lan says:

    Line-dried laundry rocks.

    As for the wooden clothespins… Are you talking the ones with the metal clip holding them together, or the more traditional split-peg ones? I’ve found my metal-clippy wooden ones are much more likely to slip apart than the plastic ones (enviro-friendly concerns aside.)

    @mrsdirtyboots: I’m in the same camp; it was a revelation when I realized that by hanging out laundry I no longer had to iron. 🙂

  5. Condo Blues says:

    How do you keep the clothes from getting stiff/wrinkled? I line dry on hangers in my bathroom since my HOA won’t allow clotheslines. I tried vingar as fabric softner but it didn’t work. I’d rather not use regular fabric softner either.

    • cheaplikeme says:

      I think they just generally get stiff, unfortunately. As for wrinkles, have you tried giving them a vigorous shake before hanging? Not like shake-a-shake-a-shake-a, but hard, like Snap! Snap! I do that with pants that I hang in my laundry room (read it somewhere online), and that helps a lot.

      You can eliminate the stiffness after they are dry by just throwing them in the dryer for a few minutes — 5 to 10 should do it. You’ll still save a lot of energy.

  6. Cara says:

    Is there concern for putting colored clothing to dry on the line in the sun? After all, the way to bleach cloth diapers is to sun them… Do colors fade by line drying? Do you only hang whites/lights?

    • cheaplikeme says:

      I put everything out, and we haven’t noticed fading — and we have HOT sun here at mile-high elevation. Even black or bright red are OK. I guess it depends how long you keep your clothes — if you wear them for 20 years, you’ll probably notice fading from hanging them out every week. But we tend to cycle through clothes after a few years, and they are still A-OK.

      Whites do stay brighter when they are hung out, though!

  7. Shannon Spurlock says:

    We hang our laundry out to dry and for things that I am afraid of fading, I turn them inside out to dry. Because, really, if they fade on the inside it will not be noticeable.

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