Investing in a Clothesline

Investing in a clothesline for indoor/outdoor drying of laundry may be one of the best small-scale investments one can make.  My family recently broke down and made the leap to purchase and set up a clothesline system.  All I can say is, I wish we had done it years ago.  With heat waves hitting many parts of the country and the cost of energy constantly going up, a clothesline will help you save energy and money throughout the year.

We have set up 2 different ways of drying clothes, one using a high-quality retractable clothesline and one using IKEA folding drying racks.  The 40' of clothesline makes it easy to hang large items and bigger volumes of wet laundry and the folding racks are for smaller loads and indoor drying.

So far we have not used the propane gas dryer for about 3 weeks, and are now contemplating selling the dryer and focusing those resources into more resiliency-building items.  Maybe a washing tub and crank wringer. 

How do you dry your clothes and save energy?

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Does anyone have some tips for these problems I experience with line drying? My towels turn out very stiff and are uncomfortable to use. They are not fluffy. Also, I get a lot of lint and threads on all my laundry. Is there a way to get the same fluffy, lintless comfortable clothes and towels from line drying as I do from machine drying?
Also, it seems like my towels start to smell funky after a few months of line drying only; is it important to wash with hot water in order to get the bacteria-killing effect that I'm missing by not getting them hot in the dryer? I know people say the sun should be enough to disinfect all the laundry, but I don't find that to be the case with my towels.

I love the idea of line drying, and would greatly appreciate any tips on the above issues. 

I have been line drying for almost five years.  I also use a folding line for all small things.  While in the city, I cannot hang outside, so I have two lines in our workroom in the basement.  I simply pull the rope over and hook it, and then unhook it when I'm finished.  When in the country, I use the outside line.  From these two experiences, I surprisingly found that the clothes dry with LESS wrinkles in the house.  I believe this is because the wetness in the fabric pulls the wrinkles out as it goes down the clothing.  I find that jeans and shorts come out better as no cuffs dry turned up, etc.There can be a problem with outside drying.  If you live where there is a drought such as we are having here, the wet clothes could get dirtier from the blowing dust than they were before washing, so have that inside line handy.  
The most important abd stubborn problem Kevionman mentioned is the lint on the clothing.  I was suprised at the amount the dryer must take off.  Two helps are these:  Don't wash towels or flannel sheets with other clothing.  Do use liquid fabric softener.  It wasn't something I wanted to do, but is a must for lint free clothing.  I tried vinegar and it didn't work.  
Stiff towels is something you have to get use to unless you want to fluff them for a short time and then line dry.  I think of them as exfoliating!  You'll get use to them.  The washcloths are soft as soon as you wet them anyway.  
I still use the dryer for a short time on shirts and blouses so I don't need to iron them.  Them I hang them from the bottom.  Before I used to hang them on a hangar, but then had to iron out the hanger marks before my husband would wear his shirts, so that was a big bonus for me.  
Surprisingly, again, I iron LESS and I thought it would be more.

Jasonw, thanks so much for starting this discussion.  I have been hanging my colored t-shirts for several years now because they last way longer and don't shrink as much.  This has extended their life quite a bit.
But, I didn't start hanging virtually all of my clothes until I spent some time at a meditation center where everyone hung almost all of their clothes up, either outside when it was dry, or inside when it was either rainy or cold.  This got me in the habit of line drying and made me realize that it was a peaceful and enjoyable part of my day; a chance to slow down, get out of my head for a while, and go back to the present moment.

Now my wife and I almost exclusively hang our clothes, although I still use the dryer in our apartment building for my dress shirts because it means I don't have to iron them that way.  I enjoy the quiet time of hanging the clothes, so it doesn't seem like work, although sometimes I put on a podcast or some music while I'm hanging them.  We have a line on our balcony and a stand up clothes rack.  We also put t-shirts on hangers so that you can fit more on the clothes line.

In Switzerland, where I live, about 60% of the electricity is produced by hydropower and 40% is produced by nuclear.  In the US, 40% of electricity is generated from coal, 24% from natural gas, and almost 20% from nuclear.  Even though I've been drying clothes in a dryer for most of my life, probably because that is what we did in our house when I was growing up, it now seems kind of silly to burn non-renewable energy, whether from fossil fuels or uranium, when my clothes can dry quite well on their own if I just wait a few hours longer.

As far as towels go, they are a little stiffer when dried on a line, but I got used to that pretty quickly, and I find that after a couple of uses, they become a lot softer. 



[quote=Conley]In my previous comment, I forgot to address Kevionman's question about smelly towels.  Adding vinegar or fabric softener to the rinse cycle may help.  I personally only buy white towels and wash cloths so they can be bleached/sterilized at least now and then.  Something to think about on your next purchase.  

Thanks, Conley. 
You helped confirm some ideas I came up with myself - buying only white towels so they can be bleached, using vinegar to rinse better - I'm thinking I will try throwing my shirts in the dryer on the low-heat setting for 15 mins or so after they finish dring on the line, and see if that removes the lint. I may try it with the towels too, to see if it fluffs them. 

I just set up a clothes line along my back property line (small in-town lot) – a plain old clotheline rope (cotton outer, poly core, $8.99 at the hardware store) stretched between the trees that mark the boundary line.  It's roughly 55-60' long.  It seems to be long enough for a large load of laundry (I've hung two in succession).  If I get a chance, I will try to share some pics. 
I expect I'll have to re-stretch and re-tie the line periodically.  No biggie.

Here I've been struggling with trying to figure out where to fit an old-fashioned "rack" clothesline on my tiny property, and it turns out I could do it with "zero" space by using the property line!  Am hoping my neighbors won't object, but I doubt it will be an issue.  I've already worked on building a friendly relationship with them.

There is already a clothesline set up in the cellar (yay 1920s house), but I don't want to add to the damp down there if I can help it (maybe in winter when it's less practical to hang outside, though we're no longer using the central (oil) furnace, so it won't be any drier/warmer down there than anywhere else in the house).

I think for now I'm going to continue using my electric dryer for specific things – bath towels, and the loads I do with just washcloths/socks/underwear/handkerchiefs/kitchen cloths.  But if ever I need to let the dryer go dormant, I will.

Hanging clothes to dry is so wonderfully meditative.  I've always loved doing it, but haven't had a line to hang clothes on in 17 years!  Time that changed.

Go to Google Images and search for "Hills Hoist”. These are ubiquitous in Australia (where I live). Yes, dangling from the hoist is a standard thing for small children to do. Now search for “drying rack”. Plenty of these around, especially for people living in flats who have choices of Chinese laundry, tumble drying, or drying racks inside or on balconies.
It helps than in Australia the climate over most of the continent most of the time is mostly conducive to outside clothes drying. I don’t know how people in the wet tropical areas cope, but they still have clothes hoists.

I find that clothes dried outside come in smelling of fresh air and sunshine, just lovely. Tumble dryers are useful on wet days and may make the towels a bit less stiff, but I much prefer drying outside and not paying for all that electricity.

When my mother was living in Norway, in winter she’d hang the clothes outisde. They came in stiff as boards but after they warmed up, they had dried. An early form of freeze-drying perhaps.  :slight_smile:

I’ve used a variety of makes and models of washing machine and never had any problems with lint or threads or smells. Use an ecofriendly detergent!