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Five reasons to air-dry laundry

By on September 18, 2009

drying rack
photo by Alexfayle

Air-drying clothes has made a big comeback. For years, it seemed most of the clotheslines were used during the summer months and found in the country. You might enjoy the modern convenience of your dryer, but you can save a considerable amount of money by air-drying your clothes, even if it’s only once in a while or partially air-dried. Try it out for a month, and check your savings. If you can’t afford an outdoor clothesline, have neighborhood restrictions (visit www.laundrylist.org for information on what you can do to help change this) or allergies, you can install a retractable line indoors, use a drying rack, or simply use hangers. Most of my online community members air-dry their clothes. Considering how busy our lives can be, I asked them to tell me their favorite reasons why they take the time do it.
Here are the top reasons they shared, excluding saving money on electricity.

FEWER CHEMICALS: Dryers create static. If you air-dry your clothes, you don’t need to use fabric softeners. If you find air-dried clothes too stiff, you can either add vinegar to the rinse cycle or toss them into the dryer for just a few minutes. Most clothing softens if there’s a good breeze, if you give them a good snap when they come off the line or after an hour of wear. And there’s no need to use bleach. The sun is a natural whitener.

One reader, Karen in Kansas, shares: “Use the slowest spin on your washer to help prevent wrinkles setting in your clothes from high-speed spins. The clothes come out of the washer less wrinkled and also much wetter, which is a good thing when hanging clothes to dry. Take clothes out of the washer and hand-smooth them. That helps relax wrinkles. I occasionally will spritz a few things with a fine mist spray of water and smooth out wrinkles with my hands. You can also use wrinkle release to get wrinkles out before you hang them. Stiffness is generally caused by detergent buildup. I use Charlie’s Soap (www.charliesoap.com) to eliminate detergent buildup. Low-grade cotton will always remain somewhat ‘stiff’ when line-dried. Better-quality cotton (Egyptian or Pima) will dry soft.”

You can make your own wrinkle release by combining a tablespoon of liquid fabric softener and a cup of distilled water in a spray bottle. And let’s not forget that your laundry will have that fresh outdoor scent.

CLOTHES LAST LONGER: There’s far less wear and tear on your clothing when you air-dry them. Think about all the lint in your dryer’s lint trap. You won’t accidentally shrink any clothing from the wrong dryer setting or from over-drying.

TIMESAVING: There are sunny, breezy days your clothes can dry faster on the line. You can use plastic hangers outdoors on the line, too. From line to closet, it doesn’t get much easier than that. Plus, with the clothes hanging outside, you can leave your home to do other tasks and not be concerned with a possible fire.

COOLER HOME: Your dryer heats up your home (and the planet) while it dries your clothes.

JOY: There’s something peaceful, soothing and almost therapeutic about hanging clothes and watching them blow in the breeze and removing clothespins when they’re dry. Air-drying is quiet. You won’t hear any of the clanging or buzzer noise from a dryer. You’ll benefit from the time spent outdoors enjoying the sun, fresh air, nature, quiet time with your own thoughts and a little added exercise, too. Plus, it’s better for the environment.

Another reader, Denise in Illinois, adds: “I love the feeling I get when I take down a load of clothes from the lines — plus I feel a connection to the women of our family in generations past. I always think of my grandmother hanging clothes.”

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About Sara Noel

Sara Noel owns GenXZ, Follow me on Twitter

19 Comments

  1. Dan

    9/18/2009 at 5:22 pm

    I love the idea of line drying our clothing. However, we just moved from sunny southern California to Just south of Denver, Colorado. So, for those of you who air dry who also live in winter climates, what do you do when the snow falls, or when it is just too cold outside? Do you hang them up indoors? Is that the key? That you are “AIR” drying? If that is the case, how long does it take a load of shirts and some pants to air dry inside when it is fairly cold?

    Of course, I will find out myself in the next couple months probably, but I wanted to get any thoughts from experienced folks.

    Thanks!
    .-= Dan´s last blog ..Hopefully by now you have read, The Revolution: A Manifesto ,… =-.

  2. Mary

    9/19/2009 at 2:03 pm

    Dan, I live in Michigan so I air-dry indoors quite often. It does take up space, you have to get a couple of those laundry racks.

    Try to drape the clothes as spaciously as possible on the racks for maximum air circulation on both sides of the garment. I often “flip” the clothes over after 8 hours of rack time if they feel damp on the underside. I put mine in a room with a ceiling fan and that helps, winter or summer. Or, I turn on a regular fan that rotates. I assume the fan uses less energy than a dryer, even if left on for several hours. (Plus, I room dry my clothes because I don’t want them to shrink or fade, not just for energy consumption reasons.)

    The amount of dry time depends on how much air is circulating, how much water was spun out in the washing machine, and how thick the garment is. I also have a dog, so sometimes I toss stuff in the dryer for 10 minutes just to get the dog hair off.

    good luck!

  3. Lulu

    9/20/2009 at 1:51 am

    I air dry my clothes all the time and I live in an apartment. I use a cheap drying rack that I got from Walmart and hang the clothes in the spare bedroom.

    During the winter the clothes take all day to dry but that is okay since I do not need them right away. I just hang them up and take them downthe next day.

    It is great idea to hang on plastic hangers right away as this saves on ironing. I have found that most times I take the clothes out of the washer, put them on a hanger and the next day they are ready for the closet without any extra steps.
    .-= Lulu´s last blog ..Intuit Is NOT Going To Change Mint =-.

  4. Eileen

    9/21/2009 at 12:38 pm

    Hey Dan,
    I haven’t had a dryer since I moved out of my Mom’s house 23 years ago. I live in PA.,where we can get some cold winters. I line dry my clothers outside when the weather gets mild-about 50 degress daytime and at least 8 hours of daylight,usually from April to late October November. We have even had some mild days in December. When the shorter/cooler days come you have to get your clothes out early but even on some cooler days cotton/light clothes dry within a few hours. We llve out near the Amish and some of them hang clothes out all year long.
    In the winter i am lucky to have a basement where my husband hung a line up. I also have a drier rack. You can by one at the hardware store. It’s good for socks, sweaters, undies.
    I hang things up on rainy days and the winter. My furnace is near the line and I have a vent there. When I hang clothes, I open the vent and it helps to dry the clothes.
    I agree with Mary that it estends the life of your clothes as well.
    Hope this helps.

  5. Deborah Polich

    9/22/2009 at 1:23 pm

    I want an AirDry laundry drying rack! I live in the mountains and an AirDry would be fantastic!

  6. Carol

    9/23/2009 at 12:30 pm

    Dan … If you live in Denver, then you know that the air is so dry in the winter it can be uncomfortable. Drying your clothes indoors will not take log, add moisture to the air in your home, and make everything smell wonderful. If you are at all handy, you could probably build a drying rack that lowers a frame with dowels from the ceiling on pulleys. When you don’t need it, it goes away. I am thinking of one, myself.

  7. Lisa

    9/25/2009 at 10:52 am

    Dan,
    I air dry to save money, prevent shrinkage and wear on clothes. Since I have allergies, I don’t like to hang the clothes outside in fall. But, a drying rack inside works fine. If the pants or towels are stiff from hanging (inside or outside), I put them in the dryer on the cool setting for a few minutes. I figure it is better to hang dry or dry partially to do our bit. Plus, we usually have time to wait for the clothes to dry this way. Less ironing, too, since the wrinkles can be smoothed out before being hung up.

  8. Charity

    10/6/2009 at 9:22 am

    I just wanted to say if I live in wet rainy Seattle and air dry year round, then anyone can do the same!

    I hang out laundry on the outdoor clothesline from about April to sometime between October/November (weather permitting). Even in our wet humid climate, if the temperature is above 40 degrees and overcast the clothing will dry outside in the same day. I just make sure to get the laundry out first thing in the morning. Sometimes I wash all the clothes at night and put them on the line when I first get up and go about my day. Last night I cheated and hung the laundry up at 10 PM so I wouldn’t have to do it when I woke up this morning.

    The rest of the year I have 2 metal pipes suspended in the garage from the rafters and I hang up most of the clothes on hangers down there and then in the basement next to the garage I have a big folding rack and hang socks, underwear, towels, sheets on that. I find that everything will dry within 24 hours even in my garage which is unheated.

    Our dryer broke 2 years ago and I never replaced it. I don’t plan on replacing it as I have the routine down now and find hang drying easier in many regards. I am no longer a slave to when the dryer buzzer goes off and having to take my clothes out of the dryer and fold them before they wrinkle. I can now just do a few loads and hang them all up at once, and they will remain hanging until I am ready to deal with them and fold them. This means I can hang everything and go off about my day and forget about the laundry

  9. Linda

    10/14/2009 at 11:35 am

    I live in Massachusetts, so our winters can be cold. I can hang my clothes out on nice days from March to December. In January and February, if the day is sunny, I can hang the clothes out for the entire day to dry. Also, you can hang them on hangers in your bathroom on the shower rod. It adds moisture to the dry air in the summer. I do have a dryer but I only use it when there are too many rainy days in a row and we run out of socks and underwear!

  10. Aaminah

    10/15/2009 at 1:57 pm

    Hi all,

    I live in the country but in a neighborhood with a homeowners association. They unfortunately have a rule that you cannot put up a clothesline in your yard. So what I do after I wash a load of clothes is put everything on hangers and air dry them in my very large walk-in closet. It has vents in the wall for air circulation so my clothes dry within 24 hours. I usually just transfer them after they are dry to whoevers closet they belong in. Saves a lot of time and space and I don’t have clothes drying all over the house which is great. For blankets, sheets and towels, I wait for nice days and just hang them over the rail of my deck outside.

  11. Nick P.

    10/17/2009 at 11:10 am

    Somebody asked about what to do in colder weather…

    Rainy days and winter make outdoor drying difficult, but we still air dry our clothes by using this type of clothes drying rack Being round it works really nice under a ceiling fan!

    One tip is to switch your laundry time to the evening then put the clothes on racks in your living space right before bed to dry 8 hours while you sleep. You’ll have dry clothes in the morning without tripping over the rack all day.

  12. Elisa

    12/25/2009 at 10:36 am

    The real trick is to stop thinking of a dryer as normal, and start considering it a wasteful, expensive, environmentally-damaging luxury. People have lived in apartments since before households could all afford a tumble dryer, after all.

    I live in Helsinki, Finland, not an especially warm place, and not somewhere that really permits outside drying for most of the year. We have one large hanging rack that can be folded away, and it’s big enough to cope with a family of four. For sheets, our apartment block has a designated Drying Room, but even if it didn’t, it’s quite possible to dry sheets in places like over the shower rail or draping over the drying rack – you simply fold it in half, then turn it over when one side is dry.

  13. Candi

    6/23/2010 at 9:23 pm

    How many people are you air drying for. I know how much laundry that the 5 people in my house go through and am finding it hard to imagine being able to find enough space for all of our laundry!

  14. Darlene

    6/25/2010 at 3:40 pm

    In the winter we heat our home with a wood burning fireplace with an insert and that is located in our living room. We have a balcony overlooking the living room & I set up all kinds of racks on it to dry our clothes. Doesn’t take long to dry them the way heat rises and our fan circulates the air. Love the savings with our electric bill.

  15. Tina

    6/25/2010 at 4:56 pm

    I air dry using hangers. We have a screened in patio where I hang the hangers (on a pole) in the summer. In the winter I hang them directly in the closet with the closet door open and the ceiling fan on. As long as you space the cloths out adequately (as others have pointed out) they will dry within 24 hours.

    For stiff cloths or wrinkles I just hang the cloths in the bathroom while I take a shower. The steam from the shower softens and removes wrinkles.

  16. Linda

    7/22/2010 at 7:32 am

    I do partial air drying. I place clothes in the dryer for 5 – 10 minutes, then place them on hangers and hang them on a tension rod over the tub, which I also use for drip drying hand washables. If you do only one load of clothing a day, it works out great and they are usually dry before bedtime. They are also softer and almost wrinkle free with this method.

    I do fully dry sheets and towels. I live in a patio home with no outdoor clothes lines. If I wanted to do so, I could dry smaller items on a rack (socks, underwear, washcloths) but I haven’t been motivated to do that often.

  17. Lisa

    7/26/2010 at 2:21 pm

    I can’t hang laundry outside since my youngest (now 14) has allergies. Before that, I was the queen of outdoor line drying. Now, I pull lingerie out immediately and the rest goes in the dryer for about 15 minutes on medium. I have a drying rack in my laundry room (it’s a tight fit but we do what we must). I hang clothes on hangers and line them up on the drying rack like a clothes pole. This takes 24 hours (sometimes more) to dry but usually I’m not in a hurry. I can put socks, undies, etc., on the rack poles inside my “monument” of drying clothing. Winter time things take a little longer as my heat goes down to 60 during the day when no one is home and 58 at night while we sleep. But, it still works! I used to be able to span a tension shower rod in my back hallway that would hold a lot of light clothes but it blocked the outside door from the laundry room. Since we’ve been planning to start using that door more, this had to go.

    I usually do two loads of wash every other day. If I have more (like after vacation), I make “temporary drying racks” by turning my counter stools upside down on my kitchen chairs and placing some kind of pole across two (the broom, a Webster or my spare tension rod) and hang clothes in the kitchen near the vent. My husband isn’t too keen on this set up regularly but on ocassion, it’s okay. It saves my clothes, my dryer, my gas bill, etc. I can’t see NOT trying to come up with SOMETHING that works as every little bit counts. I’d rather use my gas and electric dollars for other things.

  18. terry

    10/5/2011 at 4:54 pm

    First of all I would like to say terrific blog! I had a quick question in which I’d like to ask if you don’t mind. I was interested to find out how you center yourself and clear your thoughts prior to writing. I have had a hard time clearing my mind in getting my thoughts out. I truly do enjoy writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are generally lost just trying to figure out how to begin. Any suggestions or hints? Appreciate it!

  19. Teresa Newton

    6/5/2012 at 3:43 pm

    I really, really like the IDEA of air-drying. I hung laundry with my mom when I was little, and I totally understand all its benefits. But, HOW can one do so as a single mom? I often set the clothes to drying and then go to bed, to reap the benefits of clean clothes by morning. I have so little time and so little space.

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