Line-Drying Linens: Reasons for Using a Clothesline + Drying Tips

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We’ve recently replaced our raggedy ol’ make-shift clothesline for a nicer, sturdier one, and let me tell you, I am one happy homemaker over here. When we first moved into this house I took a trip to Home Depot to get the supplies to make my own “clothesline” from something I saw on Pinterest.  I got thick rope, a few S hooks, and some twist in hooks and went home to rig up a little line to dry what would amount to about a half of a load of laundry. It did the job for our bed linens and clothing I didn’t want to risk shrinking, but after a few months of wear and tear I rethought the whole clothesline thing and wish we would have just gotten the real deal from the start. Andrew and I knew we would be taking on yard projects in the coming years so we added it to our wish list and made do with the one I had strung up from a tree in the corner of our yard to the fence door. After all, we had been line drying our clothing on our bistro lights when we lived in our tiny condo by the park and that worked fairly well for us.

Why clotheslines? Well, my mother had a clothesline, and her mother too, and I grew up watching our shirts and pants and pillowcases dance in the wind as they dried. The simple task of hanging clothes has special meaning to me and has come to symbolize something much more than a means of cost-effectively drying our clothing and bedding. It represents the thoughtful intention and care the women in my life have lovingly put into chores and tasks of the home.  Beautifying domestic pleasures, such as doing the dishes, making beds or drying laundry, is one way you can add more joy to the rhythm of your day. As a family of five we have a lot of dirty clothes and this chore is something I tend to daily. Why not make it beautiful and meaningful? Here is what you’ll need to make a clothesline, some reasons for doing so and a few helpful tips for those who choose to go this route.

What you’ll need to dry your clothes on a proper line:

  • A clothesline, of course. We ordered ours from the Vermont Clothesline Co. and Andrew installed it one Saturday afternoon a few weeks ago. It is of most excellent quality and is as sturdy as we had hoped it would be.
  • Clothespins. I get mine from the dollar store and use them for everything from chip bag clips to cord holders. I have been wanting to try out the old-fashioned kind but the cheap ones I bought in bulk for a dollar are pretty good for now.
  • A basket for housing clothespins. The little woven basket pictured is from our local Hobby Lobby. I picked it up a few years ago when I was on the hunt for the perfect shade of cream yarn and it has been in our bathroom housing hair pins ever since. It hangs well on our new clothesline and is the perfect size, so as of this spring it has a new home! I keep this basket on our peg rails in the hallway near the back door so it’s easy to grab on my way out.
  • Cement, depending on the quality of your soil or the depth of your dig. You may want to consider cementing the posts into the ground before covering them with mud. We opted to do this to ensure a sturdier structure.

Now, onto reasons for using a clothesline: 

  1. Freshness: I think line dried linens and lilacs are my top two favorite smells, and wouldn’t you know, both were big parts of my childhood. When the towering lilac bush on the side of our house would bloom in the spring and early summer, I would head outside to clip big bunches of it to display on the window sill or by my bedside. That distinct smell reminds me of growing up in Iowa and all the adventures I went on as a child. And then there’s my other favorite smell, that of line-dried laundry. I have never found a smell that quite matches the freshness of linens dried by the fresh outdoor air. I remember going to bed when I was little, eager to pull back the tightly tucked covers and sheets so I could climb into bed and press my nose into the freshness of my clean, cool sheets. If my mom had dried our linens on the line that day, I would walk through them and bring them to my face to inhale their scent. I remembering running my hands along the seams of pillowcases and trims of dresses to see if they were ready to come inside. My mom had a retractable line that my dad put in for her on mother’s day and my grandmother a wood one on their property in the country. My grandma’s was really long and could hold about five to seven loads of laundry. It was strung on the side of their house on the farm, a country staple I love seeing from the road when Andrew and I take trips back home. To this day, the smell of laundry that has been blowing all day in the breeze brings back a flood of happy memories and helps me sleep like a baby.
  2. Economy: This reason is the practical one of the bunch, but it wouldn’t be appropriate to talk about the reasons one should use a clothesline without the mentioning of saving money.  Taking your clothes outdoors to dry can make a considerable difference on your electricity bill if you are doing daily laundry and even help when it comes to budgeting. Even if you choose to only line dry a portion of your laundry, you are still making an impact and saving money you could be putting elsewhere while reducing your carbon footprint.
  3. Intention: As a homemaker and stay at home mom I am all about practicing mindfulness and taking extra steps to weave together beauty and practicality as I go about doing chores around our home. For example, by being intentional when it comes to line-drying laundry I am more aware of what I’m throwing into the laundry basket. If something is not entirely dirty per se, what’s the point in going through all the steps of trekking it down to the basement, sorting it, washing it, drying it, folding it and putting it away if it’s not really that dirty? Unless it’s one of Alfie’s blow outs or muddy overalls or whatever, most things can be re-worn a few times. Until a few months ago I had gotten myself into the habit of chucking everything (even clean clothes for crying out loud!) into the laundry bin just because I didn’t want to bend over and pick it up and put it away. Tell me I am not alone in this one. Now that spring is here and we have a proper clothesline, I feel as though I pay much more attention to what we wash and dry because it does happen take a little bit more time to complete the laundry process for five people when we line dry, especially since three of them are little people who make big messes. And another nod to intentional homemaking: I find it to be really nice when you can chose the unexpected route of doing something by hand rather than leaning on technology or a machine to carry the load (pun intended). I do love technology, but I also have an appreciation for things done the ways our mother’s did them simply because it makes me happy and most often is of better quality.
  4. Nature Wins: Did you know dryer sheets are just about the most toxic thing you can bring into your home? Well that and bleach! I urge you to toss those if you have them on hand. Our family is in favor of more natural earth-friendly options when it comes to housekeeping and I truly feel we are better for it. Less chemical based products, like bleach and drier sheets, help keep our clothes toxin free and leaves less of a chance for little ones to get into something harmful. And you know what, I have found that the sun actually works better than bleach. If I’ve got a major stain on my hands I’ll scrub with a fels naptha laundry bar and leave it in the sunshine for a day or so. It works like a charm every time and keeps our whites looking their best. If you are breastfeeding and you have a blowout, try this method and let me know how it works for ya!
  5. Preservation: I know, I know…the dryer does a good job at keeping our clothes nice and fluffy, but hear me out. All the stuff in your lint trap is your clothing breaking down! When I read this in Good Housekeeping a few years ago it sort of shocked me. Drying clothing and linens in the drier wears fibers down faster and can do a lot of damage by shrinking things you may have wanted to hold onto or wear at least a few more times. Although line dried fabrics won’t come out super soft, air-drying keeps your clothing much stronger for longer and helps your special pieces retain their quality.
  6. Humble Handwork: This reason just may be my favorite of the six, the humbleness and calm that comes from doing housework by hand. I feel within our doing culture, especially with regard to working mothers nowadays, there is a undercurrent of feeling rushed and anxious and busier than we really ought to be. Most mothers I talk with are tempted, if not compelled, to take shortcuts when it comes to homemaking just so they can fit everything in. I feel this pressure from time to time, and I think one of the reasons life seems to be getting busier by the second is because we keep putting more and more on our plates when we really should be saying no to the unessential and taking time to work with our hands. I don’t know about you, but I really enjoy stepping outdoors to listen to the birds as I do a simple act of service for our family. For me, line-drying laundry is just that as it’s something I do pretty much daily when the weather is nice. You most likely already know this, but I am in the camp that favors going out of my way to make the mundane more enjoyable if possible. I mean if you have to scrub the dishes why not do it with a delicious smelling soap and pretty wood scrub brush, right? Another ode to humble homemaking is that hanging clothes on the line while the kids run around the yard is very therapeutic for me. I love the respite it offers me in my sometimes hectic day watching three turkeys. I like that this task offers the kids and I the chance to step out into our beautiful garden at least once each day to play and tend to chores. I really appreciate that they get to see in action their mother doing something for them and for the family. And last but not least, I really love taking peeks out the window in our kitchen throughout the day and catching tiny onesies billowing in the breeze. The sight of a clothesline is very soothing to me. I am finding that I would much rather do a few things well than a bunch of things half-heartedly, and I have been applying that to different areas of my life, especially in the art of homemaking. I take delight in doing chores the way I know my mother and her mother did them. I connects me and roots me to my past in a way that makes me feel apart of something bigger and more important than just doing another load of dirty laundry. Being intentional with chores like this helps me remember my childhood and ignites my passion to create similar memories for our children.

Helpful tips for those who chose to line dry: 

  • What about the fluff? I must say, a warm fluffy towel is pretty amazing. Sometimes I’ll throw the towels in the drier for ten minutes or so at the end of the drying process to help smooth everything out. That seems to do the trick if I am really wanting our linens super soft. Most times I skip this step.
  • Shake everything out really well. Speaking from experience, you may want to give your clothing and linens a little shake shake shake before bringing them inside after they have been on the line all day. Just like anything else outdoors, little creatures can find their way into sleeves and up pant legs and no one wants a spider to make a home in their pocket.
  • Keep in mind the areas on your line that have the most direct sun and put your whites there. Our line is in partial shade so I put the darker items I do not want to fade in that section with the whites over in the full sun.
  • What about rainy weather? If it’s raining and you need to do laundry, get yourself a wooden accordion drying rack (these are portable and wonderful) and put it on your covered porch or patio. We have one from Home Goods and I like to take it to our screened in porch if I know it’s going to rain and I want to air dry something. Your clothing will dry in no time out there and smell just as if they dried on the line.
  • And if you must use the dryer, which I still of course do, try and do the following:
    • Use Wool dryer balls in lieu of dryer sheets. I have these ones from Smart Sheep and they work really well.
    • Stock your laundry pantry with plant based all-natural detergents like ones from The Laundress or Mrs. Meyers and steer clear of anything that looks like a dryer sheet.
    • Put a few drops of essential oils on your wool dryer balls to make your laundry smell nice without the use of chemicals.

Well that should do it! For those who have a clothesline, what is your favorite reason for using it? Any tips you have for me would be lovely! And as always, thank you for taking the time to read and share. Your kind words and encouragement are always a breath of fresh air.

 

  • Brandy

    Hi Amanda!
    This is such a thoughtful and beautiful post. I unsuccessfully rigged up an outdoor line last summer so this will help me set things straight.
    I wasn’t aware of the toxicity of dryer sheets. Can you elaborate on that a bit? What is the nature of the toxicity and how does it affect us? Thank you.ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Brandy – Absolutely! In short, the stuff in dryer sheets and fabric softener that make our clothes so soft are actually a combination of very toxic chemicals…we ditched these laundry goods after finding out that Theodore has eczema and it made a big difference on all our skin. Check out the list of ingredients on the back and you’ll be surprised…many are considered hazardous which is just horrible considering we tumble our clothes with them then wear them!

      Here’s a good article on this if you want further reading! I found it interesting. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/greener-laundry/

      x AmandaReplyCancel

  • Melanie

    As an Australian, the methods used by most North Americans to dry their clothes has always surprised me. Down here, line drying is the default and we all start whinging about having to use the dryer for emergencies after a week of rain!

    We have the amazing Hills Hoist (google it!!) that spins with the wind and holds a good few loads of washing. I also have a trolley for the washing baskets so that I can wheel it where I want it, and also I don’t have to bend down to pick up each item that needs to be hung. From that I hang a small clothes peg basket. The spring pegs work best in my experience.

    I agree with your reasons wholeheartedly! Unnecessary use of electricity (environmental and cost), the beautiful smell and brightness of wind and sun dried clothes, and the joy and peace of spending a few moments outside.

    Melanie.ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Melanie – My husband’s brother lived in Australia for nine years and Andrew told me all about the wind rooms that people have to dry their linens and clothes! So neat. And I love the idea of a trolley, very clever! Enjoy your autumn season dear. x AmandaReplyCancel

  • Sarah

    I’m from Australia & just curious is line drying not the usual thing there in America? Here is Australia no one uses dryers unless it’s raining all week or it’s really busy & there isn’t time. Even during winter we hang clothes out! You would never find a backyard without a close line & I got my first dryer less than a year ago!ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Sarah – Believe it or not there are many neighborhoods that line drying is forbidden! Luckily our neighborhood is not one of those places. It is common for those who live in the country to use them, or more obscure places I suppose. I love that you beautiful Aussies use the air to dry…I wish more people here did so! x AmandaReplyCancel

  • Giensie

    Everything smells like the wind and the sun. Very nice and it smells better than a softener.ReplyCancel

  • Katie

    Thanks so much for sharing! We used our line for the first time this season over the weekend. Such a lovely practice. How do you keep your line from getting dirty? We currently have a retractable line so it’s not exposed to the elements but I’d like to eventually get something larger like yours. I worry that over time the line will get dingy and the dirt will come off on our whites.ReplyCancel

  • Lizzie

    In the UK (possibly due to the house sizes being so small) many people don’t have dryers. I grew up in a city and my mum still chose to dry everything outside…sometimes ironing it still a little damp (thanks British weather) and then hanging it in the airing cupboard to completely dry. I always love spring when I can now dry my kids clothes outside as in the winter we make do with an indoor clothes rack in the sunroom which dries well but doesn’t have that fresh breeze scent.ReplyCancel

  • Krystal

    Just curious about adding essential oils to your wool dryer balls….does it not leave oil stains on your clothes? Unfortunately I have not joined the line drying bandwagon yet….although it sounds wonderful….just can’t get over the possible bugs…lol. Anyways, I do not use dryer sheets rather the plastic dryer balls. I like the idea of the wool balls instead and adding some nice fresh scent….just wondering if the oil leaves any staining on clothes.ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Krystal – The oils do not leave any stains on our clothing! This has been my experience anyhow. They do leave little marks on our wool balls though which I do not mind. You could always just use the balls sans oils and opt out of a clean scent too! Anything is better than dryer sheets. x AmandaReplyCancel

  • Lorena

    Hi from Spain Amanda !! I love your home and your lifestyle.
    How high are the lines ??ReplyCancel

    • admin

      Hello Lorena! I would check out the link to this post and head over to Vermont Clothesline Co. – because we dug ours about two feet deep and then cemented it may differ from the size mentioned but the nice thing is you can customize it! x AmandaReplyCancel

  • I grew up hanging clothes outside and have even done laundry by hand when we lived without a washer in Panama. (Super glad I don’t have to continue that.) But I must say, out of all the household chores, hanging up laundry is one of my absolute favorite. Our new house doesn’t have a clothesline so I’ve been using our folding rack but it’s not large enough for sheets. So as my husband will testify, the topic of where and what type of proper clothesline we should have has been a recent conversation. I love it how I will have something on my mind and then you have a post that follows my train of thought exactly.ReplyCancel

  • This was very helpful! I have heard people say using White Vinegar as detergent gives clothes the line-dry smell. I have never experienced clothes dried on a line, but am eager to make sure my girls will have such a memory. Thanks for posting this!ReplyCancel

  • Amanda, our childhoods sound very similar. I recently went back home and gathered armfuls of lilacs to sprinkle around our little apartment! My husband, little son and I just recently moved to Kansas City. I’d love to meet for a park date or walk if you ever have the time! xo-caleyReplyCancel

  • Mrs. Meyers products contain “fragrance” 🙁 which can mean any combination of undesirable, unnamed and unnatural chemicals. I would not recommend them.ReplyCancel

    • Jette

      It really depends on the company – even beauty products by companies like Weleda contain fragrance, yet it is fragrance made out of essential oils, meeting high environmental standards like the rest of the ingredients. So to say this fragrance is as bad as the fragrance used in cheap drugstore products (which also contain many other toxic ingredients) would be kind of shortsighted, wouldn’t it?
      This is also why the listings on the EWG website can be so misleading – if a product contains fragrance, you should definitely take a close look, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the product is evil!ReplyCancel

      • Taylor

        Totally, of course. It just depends on how much you trust the company I guess. Plenty of natural products don’t include fragrance so it makes me wonder why Mrs. Meyers does and why they would use an umbrella label instead of listing the actual ingredients–if they have nothing to hide.ReplyCancel

  • Danielle

    Hi Amanda! I am curious about the laundry basket you use.. I often notice in your pictures on instagrm that you use a wicker basket for laundry. I am so tempted to get one as they are everywhere in home goods, but I am worried it would snag my clothing when pulling it out. Whats your experience with this? Thanks!! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Bethany R

    I love this post!! I grew up with laundry on the line, too, and love it to this day. In regards to towels on the line, I say embrace the stiffness. As a child I used to complain about it, and my dad would always say, “When you rub your back with it, it’s like a back scratch!” As an adult now, I get it! And love it!ReplyCancel

  • Liz

    Hi! I love this post. Eager to see more room tour posts like the dining room one! You rock.ReplyCancel

  • Bethany

    Love, love, love this! Especially #6. I’ve been dreaming of my own clothesline since we moved back to a sunny state. And now we have a yard to put it in! Top of my to-do list once school is out.ReplyCancel

  • Jette

    Great post – I’m from Europe and definitely not used to using a dryer. It just wouldn’t occur to me. Also, there’s another reason for air-drying: your clothes last much longer. Dryers are so hard on the fabric – I never ruined as many clothes as I did during the time when I lived in a dorm and didn’t have the opportunity to air-dry my stuff anywhere.
    It’s strange – in my home country, it’s much less common to bring your clothes to the dry cleaners, yet they stay in shape much better and last much longer…ReplyCancel

  • Blair

    I’d love to see a tour of your yard and garden. Love this post.ReplyCancel

  • back in the olden days we just hung that shit up.ReplyCancel

  • Stefanie Bush

    fellow veteran clothesline mama over here! love the post and beautiful pictures; thank you for taking the time to share! If I may add a “tip” of sorts- for those concerned with their clothes not being fluffy enough; sometimes the culprit can be residue from your detergent. I have found that when I either a) take the time to make my own detergent free from solvents or additives (which I do not always do!!) and/or b) add some vinegar to the rinse cycle regardless of which detergent one is using. These help our clothes and linens rinse so clean and dry that much fresher, softer, and fluffier! all the best to you!ReplyCancel

  • Jacque

    Amanda, I’ve never commented on any of your posts before but I have followed you on Instagram for over a year and just began reading your blog regularly. Your beautiful life inspires me daily. I hope someday I will be able to buy a home and keep it like you do, with a backyard in which to plant a garden and place a clothes line. My husband and I are going to be in graduate/doctoral programs for the foreseeable future, living in rentals with our two little kids. Sometimes I feel like I’ll never get to where you are or that my kids will be big by the time we do. Do you have any tips for making rentals as lovely as possible and on a student budget? Thanks for contributing so much simple beauty to my life and so many others!ReplyCancel

  • Beautiful as always, my friend. I love line drying and need to find a way to make more space. Laundry around here overfills our wee line and drying racks too quickly. I’m in love with your wood one. xxReplyCancel

  • Hello Amanda,
    I am a new reader, having discovered you through Pinterest. I love your blog and the topics you choose to write about. I’ve been having fun reading through your older posts! When my daughter was born, I was suddenly (like, overnight) inspired to start living in a slower, more intentional way, and one way was finding alternatives to home care. I had my husband rig up a clothesline on our townhome’s deck, and I was fairly giddy when I saw that first load of diapers drying in the breeze! So I get your delight in seeing those tiny bits of clothing swaying in the sunshine!
    I look forward now to reading your posts each week. Happy homemaking to you, and thank you for the inspiration!

    SarahReplyCancel

  • This post was such refreshment to read. I grew up in the country with a big old clothesline, but also with five siblings and a mama who cultivated the same attitude you have toward the humble beauty of the many constant, necessary, messy, sometimes tedious tasks of keeping home and family. Your reflections on the intention and restful pause of hanging laundry resonated with me, as did your reflection on busy-ness and shortcuts and the beauty of slowing down and finding the joy in our work – which is the work of nurturing, when it’s all boiled down.

    I’ve been living in tiny city apartments for the past ten years and air drying on a big Ikea rack on the deck or balcony, and we just finally moved into a place with a lovely big clothesline out over the yard – very common in many neighbourhoods here in Montreal as apartments are old and small. My husband has been laughing at how thrilled I am to finally hang our clothes and linens on the line – and he may just be right that it’s my favourite feature of our new home!ReplyCancel

  • This post reminds me so much of my mommy and grandma. Up to these time clothes line are still very much use here in the Philippines, though there are many housewives using fully automatic washer but there are still many using literal handwash of clothes that are all together put in the clothes line to dry. Since we live in the province in my younger years and have space for all the clothes to be air dry, the space is not compromise back then. But now that i have a family of my own and in city living we tend to replace clothespins by hangers. We put the clothes in the hanger and let it air dry then we knot the rope in 1/2-1 inch so that the clothes will not too close to each other and still have a good air sunrise smell.

    I think this will be a tradition of so many housewives here and a memories for all the kids seeing their mamas doing the daily chores. A tradition that can’t be change of the new generation of modern technology.

    And only a proof that a good childhood memories brought a big impact to ones life.

    Love,
    AngieReplyCancel

  • i love the home-spun, homemaker vibe to all of your posts (and lifestyle) and if ever i have a backyard that gets sun, i am considering line drying! watching my kiddos run around in soft green grass underfoot sounds so divine. it really does.ReplyCancel

  • rachel

    love this and love your outlook!ReplyCancel

  • This was perfect for me to read today. Our dryer quit and I was stuck hanging 3 loads on twine i strung between a tree and our deck and wasn’t thrilled but after a day of it I love it! I couldn’t believe how happy and peaceful it was. I’ve been scared to do it because we have lots of bugs and I tend to freak out over spiders. Is there anything I can do to prevent creepy crawlies?ReplyCancel

  • Malia

    Do you have a good resource for sturdy clothespins?

    There is such a huge difference in quality between my newer wood pins and the lone vintage one I have — the old one is the only one not prone to falling apart or getting blown off the line!! Thanks:)ReplyCancel

  • I love this. I need to figure out how to incorporate this into our city rental. We just started cloth diapering and I know the sun will help with sanitizing and stains as well as your other points above.ReplyCancel

  • Cathy

    Dear Amanda, your posts here and on ig are truely wonderful and inspiring.
    The last few days I am feeling quite overwhelmed – everything is too much , even though my husband and children help with chores (they are already 15 and 11) I don´t have the energy to finish laundry etc. since I started working 30 hours a year ago (before it´s always just been 20hrs/week so I could be with my kids in the afternoon) it´s been difficult to adjust and find a routine where there is still enough time for family, household, friends and maybe even me.
    Reading this positive post about laundry makes me feel calmer and more serene already – simply beautiful.
    I want to add, that here in Austria(Europe) we do have driers ( they only started to get popular a few years ago though), but something like drier sheets don´t exist and we still hang laundry on racks or clotheslines(inside during wintertime and outside in spring and summer).Many clothes here are not made to put in the drier anyway so it´s mostly for towels, sheets and undies . we usually don´t have such pretty lines though but rotary aluminum ones where you fit a lot clothes in a small space 🙂
    please continue your inspiring posts and pictures! Hugs from Austria, CathyReplyCancel

  • Hello Amanda,
    I have just discovered your lovely blog and look forward to following you.
    I am a mother to two grown daughters and Grammy to four grandchildren. Being a homemaker has always been a joyous and beautiful thing to me. I love the pictures of you with your precious babies bundled up to you. Your children are beautiful. Hanging laundry on a clothesline has always been one of the great delights of my life … Watching children running through sheets flapping in the breeze. I can still hear the echoes of their laughter. I used to tell my little girls that the fragrance on the line dried sheets was what God’s breath smelled like. Your post takes me back. Thank you and Bless you and your family.
    DanetteReplyCancel

  • Lots of useful tips here.

    I especially like the idea about preservation although a lot of people may argue that. I have to agree that a clothesline tends to give more preservation to clothes especially delicates and whites. For example, the sun is a naturally bleach so instead of using another artificial bleach – which costs money – the whites can be laid under the shinning care of the sun.ReplyCancel

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