Drying clothes on the homestead

Well, since I have never had a dryer to use (except when visiting friends or traveling), I cannot comment on using a dryer from firsthand experience.  All I know is that an electric clothes dryer is an energy hog.

Ever wonder why detergent companies try to sell their products that claim to give your clothes the smell of the great outdoors?  That’s because nothing can make your clothes smell better than old-fashioned fresh air and sunshine.  Here on the homestead, we even love the smell of our chickens and other critters who have soaked up the rays for hours.  Ya just can’t beat that natural solar dryer for clothes.  {Did you know that Fabric Softeners are made with rendered animal fats? eeewwwww}

There are many advantages to line drying.

Cost: Obviously, the cost in fossil fuel is zero.

Freedom from wrinkles:   You are freer in the sense that you don’t have to wait around for the dryer to stop so you can get your clothes out before they wrinkle.  With line drying, clothes can’t wrinkle if you know how to hang them up.  Hanging up damp shirts and slacks on hangers immediately after hand washing with a little hand pressing as needed often is all you need. Then they can immediately be put into your closet when dry. “Snapping” or shaking the clothes before hanging up other clothes will help with lessening of wrinkles.

Preservation of clothes:  Clothes last longer when line dried as they are not heated to high temps.  The lint collected in the dryer has come from off your clothes as they are partially disintegrating in the dryer.

Bleaching of whites:  Can’t beat the sun for that and for sanitizing. In New Zealand, it was well-known that women would keep their nappies hung out during a frost, get them stiff  to get the whitest nappies.

Smell: Get the freshest smell ever without adding chemicals to your body or the environment.


Line drying is a no brainer for southern Californians where there is no “weather” but mostly sunshine year round, little rain and dry air.  For humid climates, I understand that line drying, whether indoors or outdoors, can be aided by having a fan on a low speed blowing on well-arranged clothes to assist in air circulation and drying.

Line dried towels and jeans can become stiff. To avoid this, add vinegar or vinegar and baking soda mix to the final rinse.  Any vinegar smell will dissipate out.  Actually, we don’t mind that our towels come out stiff as they smell so great.

Some clothes that aren’t dirty enough to wash just yet can benefit from being out on the line to freshen up.

In dry winter weather, drying slightly damp clothes inside will help humidify the air.

Consideration of neighbors:  Our clothes line is not in direct view of any of our neighbors as our clothes line is strategically placed.  We also use a low clothes rack to hang smaller items and the more intimate apparel.


  1. Amy says:

    You haven’t missed anything. The efficiency of dryers is so sporadic so it may take one dryer one hour to dry and another two hours. Then your clothes may still come out damp and musty. I would rather have hard, crusty, line dried cloth diapers than half dump, musty, and sometimes perfumed clothes from the last person at the laundromat who used a dryer sheet.

  2. Becky says:

    Don’t forget that line drying saves the elastic in your clothes as well. Other than the amazing smell and lower electric bill, that was the first thing I noticed and appreciated about line drying. Something about dryers (probably the intense heat) rips elastic to shreds…which means underclothes and children’s pants are ruined very quickly. I love my clothes line!

  3. valarieinnh says:

    Here in the north, I line dry as soon as it rises above freezing, until it dips under again. During the winter it depends…I live with my retired parents, and they both dislike clothes hanging in the house to dry. But in the years they spend winters with my sister in TX, I drag out the wooden clothes dryers and hang away!

    NOthing like the smell of line hung clothes, and I have learned that using vinegar as fabric softener, does wonders for the softness of the clothes, and gets soapy residues out of the clothes ~ inexpensive and natural!

  4. Mishell says:

    Too bad so many communities don’t allow clothes lines! It really is a great energy saver.

  5. Renee Gunter says:

    I sing your song!! I ONLY line dry as it saves energy. I use my Old School Brand Laundry Soap and my clothes smell wonderful and clean for a fraction of the cost of commercial soaps. It’s so funny, there are neighbors knocking on my door asking,”can you front me a bag of soap until Friday?” Sounds like a drug deal right out of a movie! We’re talking Laundry Soap folks!! Made right here in the community in small batches!Gotta love it!

  6. Chris says:

    Thanks for this great post! During our reshingling of my little cottage, my line was down, but I used the racks. One rack would hold a whole load of laundry. Hubby has an issue with the stiff towels so he insisted on using the dryer to fluff towels. I can’t wait to try the vinegar / vinegar & baking soda rinse tip! Also, we have many, many windy days on CC so I used my drying rack on my sunporch. Great tips! What do you use for the laundry detergent? Anyone?

    • Eric says:

      We use Biokleen and love it!

      • Diana says:

        I’ve discovered organic Soap Nuts that I buy directley from Amazon and I absolutely love them. There is no smell of perfumey scents or toxin’s from the soap nuts. They also make my clothes seem cleaner and softer. Sometimes I add some of my essential oils like lavendar or citrus bliss that I order from doTerra. It makes the laundry smell amazing.

  7. Franziska San Pedro says:

    Absolutely agree on every single point! I have no idea why people use dryers. We live in Texas and the sum typically dries our clothes in not even half an hour. It takes a couple of hours in winter but with some good planning that works, too.
    I did the math: my husband and I save up to $40 per day, that makes more than $40,000 in a life-time!!! Can you imagine what a waste of money?
    I blogged about that a couple of months ago ( hope some people will read it and wake up!


  8. Rhonda says:

    i live in one of this goofy neighborhoods where they don’t allow line drying. It’s ridiculous. I can’t wait to move to my little plot in the country. We don’t have a place yet, but we will in the next couple of years and I can’t wait!

    • Frank says:

      @Rhonda, get involved with your hoa and change the bylaws.

    • SarahS says:

      Hey Rhonda, You could hang laundry in your garage, if you’ve got one, I used to put up racks in sunny windows, right where the neighbors could see them!

    • snuck says:

      I really don’t understand this idea that neighbourhoods can ban washing lines! I’m in Australia and the Hills Hoist is a great Aussie icon, so I guess I’ve never come across it. The only caveat like this I’ve seen is that many apartment buildings don’t let you hang your washing over the balconies (nominally to keep it from blowing off into the street / traffic below, but usually it’s right next to the caveat about white backed curtains and is probably enforced for aesthetics more).

      How odd!

  9. Malcolm says:

    I haven’t had a dryer in three years, and rarely miss it. Things are much nicer line dried outside (though not in the below freezing temperatures we have in the winter).

    The one thing I miss about the dryer is the lint and cat fur removal. Trying to remove the fur from everything with a lint brush just doesn’t work. “Live with it” is what we end up doing, but I was wondering if anyone had any good alternatives.

  10. annie says:

    I loooove my clothes line. Can’t say that I worry too much about offending the neighbors with underwear though. Surely they have better things to do than investigate the contents of my clothesline.

  11. Cheryl says:

    Original homesteaders used animal fats to make soap. Yes, really.

  12. Ms. Smoochy says:

    I am the mom to three little kids. I am drawn to the idea of line-drying for many of your above mentioned reasons, but I can’t imagine where I would dry all the clothes and linens we go through. Cloth napkins, cloth diapers, towls, clothes. I usually do at lest three big loads a day. Especially when it is freezing out (13 degrees today in Omaha) how could I make it work? Any tips?

    • SarahS says:

      @Ms. Smoochy, I did laundry for 2 small children, diapers and all while living in Apartment using multiple clothes racks, and outdoor line. Clothes do dry in the cold, I would wear rubber gloves to protect hands when it’s really freezing. If you have a basement hang lines down there, we have lines enough to hang 4 loads of laundry now when it’s raining or really nasty out. Another option is to partly tumble dry items, then hang on racks, you’ll save alot of electricity not drying blue jeans, ect all the way in your dryer. Also, t-shirts and shirts, hung up on hangers then on the line dry quickly and almost wrinkle free. Also won’t take up as much room on the line!

      • Ms. Smoochy says:

        Basement clothes lines! That’s a great idea. As is shirts hung on hangers. I actully think I will implement this. Thank you so much for the great advice.

    • snuck says:

      Another thought is actually to look at what you wash and how often. Three big loads a day is the equivalent almost of a load per person, or half a load at least.

      Is there some things you could wash less often? Some people wash towels more often than they need, or wash their clothes every day even when they’ve only spent the day inside and they aren’t particularly dirty (I’m not advocating never washing these! Just getting it into perspective, a jumper worn on a coolish day can well be worn several more days!) and there is always the chance that you could reduce the number of loads, which would be awesome for you too.

  13. Jupiter says:

    Yes & Amen to all of it.

    We went without a dryer for many years until recently. I had our old dryer repaired and it was a mix of relief and sadness when I used it again. My problem is just that we have a large family with a baby in cloth diapers and we live in crappy upstate NY. Line drying inside in the winter was not working. So, we started using the dryer again to help a bit w/ the laundry load. It felt like a real step backwards.

  14. Nebraska Dave says:

    Well, I wish I could say that I line dry but unfortunately I can’t. With a daughter that has never dried a thing on a line in her life living with me I expect it just won’t happen. I do like the idea of line dried clothes. I have a inside area near my food storage area that I’m building in my basement that would be a good place for clothes drying. This blog post has sparked my interest to give it a try. My backyard is open except for the chain link fence and I wouldn’t really want to hang my laundry out for the neighbors to see so to speak. I probably would be a beneficial saving on the electric bill. Clothes driers are the biggest consumer of electric power in the home next to the hungry central air.

    Have a great air dry day.

    • Karen Truempy says:

      @Nebraska Dave, Just make sure you hang your “unmentionables” in the middle of your clothesline, like they used to in the old days! Then the only things your neighbors will see is shirts and pants!!

  15. elaine says:

    Just curious, how long does it take to dry jeans or a bath towel on a day when it is cloudy or indoors when it rains? Anybody have that info? Also, where do you hang a clothesline indoors on a rainy day that it doesn’t get in the way of people walking in the house? On sunny days I know line drying is great, but it can be a challenge during rainy season.

  16. Kevin says:

    Our yard was under construction last year and we had to do without a clothesline for a season. I missed it.

  17. CE says:

    I live in rain country. For 4-5 months I can and do, line dry outside. When the rains come I place a folding wooden rack over my bedroom heater vent. If the heat must be on, the it might as well dry clothes. I also place a rack beside the wood stove but that is limited to when I know no one will be seeing it as it is a bit unsightly in the living room. For towels and jeans that are not stiff, you can also put them in the dryer for just 10 minutes when they come from the washer. Then dry as usual on the line. If you put all your jeans and towels togeather that is still a savings and your family won’t grumble.

  18. Chris says:

    A Tip: If you live in an apartment or very small home with a short outdoor drying season (or just inclement weather), I sometimes put my wooden rack standing up in my bathtub, hang up a load of laundry, draw the shower curtain and Voila! My no energy, private clothes (unmentionables), dryer!

  19. Joy Giles says:

    We’ve been hanging out our clothes for the last 10 years or so. Have enjoyed the lower utility bills and less wear and tear on the clothes. Plus, they dry so much faster.

  20. Chookie says:

    If your clothes are routinely stiff after line drying, reduce the amount of detergent you use, and make sure your clothes are being rinsed properly.
    If your underwear is very racy 8-0, it will probably dry quickly indoors — or you can put it on the inner rails/strings of your drying setup.
    If outdoor temps are below 0 deg C (=32 deg F), your washing will freeze-dry. Don’t disturb it until you are sure it’s completely dry, as iced fabric will break.
    Air movement is more important than sunshine for drying clothes.
    Hang white nappies, sheets etc in the evening and collect the following afternoon. Dew is a mild bleach. shows different outdoor clothes-lines available to Aussies. I have a steel Hill’s Hoist in my back yard that has probably been there 50 years.

  21. Karen Truempy says:

    I would love to line dry, especially in the warmer months. My question is: how do you keep pollen and pollution off your clothes? Where we live (in western NC), pollen flies around most of the year, causing horrible allergies and covering everything! I wouldn’t mind line drying inside, but we have no room, or a garage to use. At least we only do laundry twice a month!!

    • sue charboneau says:

      Add up to(I use less just play with the amount) half cup of salt to rinse water.To keep clothes from freezing on line in winter.

  22. Joao Rechena says:

    Never knew any other way than the Line way 😉
    The smell is just perfect. Even in the winter we line dry inside the house 🙂

    • Anais says:

      @Joao Rechena: I couldn’t agree more! 🙂

  23. Fawn says:

    Hi everyone,
    I was looking for ways to line dry with the winter months approaching soon, and wondered if it was even possible. I have a very small 2 bedroom home with absolutly no room or storage, and no basement or garage. I have all the time in the world to handwash and line dry being unemployed and my husband the only sorce of income, and with that said we are struggling to get change for the laundry mat as as our washer and dryer took a nose dive and are nolonger with us.Having 5 children under 10yrs old, I have quite a bit of laundry to do a week. I heard clothes dry in the winter outdoors, but is that true? and from a blog above I seen that if you add salt to the rinse water? it wont freeze to the line? I will surely give it a try. I ask my grandma how her and her parents did it back in the day, but it was so long ago, she doesn’t I enjoyed reading everyones comments and enjoyed them. thank you;)

  24. Kim says:

    I REALLY had to laugh at a lot of these posts—-some people who never considered hanging shirts on hangers to dry? The idea of line drying in the basement being a ¨wonderful idea?¨ It’s almost as bad as the time I was watching daytime tv, and they gave the ¨tip¨ that to save money you could cut your own french fries from actual potatoes, rather than buying the frozen kind. People can’t actually be that clueless, can they?

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