Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Art of Hanging Laundry on a Line

Picture Courtesy of Google Images

Hanging laundry on the line has been around forever, obviously. I would LOVE to give you a short history lesson on hanging laundry to dry, but folks, I've got as little time as it is, seeing how I hang out my own laundry. Now, there are no hard-and-fast rules about hanging laundry. Some women may argue that there is a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it. I prefer doing whatever works for you. I'm like Outback - no rules, just right. So grab your laundry basket and let's get started!

Image courtesy of Google Images

So, why would a person hang out laundry to dry? There are lots of reasons, and I will name just a few:
  • It saves money on your household energy bill (either electric or gas)
  • It is better for the environment (using less energy, that is)
  • It is a way to get yourself outside and enjoy the weather
  • In some cases, the bright sunlight will naturally bleach out stains (like in cloth diapers)
  • I guess it could be considered exercise
  • Clothes last longer (consider where dryer lint comes from)

Now that you know all the pro's of line-hanging, I will give you a few tools and tips:

What about The Laundry Line? You can buy a laundry line kit from a hardware store, or I bought mine at Big Lots. It came with a bunch (like 50 feet, I think) of woven laundry line rope, two pulleys, one line-tightener, and two line-separators. I hung my line from a tree over to my shed. The distance is about 15 feet. Much longer than that and the line will sag a bunch when you hang laundry out. (Notice the lady in the picture above trying to support her line.) Here is a picture of the pulley and the line-tightener:

I'm not exactly sure what the pulley is for, maybe to help with the tightening of the line. But the line-tightener thingy is really important. It keeps your line taut so it won't sag. Basically you just feed the line into one side and pull it out the other and the tightener keeps the line tight.

What kind of pins are you going to use? Two types of laundry pins are available: the kind that are just one piece, and you just push them on to the line along with the clothing. The other kind is the pincher-type with a spring. The latter is the more popular type, and you'll be hard-pressed to find the former type in stores. The pincher type of clothes pin come in wood or plastic. I recommend wood because they last much longer. The plastic ones are really flimsy, no matter what type you get. And, for some reason, I can never find them when they fall in the grass but I can always see the wooden ones. Whatever type of pins you use, I would suggest taking them off the line and bringing them in every time you are completely done with laundry. If it rains on your clothespins, they will rust. Rust will get on your clothes. Rust is a bitch to get out of clothes.

Where are you going to put the laundry line? Hmm, you may be surprised by what I tell you: Don't put it in direct sunlight, if you can avoid it. WHY? Doesn't sunlight dry the clothes? Sure, the same way heat cooks food. If you like your eggs black and crunchy, just put them in a hot pan and leave them. But if you like your eggs soft and white, heat your pan to medium. Same with clothes. If you leave your clothes on the line in the direct heat of the hot summer sun, your clothes will scorch and become stiff and scratchy. If your clothes are in the shade, they will take a little bit longer to dry but won't be so crunchy. Really, more importantly than the line being in the sun is that you have a windy day. Wind will dry the clothes in a snap. Yes, of course the clothes will dry on a still day too, but it will take longer. One thing to pay attention to: if you have birds you may need to just install your clothesline on a free-standing apparatus, like one of these:

The one on the left is a T-pole. The one on the right is an umbrella line. The umbrella line can usually be collapsed and taken down, so it is great for places where you are restricted from having permanent visible clothing lines. The T-pole is usually a permanent install, so only use it if you plan to commit to the whole clothes-line-drying thing.

Next, the washing cycle: What kind of detergent do you use? I used to be a die-hard Tide fan. I still believe it is the very best at getting clothes clean. However, it is not so much the friend to line drying. I don't know why, but the clothes always seem crunchier when I use Tide. It could be because Tide leaves more soap residue behind on the clothes, I don't know. But since I've started hanging out my clothes, I have switched to Gain. This was at the suggestion of a fellow line-hanging friend. I've found that it really helped. If you have a laundry detergent that you think does even better, let me know.

And, as far as using fabric softener, I guess it probably works. As a rule I don't use it because I have had some problems with the chemicals in it causing stains on clothes (like oil-type marks). But give it a try. And I've never used a detergent with the fabric softener built in. Maybe that would work even better.

Next, after washing, take your clothes out to the line. How do you hang them? Well, first take each item and give it a good snap. No, I don't mean do the three snaps and tell your towel it's fabulous. I mean, grab it on the end and shake it hard, hearing it make a "snap" sound. You should do this with all clothes before drying, whether you use the dryer or the line. It shakes out the wrinkles and gets water droplets out of little creases and folds. Next, the rule for hanging pants and shirts: if you wear it on the top, hang it from the bottom, and vice-versa. So, shirts are to be hung upside down and pants right-side up. When hanging laundry, you can choose to conserve laundry pins and overlap garments using one pin to secure edges of two garments. If you have enough pins, and they aren't expensive (I just bought 50 wooden pins at Wal-Mart for $1.14) then use as many as you want. If you have a LOT of laundry you may choose to layer the clothes. This means that you are hanging the clothes side-by-side and on top of each other on the same line. Let me show you:

First, hang the item on the line. Simple, no?

Then, hang the next item starting from the gap in the middle of the first item.

Hang the next item directly next to the first, which should also be in the middle of the gap of the second item. Continue layering.

Here is a bunch of layered clothes on the line.

Now, realize that this method will take longer for clothes to dry because they are bunched together pretty tightly. The flip side of that, however, is that you can hang up twice as much clothes on the same line. So, you leave them out twice as long, and do less work.

I also do not hang out underwear or socks. You are free to do that and I don't have any reason NOT to do it (except my son Charlie Brown said, "you know Mom you really don't have to hang up the underwear on the line. You know, where everyone can see it?") because it is just a preference thing. I like to keep them just a bit damp for later. Keep reading to find out why.

Some people believe that it is best to hang laundry together as you would fold it; for example, all of Jim's clothes are together, all of Susie's clothes are together, etc. That way, when you take them down from the line, you don't have to sort them. I do not use that method because I put my clothes in the dryer anyway.


When I take my clothes off the line, I pop them into the dryer, with a dryer sheet, for about 15 minutes on high heat. This helps soften up the clothes. Underwear and socks that are wet will dry in 15 minutes, and the moisture released helps soften all the other clothes. Some people may say, "That's too much work! That's doing double duty!" Well, not really. When I put the laundry in the dryer for touch-up, I do 3 loads in one hour, whereas if I were drying them in the dryer it would take about 3 hours. Maybe more for towels. And, my bath mats never get all the way dry in the dryer anyway.

I also have never used one of those dryer-ball things that I've seen in Walgreens. They claim to last longer than dryer sheets and fluff the clothes more. If you've used them, let me know. And if you are the manufacturer of them, e-mail me and I will review them for you!!!

So, there you have it. All my trade secrets for laundry. I don't know how helpful they are. Here are some more links that I found that are pretty cool:
How to Hang Laundry on a Clothesline by e-How
New York Times Home and Garden
Associated Content: Tips for Hanging Laundry

Good Luck everybody and remember the last line of Liar Liar Pants on Fire:
"Hang your britches on a wire. Hang 'em High. Hang 'em Low. Hang 'em on a Buffalo."

note: the author of this piece does not suggest nor support the use of a buffalo to dry clothing.


The Seeker said...

Great tips. I just did a blog on air drying today. I'm still trying to figure out how to avoid "hanger bumps". Do pins do the trick?

The Nice One said...

Ahh. I love going home in the summer because that's when I get to hang laundry out to dry. I can't here because of the stupid HOA.

Bridgett said...

I hang all my shirts upside down to keep the bumps off.

I dry diapers in the sun because the sun will help bleach them--then I toss them in the dryer on air fluff for a 10 minutes or so. But everything else is shade dried like you said. Mike's jeans get fluffed, but everything else either gets a once over with the iron or just folded and put away. This assumes I don't have morning sickness and the weather is nice--otherwise I chicken out and just stick everything in the dryer.

I also don't have that cool looking pulley...I have plastic coated clothesline that zig zags back and forth between the porch rails and the fence. Yes, it does sag if I only hang one item, but when it's full, it balances itself out pretty well.

Anonymous said...

Just found you after reading your comment on the blog about wiping with cloth ...

I've used the dryer balls and haven't seen any improvement ...but you can write and see if you end up with some product ... I'm still searching for the actual guy's email that I spoke with about their dryer balls ....

Angie @ KEEP BELIEVING said...

My HOA won't let us hang dry, either. I do put mattress pads and other large items that will burn in the dryer on the deck railing, though. I have to.


Anonymous said...

So cool!
I did cloth diapers with all three, but never dried them this way.
The dryer balls....a tennis ball works just as well. ;-)

OHmommy said...

This was great. It feels great knowing that their are others that hang their laundry out.

More people would if they realized how awesome it is to lay down in sheets that were dried outside. Right? And you save a load of $$$.

Megan said...

Great post.

I agree with the previous commenter - line-dried sheets are the best!

I recently challenged myself to go an entire winter without using the dryer. It wasn't as hard as I thought. I hardly ever use the dryer now.

Jelle van Dijk said...

Isnt' the pulley for when you hang your clothes from a window high up a building, right across the (narrow) city street to the other side (like they do in Italy for example)? You can wheel your clothes in and out from your window. At least the wheel looks like it could be used for that?

sal andson said...

The pulleys let you stand in one place while you push your laundry out to the other end. So the line tightner always goes on the bottom, so yours is upside down. You start your first item behind the line tightner and keep pushing the clothes out while you stand in one place.

Adrastos C said...

number one, the line tightner belongs on the bottom line, not the top.

you have next to the knot 9line tightner, then wheel the line and hang the next item.

you do not hang clothes like you have shown with them over lapping from the middle of each item. they are to be hung next to each other. As a native of brooklyn, no one I have ever seen in my 52 years of living ever hung out clothes like that.

and brooklyn is the clothesline capitol of the world.

You are not a good clothesline hanger.