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Beginner’s FAQ for Line Drying Your Clothes

Curious about line-drying your clothes? It’s easier (and more enjoyable) than you might anticipate! I never thought clotheslines would be for me, and I was surprised after many friends convinced me they were great. Read on for answers to common questions about line-drying clothes in our modern world.

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In most parts of the world, line drying clothes is just a standard part of life. In the United States, however, line-drying clothes has fallen deeply out of fashion. In some communities, outdoor line dryers are considered eyesores and prohibited by neighborhood regulations. Yes, that gets a giant eye roll of disapproval from me. Give me a giant break…

Paying for something we can get for free

Instead of using the natural powers of the sun, the wind, and evaporation, we use energy-intensive clothes dryers. Some clothes dryers are powered by fossil fuels while others are electric, but even electric dryers are only as free of fossil fuels as the grids on which they operate. And why waste electricity when we can dry our clothes with no energy consumption at all? Clothes dryers also have much larger production, transportation, and disposal environmental footprints than clotheslines.

The amount of energy clothes dryers use varies depending on the machine. Newer dryers generally use less energy than older dryers, and Energy Star appliances use less energy than competitive products. Heat pump-powered clothes dryers are the most efficient machines if you’re ready to replace your current dryer. But even the most energy-efficient dryers still use more energy than most appliances in a typical American home.

It’s more pleasant than you might think

Machine dryers are a product of American obsession with convenience and hyperproductivity. But after using dryers my entire life, then transitioning to line drying certain of our clothes, I’m a big fan of line drying clothes. Not only does line drying reduce energy usage and save money not paying for that energy, it’s also quite a pleasant experience that many people might enjoy if they tried it.

Our intense focus on maximum productivity at every turn is exhausting and stressful. Slowing down to hang a few loads of laundry is a peaceful and relaxing experience.

Furthermore, we cycle through multiple loads of laundry much faster when we line-dry them. The dryer is always the bottleneck in our laundry process. Clothes dry faster on the line, especially in the summer months. We can hang up to three loads at once. Hanging clothes may require a bit more active time, but it requires less excess effort compared to using a dryer than most people anticipate. I think the overall experience of doing laundry with a line dryer is more pleasant than without it.

Surprised by how much I like it

I never considered line drawing clothes until getting deep into my journey to live more sustainably. Even then, I assumed it would be cumbersome and ugly in our yard. Eventually, after listening to a few friends rave about their Brabantia rotary line dryers, I decided to invest in one. And I love it!

I don’t use it exclusively. We still have our dryer which I use for certain items or when I need something specific dried overnight or in the rain. But the line dryer significantly reduced how much we use our clothes drying machine.

Line drying clothes FAQ

I get a lot of questions about sustainable laundry habits, and some serious side eyes when I was poetic about line-drying most of our clothes. Am I living in the 1940’s or something? Am I slipping into some “tradwife” trend? Nope, just a little good ol’ slower pace of living that’s pretty nice, reduces energy usage, and saves money. Let’s dive into some of the most common questions I get so I can (hopefully) convince some of you to come over to the sunlight side! 😉

How long does it take to hang a load of laundry on the line?

Our washer is pretty large, so the loads are decent size. It takes me 10-15 minutes to hang a load of clothes on the line. While this is much longer than simply moving clothes from the washer to the dryer, it’s a nice break.

I think it’s akin to parents hiding out in the bathroom for a few minutes alone (only now I’m outside enjoying the sounds of nature, reducing my energy usage, and saving money – instead of being holed up in a bathroom and likely scrolling something useless).

If you prefer a multi-tasking alternative, you can listen to podcasts, audiobooks, music, a work conference call, or a training webinar while hanging your clothes in the sun. I’ve done all of the above.

For over a year, I hesitated to get a rotary drying line (even though friends raved about it) because it sounded like too much work. I figured I’d never take the time to hang dry these clothes when I have many things on my to-do list. As it turns out, I like it just as much as my friends said I would.

you don’t have to use it all the time

I don’t use it all the time. Sometimes we have a load of laundry that needs to be cleaned overnight for an upcoming sports game or vacation, for example. In those cases, I run the clothes through the dryer while we sleep (so I can get the lowest energy rates with our time-of-use energy pricing from our utility).

Having a rotary line dryer doesn’t mean I need to use it for every single load of laundry. But even if you have one and use it half the time, that’s a meaningful reduction in energy usage and savings on your bill.

How long does it take a load of laundry to dry?

This depends on the weather and the type of clothing. Synthetic fabrics, like those made for athletic activity, dry faster than most natural fibers (at least in my experience). But they all dry pretty quickly (and faster than in our drying machine).

Clothes take an hour or two to dry in full sun in the summer during the day. As evening sets in and the sun goes down, clothes can take several hours to dry. In the winter, a load of laundry takes 5-6 hours to dry (and may require 5 minutes in the dryer when I bring clothes inside to get fully dry).

At night and overnight, clothes may collect dew, so they may not dry as quickly. That’s not to say that clothes can’t dry overnight, but you may need to let them sit out for a couple of hours in the morning before taking them off the line depending on the weather. One time I left clothes on the line overnight and let them hang for several more hours in the midday sun to ensure they were plenty dry before bringing them inside to fold.

Can kids help with this chore?

They sure can! Our Brabantia rotary line dryer drops closer to the ground so they can easily reach it when they’re helping hang clothes or take them off the line dryer.

How many loads of laundry can you dry on the Brabantia rotary line dryer?

We have a large washing machine. I can dry about 2.5 to 3 full loads of laundry at once.

How many clothespins do you need?

I purchased 200-250 clothespins from our local hardware store. This is enough to hang everything when the rotary line dryer is full. I need all of them when the line dryer is full. However, you could settle with a slightly smaller number if you’re willing to share clothespins between items hanging on the line.

When I hang items on the line, I give each item two clothespins (one for each side). My husband often hangs two items next to each other and shares a clothespin between the two adjacent items. I’ve found that the clothes dry just fine when they share hangers, but I think it’s a bit easier to hang things up when they each have their pair of clothespins.

Does the full laundry process take longer when you line dry instead of using a dryer?

Not at all. It takes significantly less time to cycle through all loads of laundry when we line dry (especially during the summer when clothes dry relatively fast). Our dryer takes much longer than our washer to complete a full cycle. So as we run several loads through the cleaning process, the dryer is always the bottleneck if we use it for every load.

When we use the line dryer, I take a load out of the washer and put it in a laundry basket. I add a new load to the washer and start the cycle. While it’s washing, I hang the clothes from the previous wash. In about 45-50 minutes, I can move another load through the cleaning process. When we use the dryer, we have to wait 2-3 hours for each load to dry before moving the next load through the process.

Can you line dry clothes in the winter or cold weather?

I live in Pennsylvania not far from Amish Country, and I know the Amish line-dry their clothes year round. I’ve even seen clothes hanging on lines in a light snowfall. I’m not entirely sure how this works, but they eventually have dry clothes.

That said, we dry clothes on the line less often in the winter. I hang 80-90% of our clothes in summer and 50-60% in winter. Because it takes longer to dry in the winter, I don’t always have time to wait. Very occasionally, it’s too cold to hang them. But if I lived further north (like where I grew up in Minnesota, I probably wouldn’t even try to hang dry clothes in the bitter winter months like January and February).

Also, clothes that dry in the cold tend to be stiffer than clothes that dry in the summer sun. My family isn’t a fan of that situation. We line dry when we can and use the dryer when it makes sense for us.

Making more eco-friendly living choices doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing endeavor. We do our best and give some grace when it’s not working. Don’t let perfection be the enemy of good.

What do you do when it rains?

If it’s raining, sometimes I choose to do laundry another day. Other times, I use our dryer. It all depends on what’s going on in our lives. A couple of weeks ago, it started sprinkling while the clothes were on the line. Oops.

Do you hang dry all your clothes and textiles?

Nope. I hang dry most of our clothes but not everything. There are a few things that turn out better with a quick run through the dryer.

My family doesn’t like how towels feel after hanging dry in the sun. They are a bit less soft, and we’ve found that a run through the dryer for a few minutes after they dry doesn’t solve the problem for us.

So for now, I run the towels through the dryer (usually overnight to take advantage of the lower TOU rates). If I have one load of towels, I do it at the end of a wash day. If I have two loads of towels that need to be cleaned, I run one at the very beginning (so it can dry in the dryer while I wash everything else) and one at the end. This helps reduce the total time it takes to get through the whole laundry cycle for our family (which we typically do about once a week and usually on the weekends).

Do some detergents work better for line drying than others?

We’ve tried many detergents over the last few years. We’ve used Persil, TruEarth, Dropps, Active, Meliora, and The Laundress since installing the rotary line dryer. TruEarth and Meliora are my favorites for everyday washing. The Laundress has some fantastic products for finicky fabrics and nasty stains.

We rotate between these brands (mostly based on whatever I feel like using). I try not to use Persil for too many washes in a row because it gunks up our front-load washer and makes it smell. But generally, we swap between all of them from time to time.

None have been especially good or bad when line drying our clothes. So use the detergent that works best for your family.

Do you have tips for hanging large sheets (if they don’t fit on the line)?

We have queen and king-size beds in our hours, so we have some large sheets that are too long for the rotary line dryer if we hang them from one side. They both extend past the sides of the line and hang down to the ground.

First, I fold the sheet in half and hang it on the line from the middle of the sheet. I can fit the queen-size sheet on one line, but the king sheet also extends beyond the width of the line.

In this case, I take the excess sheet and fold it back to hang along another line next to the line on which the first part of the sheet is hanging. But it’s not a science. Just hang it so everything has access to the air.

Where do you store the rotary line dryer?

The Brabantia rotary line dryer comes with a cover, so we keep it outside on the stand year-round. It has two pieces: the clothesline and a metal contraption that sits underground, so you can easily remove the clothesline and cover the hole in the ground. You could keep it in a garage or closet if you prefer. It doesn’t take up too much space.

Where do you store the clothespins?

I keep the clothespins in an old Lululemon reusable bag in our laundry room. It works perfectly, and I didn’t have to buy anything new!

Other Questions?

What other questions can I answer for you? What did I miss? I’m happy to share more details to help you figure out if a Brabantia rotary line dryer is right for you and how you can incorporate line-drying clothes into your everyday routine.

Jen Panaro

Jen Panaro, founder and editor-in-chief of Honestly Modern, is a self-proclaimed composting nerd and advocate for sustainable living for modern families. To find her latest work, subscribe to her newsletter, Sage Neighbor.

In her spare time, she’s a serial library book borrower, a messy gardener, and a mom of two boys who spends a lot of time in hockey rinks and on baseball fields.

You can find more of her work at Raising Global Kidizens, an online space to help parents and caregivers raise the next generation of responsible global citizens.

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