What a Month of Hanging Laundry Taught Me (and My Grandmother Probably Already Knew)

Author’s Note: In the spirit of full disclosure, there was one time when Paul needed a piece of clothing dried quickly, so he took it off the clothesline and nuked it in the dryer for 10 minutes. Who was I to stand in his way?    

In the month of October, I hung all of our laundry on a clothesline. That is nine loads, for anyone keeping count. I’ve hung clothes to dry before, though not with the mandate to only use a clothesline for an extended period of time (self-imposed). Let me tell you, it’s a whole different ballgame when you vow to not use the dryer. Doing so has taught me many things that my grandmother—who used to hang-dry all of her family’s clothes in the summer times—probably already knew.

Laundry collage

Clothes Will Dry in Humidity, but it Takes a Long Time

Even though it is October, there were many days with moderate (and some with heavy) humidity here in Houston. It turns out that clothes will still dry when the air is heavy with moisture…but it will take a long time. Like more than a day, and at that point you have to battle with an un-fresh smell.

Laundry is Much More of a Process Without a Dryer

When I used our dryer, laundry was predictable. I would run two to three loads each week on the same day of the week, starting around the same time and ending around the same time. The clothes went into the washer, I moved them to the dryer, and then I folded and put them away.

When you line dry clothes, the task of doing laundry becomes much more of a process. After the washer is finished, you need to immediately hang each piece of clothing on the line (flicking them in the air to prevent as many wrinkles as possible). Then you wait. Sometimes you need to flip clothes over or move them to a different area on the line if one side of the line is drying much more quickly than the other. In order to facilitate drying the clothes next in line, removing the clothes in front as they dry is helpful. Then you wait some more.

Granted, the drying process would take a lot less time if I did not have to dry clothes in our garage on a retractable line (our deed forbids clotheslines in our yard).

There is Something Exciting about Living “Off the Grid”, Even If Only for One Task

Line drying our clothes makes me feel more self-sufficient. The fact that I can get exactly what I need—dry clothes—with nothing more than some good ole’ sunshine (I still get a few rays in the garage when the sun is just right) and breeze is completely cool in my book. Not only that, but I generally find the process of hanging clothes to be quite enjoyable and soothing.

You Lose that Out-of-the-Dryer-Tightness

You know how your clothes feel a bit snugger (usually in a good way) when you first wear them after the dryer? Well, you lose that when you clothes line-dry. So if your elasticity in certain clothes is a bit loose but the item still works because of the dryer, then it might not work for you after you line dry.

Weather Dictates When You Can Complete Your Laundry

I found myself suddenly very interested in the weather over the last month. Each designated laundry day I would ask myself: Is it humid? Overcast? Overcast so that it looks like it is going to rain? I don’t have exact data on the number of days that it rained here in Houston in October, but I bet it was at least once a day for half the month. Several times laundry day was rescheduled for this very reason.

Towels Feel Like Pumice Wear…But There’s a Way Around that

If you do not like the feel of your towels scraping up against your skin (they harden when allowed to dry naturally), then you can still dry them naturally and then nuke them for a few minutes in your dryer. Presto!

One final thought, and a pretty funny one at that (though after the situation has occurred, of course): if there are ants where you are hanging laundry to dry, and some of your laundry (such as sheets) just barely clear the floor, then it follows that you will get ants in your house (say, in your bed).

Do you line dry your clothes? Any tips you can share? 

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