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Friday, March 19, 2010

Frugal Friday: Clotheslines

Yesterday was the first time this year that I was able to hang clothing out on the line. It has been warm for almost two weeks now but the snow under the clothesline just finished melting. What a joy it was to hang Jacob's bedding set out and watch it flap in the breeze. Last night when I made his bed it smelled of sunshine and even he noticed when he climbed into bed by exclaiming "Yum!' as he smelled the sheets. Ahhhh...the simple joys in life.

During the warmer months I dry all my laundry by hanging it on our clothesline, unless we have had days of rain and the laundry has became a daunting pile. Otherwise, it is the "solar clothes dryer" all the way. I don't use the clothesline only to save money, I rather like the task of hauling my laundry outdoors and pinning it on the line so it can dry nice and crisp in the warm spring air. Some people complain of the stiff feeling that clothes and towels may get when hung outdoors but that can be remedied by throwing them in the dryer for a few minutes to fluff them back up again. Or, you they could go the same route that we do and just get used to it. Any clothing item that I put on becomes soft again after a few minutes of wearing it. And the stiff towels? We actually prefer line dried towels because they absorb more water...and get soft midway through drying yourself off. Sheets and blankets dried outdoors are the best; they truly are a little piece of heaven.

Clotheslines also save money. They save the wear and tear on your clothes that a dryer can do. You know all that lint that you extract from the dryer everyday? A lot of that is fibers from your clothing. The sun can do a little damage itself by fading certain dyes and fabric, so if you are concerned turn all your clothing items inside out when hanging them out to dry.

Whether your dryer is electric or gas you will notice a difference in your bills when you start using the clothesline. Our electric bill drops by at least $20 a month in the warmer months when I discontinue using the dryer.

There are actually communities that have banned hanging clothes outside. Home owner alliances feel it looks trashy or makes the neighborhood look poor. I've even heard people say before "We don't need to hang clothes outside, we aren't poor." I don't hang clothing up because I can't afford to use the dryer, I hang it up because I like the way it smells and feels, like to save money, and think it is better for the environment. And quite honestly, I like getting back to the basics of doing something for myself (such as dry my clothes on a clothesline) rather than depend on a machine to do it for me that takes money and resources that we just shouldn't waste. I think it is sad when clotheslines in neighborhoods are frowned upon. Think about it though, hanging clothes outdoors is a dying trend. In a several block radius of my home I can count on one hand the houses that have a clothesline. It makes me feel good when I do see our one neighbor hang out her snowy white sheets or a row of blue jeans. It makes me feel not so alone.

As a family of five we do have a lot of laundry but I find that by doing two to three loads on each nice weather day I am able to keep up with it and not have to use the dryer. We have a long clothesline with five different strings. I will be the first to admit that I am a bit anal about how I hang out laundry. Last year I got into the system of assigning a string to each family member...so that all their clothing is hanging on their string. That way in the evening when I go to take them down and fold them right off the line they are all in one pile that I can take directly to their dresser and put away. It seems to save me time and is a system that works for me. I also have to have all my towels lined up neatly with the big towels, hand towels, and wash cloths all separated and clustered in their own group. I know, it is a bit obsessive compulsive but our clothesline faces the street and sidewalk so anyone walking/driving by and looking in our backyard will see how I hang up my clothes...and I think they look nice this way! Underwear is always hidden in the middle rows so that they can't be seen from those in the front of the house or those in our neighbor's back yard.

I especially enjoy hanging the cloth diapers outside. The sun works wonders on bleaching out any stains.

Speaking of stains and clothing...with the last several days being warm and the kids stripping off their coats and playing hard outside I remembered all the stains that happen during spring and summer. Today I washed a brand new shirt of Becca's that had just been worn for the first time yesterday and I realized that there were grass and dirt stains that just wouldn't come out. This happens a lot in the summer around here and so many clothes are ruined that way. Does anyone have a tried and true tip on keeping kid's clothing in nice condition, even when they are messy little slobs?

Do you use a clothesline or are you strictly a dryer type gal? What are your reasons for hanging clothes out or just sticking to the dryer?


  1. I also use my clothesline in the warmer months. I think that is why our dryers outlive our washers! I also notice a drop in the electric bill.

    Too funny about the underwear in the middle rows. I do the same thing!

  2. I use my clotheline once the snow is melted and my fingers do not get to cold. Our underwear is also placed in the middle and I never string it up. I just clip one end up and let it hang. I really do not want everyone driving past noticing how wide my underwear are!

    In the winter, I have to woodracks, one large one and one smaller one. I dry our clothes on that by placing it near the woodstove.

  3. The thing I hate about clotheslines (my mom and stepmom used them when we were kids) is that the clothing always has hidden bugs on them! :( But, to save money, and the wear and tear on clothing, I do dry a lot of clothing on racks in my laundry room, rather than using the dryer.

  4. i haven't used a dryer in years. we don't have a clothes line either. all our stuff is dried inside on a rack. bulkier things are dried in the closet that houses the water heater- it's warmer in there.

  5. You are so right! I agree on the towels absorbing more water from your body... plus I like the way it feels... exfoliation!
    I too have saved anywhere between $20-$50 on our electric/gas bill. Electric because we don't heat up our house (I live in TX and the heat is horrid) and gas (our dryer is gas).
    We have a little one so our laundry is a constant ritual.
    I like going outside early in the morning and hanging my wash... and letting my son run around in the back yard. He enjoys playing through the clothes. He thinks it's a game of hide and seek.
    Since it gets so hot here, some days it takes less time to dry them outside than it does in my dryer. So that's a plus!
    To MommylovesherKgirls, What I do as far as that goes and morning dew... I pluck my lines hard. Like a big guitar string. And that knocks off any bugs, spiders or dew. Works for me.

  6. I have used clotheslines to dry our clothes since we were first married almost 22 years ago. I too put the underwear in the middle. We could really get back to the old days and put our underthings inside of feedsacks and then hang them on the line. Hanging them like this was to prevent your neighbors from seeing them. I read this in Reminisce once.


  7. I do not have a traditional outside clothes line. No one in my sub has one. They would look strange in my neighborhood and I have no desire to have one. I, do, however,have what I guess would be called a portable one that I keep on my patio. I only hang what I think may shrink in the dryer. In the winter, I hang what I don't want in the dryer on my inside clothes line. I would never hang underwear or towels.

  8. Haha, I just put up a similar post on my blog (http://www.communicatingcauses.com/notoneoftheherd/) I loooooove my clothesline! And I completely agree about the diaper stains. I am always amazed how the yuckiest poo stains are completely gone in 20 minutes on the line!

    A coworker told me she hated seeing the ugly rusted poles. Crazy! I think the rusted poles are lovely. :)

  9. I too am a line dryer. I live in South Florida and enjoy great weather most of the year so it makes sense to dry outdoors. We even put a retractable line on the enclosed, covered patio. I tend to hang socks and underwear and even ligtweights or things I don't want to fade out there, leaving the rotary dryer outside for larger and heavier items. We do have a dryer and I often finish items in there for a few minutes. I too find that often one load is dry or virtually dry as the next load comes out of the washer.

    We are fortunate, my house, my old family home, was equiped with long lines attached to T-Bar poles when the house was built so I knew I could hang clothes out. My neighbour has now copied us and erected a clothes line. Even the young couple behind have strung out a small line. Nice to see this idea is gradually taking hold. My mother never owned a dryer and hung out her laundry all her life.
    No one has mentioned the communal nature of line drying. In Britain, where I lived for nearly 40 years, my neighbours and I would frequently chat as we tended clothes on our lines. I'm finding this happens now as well.
    There is nothing more delightful than a line full of clothes blowing in a breeze.

  10. School clothes and play clothes.

  11. I almost never use the dryer anymore. Of course, I prefer hanging clothes outside but in bad weather, I have a folding wooden rack I use in a spare bedroom. Bedding is too large for the rack, so during winter or the rainy season-that goes in the dryer. I have a few items of clothing that wrinkle if they don't go in the dryer, and I hate ironing so I use the dryer for them.
    Otherwise, everything else is hung up. I like doing laundry; I love how clean everything smells. And like you, Beth, I like folding clothes; it is soothing. We are saving about $20 a month year round by not using the dryer very often.
    Our subdivision has a rule; only umbrella style clotheslines are allowed, and they have to be put away when not in use. Also, you can't hang out clothes on Sundays, and can't leave clothes out overnight.

  12. I have just started line drying our clothes also. Trying to save money on the electric bill. We used mostly wood heat for two months through the winter and only noticed a drop of $18.00 so now we are trying to not use the dryer and see where that gets us. I think the biggest drain on our electricity is the pump for our well, but not much we can do about that.

  13. You should consider getting a clothes drying rack so that the laundry doesn't get to far ahead of you when the weather doesn't cooperate. I dry all my clothes on racks. I have found the trick is to do a load of wash in the evening. Then the last job I do before bed is to place the clothes on the rack in the middle of the living room under the ceiling fan before going to bed when I get up in the morning the clothes are dry and I can put them directly in the the appropriate basket. Shut my rack and place it out of the way.

  14. I use my clothesline in the warm months also.

    I love the fresh air scent from the sheets and blankets dried outside.



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