Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Line-Drying Laundry

Most people today have no choice but to dry their laundry indoors in a tumbling dryer, or on an indoor line. Those who have the option of using the outdoors get the freshest results. If you have ever had the opportunity to smell the sweet freshness of clothing dried on an outdoor clothesline, there is nothing like it.

Years ago everyone used a clothesline to dry their clothing. Hanging out the clothes was a familiar art that was understood by everyone. But today, in our hurry-up world, most women use automatic electric dryers as their primary means of drying clothes.

My first memories of a clothesline are from my mother’s laundry day. She would sometimes wear a pocketed apron, and would cram as many clothespins in the deep pockets as possible before carefully placing each piece of clothing on the line.

I also remember my grandmother doing her laundry. She would wash her clothes in an old- fashioned ringer washer, and then place the clothes onto her clothesline from her second-story kitchen window. The clothesline stretched completely across her backyard and was attached to a garage about 100 yards away. The line looped through a wheel on both ends, creating a double line. She would clip her clothes onto one plastic-covered line, then push the upper line out to allow the clothes to dry, as they dangled high across her entire yard. She had it down to an art.

I rigged up something similar during our days in Richmond. I worked from our first-floor bathroom window and sent our clothes sailing out to a far-off tree. Doing it from the window enabled me to never leave our small children in the house alone while I put out the wet clothes.

There are few people you can talk to today who really know how to use an outside line. If they decide to give it a try, they would simply have to wing-it on their own. By trial and error, everyone can figure out the best way, but here are a few tips to get you started:
1. Line-drying is good for almost all washables, although it is not a good idea to place fabric that will stretch when wet onto a clothesline.
2. Many clothes feel stiff after drying on the line; towels especially, as they tend to get stiff as a board while drying outdoors. There is a way to remedy this problem, though. Always use fabric softener in your wash. Then either half-dry your towels before placing them out, or half-dry them outside first, and then dry them the remainder of the way when you bring them back in.
3. Delicate clothes and fabrics should be dried flat rather than line-dried.
4. If you are careful to hang things straight, they will often look smoother when they dry, and you can minimize or avoid ironing.
5. Avoid hanging clothes in freezing weather. They take forever to dry, and the thread in the fabric will often separate from the expansion of frozen water in the clothes.
6. Make sure your clothesline and clothespins are clean. Run a wet paper towel over the line before hanging clothes. You might consider using plastic clothespins, since they are less likely to leave marks on the clothes.
7. When hanging blankets or other heavy items, lay them over two lines, separating the halves.
8. Turn colored clothing inside out to prevent fading.
9. Articles of clothing dry at different rates. Sheets tend to dry more quickly than a pair of jeans.
10. Fold your clothes immediately after taking them off the line. Shake them out and give them a snap. This will remove any insects and will fluff the item of clothing.
11. Consider hanging dresses, blouses, and shirts that do not go in the dryer on a hanger to dry. This will aid in keeping the shape of the clothing.
12. Some people aren’t sensitive to seeing someone’s undergarments hang out for all to see, but others can become very disturbed by it. If you hang them out, try to find a more private place to hang them.

Did you know...
1. Clotheslines can save you money?
2. Electric dryers use 5 to 10% of residential energy?
3. Clothes and sheets smell better when hung outside?
4. Solar dryers save energy, thus preventing pollution?
5. Fabrics last longer when air dried?
6. Line-drying acts as a natural sanitizing and bleaching agent.

~This article is from Kindred Spirits Journal issue #19

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