Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Tips for air drying clothes indoors

When I started this challenge, a number of people asked me why I was doing it in October when the weather is crappy, rather than during the summer when the weather is perfect for air drying clothes. Well, I did that on purpose. You guys want a challenge, don't you? Where's the challenge in perfect weather? I'm just kidding, of course.

For many Americans, learning a new way of drying clothes that doesn't involve the minute it takes to transfer clothes from the washer to the dryer is a challenge. Sure, we look pathetic to the rest of the world where line drying is de rigueur, but we all have it in our heads that we can't live without a dryer and that just isn't true. Clothes dryers have only been around for the masses for the last 50 years and I would argue that Americans at the turn of the 20th century, working in factories, were a heck of a lot busier than we are today.

There are two issues at play: one is the expectation that you can wear an article of clothing for 10 minutes and it's destined for the laundry bin. Even one day is sufficient. Two days it's starting to get scary and don't even think about wearing something for more than that. Convenience has taught us that clothes are dirty after one wearing. When, for most of us (unless you are a farmer or work in a mine), you could easily get away with another wearing.

The second is that there is no work involved in washing and drying clothes. And that's the expectation we've come to have. Line drying seems insurmountable and the idea that it takes a ton more time to line dry clothes really isn't all that accurate. It takes maybe 5 minutes? Tops. Are you that strapped for time that you can't spend 5 minutes?

Anyway, I'd thought I'd share a few tips for drying clothes inside since people are asking for help. I'll follow-up with a post for how to keep clothes from feeling "crunchy".

First off, if you live in an area where it is rainy and moist most of the year (like we do in Seattle), you're going to have to adapt a few things. The primary complaint is that clothes take too long to dry and they start smelling moldy.

Some of the techniques you can do to prevent this is to:

1. Use a movable rack so that you can move your clothes into the sun/daylight near a window if it does decide to rear its head.

2. Use a movable rack or position your line near a heating source. If you have a wood burning stove, you're in luck. If you have central heating, place it near a heating vent. If you use electrical heat, put it near the baseboard or fan. You get my drift. If it's too cold out to dry your clothes, most likely you are using some heat at least part of the day inside. Or the oven, or some room is going to be warmer than others. Use it.

3. If you don't turn the heat on (stay tuned for this year's Freeze Yer Buns!) then make sure you rotate your clothes on the rack or line. So, if there are any spots that get less airflow, alternate positions. If you use a rack, flip the clothes over so the damp parts are exposed.

4. When in doubt, or desperation, use a space heater or a fan to help with airflow. The electricity used will be far less than using the dryer.

5. If you must use the dryer, dry your clothes for about 5 minutes before "finishing" them on the line. They'll dry faster and have less opportunity for smelling mildewy.

6. If moisture is your problem, try a dehumidifier. It will not only help your clothes, but probably the rest of the house as well. It costs pennies a day to run smaller dehumidifiers. If you really have a humidity problem, look into a hybrid water heater that pulls moisture out of the air to help heat the water.

7. If certain items start smelling funky, try a chlorine free bleach, vinegar rinse or something else to kill the stink next time you wash it. This shouldn't be necessary, but if you feel you need it, give it a try.

Those are my hints and tips for successful indoor drying. When in doubt, don't freak out, just finish drying for 5 minutes in the dryer.

Any other suggestions out there?


Andrea J. Phillips said...

Thanks for the tips -- but when will you release the follow-up? :)

I air dry a decent percentage of laundry, but I have to admit I've thrown them in the dryer for a fluff on occasion because they're too stiff. Jeans are no big deal because they "soften" almost immediately when you put them on, but my 2yo has a few dresses that feel like cardboard when they're dry.

I can also second the "re-wash with 1/4 cup vinegar to get rid of a mildew-y smell" tip. Not that I've left clean clothes in the washer for 3 days on several occasions ... I just read it somewhere.

Anonymous said...

Hi! Anne from Norway here, a frequent user of this method... Just have to butt in on one of your tips...;) Don't EVER dry clothes in direct sunlight. The sun might bleach your clothes and give them lighter spots here and there. THe best thing to do is to find a place in a shaddowy place and let them dry there. I'd also recommend, to those who have the garden space, investing in a clothes rack carousell! :) Saves you the time in turning the clothes... :P

Hazel said...

It's interesting about the concept of modern washing machines being timesaving.
I read somewhere that we actually spend more time doing laundry now than our grandmothers did because it is so convenient we wash everything whether it needs it or not.
Something I'm trying to do less, but it's chiefly a problem in the children's rooms. They either wear one outfit for a fortnight or have 6 outfits out, which all end up in the wash at the same time.

Kelly said...

i always find posts on line drying on US blogs very interesting- if not amusing. the cultural differences are astounding. The comment above on never drying clothes in direct sun (not a US comment)- well i live in OZ.. umm always. Sunlight bleaches stains..yup, removes them and sanitises clothes. And I had NEVER EVER thought about my clothes being crunchy (now there's a great pun) until i read about it as a reason for not line drying on US blogs. This was a great post. it deconstructed a habit that is just second nature.

Kelly said...

also- here's a hint. it doesnt need to be hot or suny to dry on a line outside. the best weather can be cold but windy. put clothes outside to evaporate most of the moisture and finish on a rack inside.

Anna A said...

Line drying is pretty much the standard in Germany...what helps here is that the washing machines have *insane* spin cycles. At 1200 rpm for a couple minutes, the clothes come out practically dry already. Not sure if these are available anywhere in the US, but for someone needing a new W/D, it could save some money or space.

therese said...

"Sure, we look pathetic to the rest of the world where line drying is de rigueur" - thanks for clearing that up for me. Like Kelly, I've never understood the fuzz and I too, find it quite amusing. (And now I understand why everyone was so excited about how soft and comfy the family cloths are... Ahem. Family cloth - in the dryer? Something's principally wrong there, LOL)
Like Anne, I'm from Norway, but I don't agree with her comment, she must have had some bad luck with some poor dyeing) and here we line dry all the time. The carousel she mentions are fairly common, and the indoor rack. I've never had any problems with crunchy clothes, mildew smell, and I've never rotated the clothes on the line. Whenever I can, I hang my clothes across two lines, to make it as airy as possible. If your house is so moist that the clothes won't dry within 2-3 days, then you have a moist problem, not a clothes drying problem.
I was especially amused by the 'win a rack' contest. Here, the rack is a bit like yarn - you can get it anywhere.
that doesn't mean that norwegians don't use dryers, I actually assume most people use that too (the key word here being 'too'). And you know what the main reason given is for using a dryer? The rack looks ugly and messy in the living room. (insert rolling eyes here)

Michelle ~ Blogging from the Boonies said...

We have a woodstove, so in the cooler months, I put up 3 lines over it. We have 6 hooks in the wall and I have 3 lines with loops on the ends, so I can put them up and take them down easily.

Between line drying out clothes and only running our water heater for 2 hours per day, we are able to save quite a bit of money, which we send to the children we sponsor through Compassion International. When I think of how those families generally have 2-4 outfits each and go to the river to beat their clothes clean, it makes the little bit of extra work seem insignificant to say the least.

Olivia said...

I also dry my clothes in direct sunlight without any significant issues . . . never yet noticed any spotting or uneven fading.

Never noticed "crunchy" clothes. The towels can occasionally be a little rough on first use but I actually like that - it's kind of a loofah effect. We almost always have some sort of breeze here so things generally blow dry and soft. My kids actually request that I do NOT put their clothes in the dryer as they feel it ruins them. In fact, the only one around here who uses the dryer at all is my DH - he likes to fry his clothes. In the dead of winter I may throw the duvet covers in as we only have one each and I prefer to keep the duvets covered. It would take 2 or 3 days to dry indoors.

My washing machine will spin at a jet engine level as well but I'm afraid it would take down our 140 year old wooden farmhouse so I always use a low speed.

Reading Michelle's post reminded me of when DH and I were young and travelling through Mexico in a VW van (hippies we were). Noticing women beating their clothes clean on rocks in the river, I decided to give it a try and ended up shredding our clothes. I hadn't realised that one had to use SMOOTH rocks, not the rough,jagged ones I had selected!

Tim said...

I too am looking forward to the followup. I also have the same problem with stiff clothes if I try to dry them on a rack. Just last week, we took towels from the washer and hung them over a rack to dry. A few days later, we took the towels off; they didn't change shape as we removed them, they were so stiff, so now our towels form perfect U shapes and are all scraggly. Hopefully there's a way around that!

DK said...

I'm allergic to fabric softener so the vinegar rinse thing gets used here instead of fabric softener. Whenever I remember the rinse cycle, I add in 1/4-1/2 of white vinegar (I don't generally bother measuring, just pour in what seems like enough).

It also seems to help cut down the smelly-ness of my pre-used machine since I don't currently have the inclination to take the basin and such apart to clean it all properly or the funds to pay someone else to do so.

Anonymous said...

All you crunchy towel/clothes people, have you tried using a bit less detergent...?

Two Flights Down said...

I wish I had brought my drying rack from Japan with me to America. In the area I lived in, everyone hung clothes on the line. Even those in the smallest apartments had lines on the small balconies to hang clothes on. And the drying racks are awesome and can easily be moved in and outdoors. Because everyone hung their clothes out to dry, those nifty, fancy drying racks were about the price of the cheap ones that aren't nearly as useful here.

A tip about fading--vinegar can help your clothes not fade in the sun. I usually use vinegar and baking soda to do the laundry and just a tiny bit of detergent (if any at all). Detergent wears your clothing out faster--and so does washing them in general.

To save money and reduce the amount of clothes you throw away, wash only when it's really needed. Also--dryers wear clothing out faster, as well, so line drying will help preserve your clothing longer. And don't use so much detergent--the recommended amount is always way more than you need and it does a number on your clothing.

Tree Huggin Momma said...

Just a few thoughts. If you have a shower bar you can use plastic hangers to hang clothes from the shower bar. They should not be dripping wet when you hang them, if they are have you washing machine serviced/cleaned or run the drain and spin cycle again.
Crunchy is actually caused by the build up of soap in your laundry. Wash with less soap and use a 1/4 c of white vinegar in the fabric softener spot. It helps disinfect, soften and clean your clothes.
We have almost everything in the basement and have no issues in the Fall/winter. In the summer however I have to run a dehumidifier.
As for rewearing it can be done. Wash your sundries after every use, maybe. I wash my bras every 3 or 4th wear (I have a specific bra for working in the garden or when I am going to get sweaty). When you get home from work (if you work outside the home) hang you business clothes back up. Check for stains, spills and smells. If all good put back in the closet. If you want to freshen them between washing use a solution of diluted white vinegar in a spray bottle or hang in the bathroom when taking a show (the steam will refresh).
For clothes that are truly crunchy hang in bathroom during shower- they will dewrinkle and soften.
Good Luck all

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the tips! I'm living in a flat in england with a washer, but not a drier at the moment, so everything gets air dried inside!(Very slowly unless the weather is unusually good). I've been managing mostly okay, but you had a few tips I hadn't thought of that should make things better :0)


Olivia said...

Just thought of something else when people mentioned using less detergent to avoid crunchiness. I make my own soap mixture of pure soap (usually Sunlight), Borax and Washing Soda - recipes are online - and a white vinegar rinse as well. Maybe that's why my clothes aren't crunchy. Detergent is very harsh on clothing (and skin and hair and anything else.)

Laura said...

To help break myself of the 'just throw it in the wash habit' I hung a rack with several clothes hooks right near where I get dressed or into pajamas. I hang sweaters, skirts(I mostly wear skirts) and tank tops(I use these, with the built in 'bra' as my underlayer). Most shirts get washed after a day but some don't, so they get hung. It had helped to have a specific, easy place to put the clothes that I'm going to ware again.

Hilde said...

I love the crunchy feeling of line-dried clothes. For me, it is a sign that they are really clean. Clothes out of the dryer feel like they have already been worn.
I agree with Hazel about the myth of time-saving. I am always amazed about the amount of laundry people in the US have to do during one week. You actually can wear clothes twice, if they are not stained - except undies, of course.
Btw, the laundry gets dry even at frosty temperatures, as long as the air is dry! My children loved watching the clothes freeze stiff and get soft again when they were dry.

Kate said...

I line-dry indoors all year long. I don't particularly like crunchy towels, and we have pet cats (= cat hair on our clothes). So once the laundry is dry, I run it through the dryer on the air fluff (unheated) setting for five minutes. I de-crunchifies the towels, and removes a good deal of cat hair. It's the only use our dryer ever sees, but it is a good use of it, imo.

Sonja said...

I was actually shocked when I read american commentators (about a year ago) on some other places stating how much 'dirty' laundry they had, washing everything after wearing it only once. I don't know anybody over here who does that. Things that get washed after one day are socks and panties, and those white working blouses if one needs to wear them to work (and children's chlothes sometimes...). Otherwise, it's the Smell and Stains test; Jeans can be worn up to seven or eight times, just air them out inbetween, don't wear them eight days in a row...

I wonder when that habit of washing so much started? In the eighties or later? Clothes also wear out so! much faster when you wash them all the time, I sure don't have the money to always buy knew....

When I lived in the US with a family (fantastic people) I never liked the towels because they never absorbed all the moisture from my skin, they were so full of detergents etc...I like my towls to be absorbing and a tiny bit stiff the first time I use them ;-)

I think you're almost preaching to the choir on your blog, but perhaps your readers will inspire friends and family...

I did not finish my craft project *hangs head in shame*

Unknown said...

We have 2 of these (the picture's not great but you get the idea) ... because they are 'tall and square' instead of 'wide' they take up less room in the house than many of the drying racks I've seen.

Sheets and bigger stuff (dresses, etc) go on hangers in the doorway.

Also - we do have a front load washer with excellent spinnability ... I'm sure that does make a big difference to how long stuff takes to dry. Highly recommended if you are replacing your washer.

Anonymous said...

I wash as few times as possible and have begun air drying precisely because both of those options are a timesaver -- I am too lazy to slave all day over laundry. It takes maybe five minutes to hang up your clothes, and then you're done. Presto.

Have you heard the statistic that the average American household does nearly 8 loads of laundry a week? (See here.) It's hard for me to believe... unless the average American household has an infant or two, which can't be true.

I've never had an issue with mildewy clothes. (Okay, I am in Texas, so I have an abundance of warm weather inside and out for much of the year... so I was glad to see that the Norwegians don't have trouble either.)

The one thing that I would emphasize that Crunchy mentioned is to turn your clothes. I don't have much space to hang (chair backs, opened doors, hangars hung from doorframes), so my shirts often get folded in half and hung. If there's not enough airflow in the room, I will need to flip those so that the fabric that was previously facing in towards itself is now on the outside, or it will stay damp forever.

Maybe if people are having issues with mildewy clothing, it is because their clothes are hanging too close together so that air cannot flow around them? Or maybe your house holds too much moisture inside, as Therese said.

Interesting to hear that the crunch comes from detergent buildup.


Calliope (Greece) said...

I live in Greece where everyone air dries.
Air drying in direct sun is the BEST thing you can do for your clothes because they get sanitised. Unless you leave them under the sun for...2-3 days!!!'ll have none problems. On the contrary, whenever a t-shirt of my son just doesn't get clean after washing I put it out in the sun for a few hours and the stains ARE GONE!
We are a family of 3 and we do 3 loads tops per week. One for whites, one for colored and one for darks.
I can't imagine why the average family of 4 would do 8! loads per week!!!

Stefani M. said...

I always line dry my kids' clothes inside (because do I really need them shrinking even the tiniest bit?). I just hang them on their hangers wet, then toss them on the shower curtain rod and towel rods in their bathroom with space between. If I want some air movement, I just turn on the exhaust fan and voila!

Jenna said...

Just incase no one else has said it yet... turn your clothes inside out and dry in the sun. I live in Australia and don't own a dryer. My friend was taking some hand me down clothes last week and she commented that you could tell that i hang the clothes inside out as the difference in the colour really is noticable.

Anonymous said...

I live in Northern Alberta, like up by the 60th parallel, and the sun does not remove stains from clothes but it does bleach the colour out (how could it not). So I hang my clothes up outside after I've turned them inside out. Yes, they are very crunchy when I bring them in the house. Solution; put them in the dryer on air dry for 5-10 minutes, problem solved. I wonder if any of this has to do with the fact that we have very hard water.

I plan on attempting to air dry my clothes is the house this winter, we'll see how that goes. I have two racks to set up in front of my wood stove. My only concern is big things like blankets, sheets etc. I guess I'll just have to try it and see what happens. I figure even if I only end up using the dryer for 5-10 minutes on heat it's still better than drying each and every load that way.

Thanks for your article!

Miles Hogan said...

thanks for the great post. Many comments concerned drying indoors and I may be able to help out. I sell unique wall mount drying racks which can accommodate up to 5 QUEEN sized bed sheets!

The best part is the drying rack extends from the wall only 3.5" when not in use so it takes up very little space in the home. The sturdy 1" diameter drying rods won't bend and are made of strong Douglas fir.

If you are interested please visit

Hopefully more people will be turning off the most energy intensive appliance in the home.

Thanks for your post!

Best regards,

Miles Hogan, Owner
The Hogan Wood Company

evervescence said...

I live in NE Florida in a forest, where it is very hot, humid, and shady. Our clothes begin to mildew almost immediately when I hang dry them, but I am learning how to time my laundry around the hot part of the day when the heat it enough to dry them even in the shade. It's a work in progress. Some clothes dry very well, others (like towels) just won't dry completely so I do have to use the dryer for them (at least until I find a solution). We do get some sunshiny spots so I'll practice moving the drying rack to those spots and see how that works. Only problem is the sunny spots keep on moving so I'll have to keep track of them, lol!

I am a big fan of not washing more than is necessary.

I worked for a family that insisted on washing sheets that they didn't even sleep in 2x's a week, and their clothes every single day. I did 2-3 loads A DAY for them. This was a family of 3 adults mind you. I was constantly washing clothes that weren't even dirty. It was such a huge waste of resources, drove me crazy.

At my house, I do what others have suggested, hang the clothes to air between wears and do only the essentials ike undies more often than that. As I said it is really humid here so I do tend to sweat through my clothes and have to change a few times a day, and even at that, I have only one load of my own clothing a week most of which I hang to dry, I may have two loads if I do sheets/towels but I only do those every other week, to every 2 weeks. Our clothes always smell fresh and clean, I only use a small amount of natural laundry soap, cold water and nothing else. There are three in our family and pets with bedding and my son is a growing boy that lives in the dirt. He has only one load of dirty clothes every other week.

As always thanks for the great blog, love all the helpful comments from other readers too!

TheLadyDragonfly said...

My concern with air drying is sanitation, and how clean is clean? In the days when everyone line dried because we didn't have dryers, they boiled the laundry, at least they used boiling water to wash it. Today, we don't do that. The most bacteria-ridden places in the home are doorknobs, the inside of the toilet bowl and the inside of the washing machine. Detergents aren't soap, they are primarily fragrance and surfactants, certainly not disinfectants. Bleach won't solve this either, and using bleach in hot water is good for nothing in this department. What kills the most common contaminant in the washer, E.coli, is cooking it out in the dryer. I do dry a fair number of things on hangers or drying racks, but never anything that comes into contact with parts of the body that could be infected and cause illness. That would be towels, washcloths and undergarments. Those always go in my dryer. Sheets out on the line, in the sun, in the breeze have to be better healthwise, but I do draw a line about drying indoors with certain items.

Osakhomen said...

Maybe because I was raised by immigrant parents, it's the norm for me to wear clothes a couple times (as long as they don't smell) before I wash them. We use to hang dry clothes in the garage when I was younger... as we got older, we started using the dryer more often. Now that I am in med school and my apartment doesn't have a washer/dryer hook-up, just community washer/dryer... I decided to by a portable washer to wash my clothes in my apartment (the community washer/dry has had SO many problems, I've given up). I was going to by a dry along with it, but it's too much a hassle and too expensive IMO... so I just got the washer. I'm purposely hang drying my clothes again, it's kind of cool. I'm doing the hang drying inside though, because I don't necessarily trust my neighbors... maybe I'll do it outside eventually.

TheLadyDragonfly, I think you're being a bit overly paranoid. As long as your clothes aren't soaking wet, you should be fine when it comes to germs.

I'm a Mess said...

I'm an American spending three months in the UK without a dryer! When we first arrived, there was still a few warm and sunny days. Now that it's getting colder, drying clothes out doors isn't really an option. Our house is blocked from the sun, so we hang our clothes on a rack, and open up a window during the day to let in some air for circulation. Then after dinner, we move the rack into the kitchen to heat dry next to the stove!

Thanks for giving me a few more tips to get our clothes clean and dry!

journalhealing said...

I think the reason we wash our clothes every time we wear them is because advertisers encourage it. They sell more detergent and fabric softener that way. I developed allergies to perfumed products thirty years ago and currently hand wash or dry clean everything I own. I use a Nina Soft spin dryer to extract water from hand washed items. You don't need a lot of soap to hand wash clothing. All you need is a bucket from Home Depot and a special plunger available for hand washing your clothing. It aerates your clothes as it washes them, forcing oxygen through them for a real cleaning. My clothing never smell musty. In fact, some had a musty washer smell because I inherited them from a friend who used unscented products. But the smelly washer odor was on them. That odor eventually went away after I hand washed the clothing a few times. I love hand washed items. And air drying them ensures on static electricity like you get in the dryer.