The Homestead Homemaker Hangs Her Laundry on a Clothesline
Why I hang my laundry
I love the sweet smell of sun dried clothing fresh off the clothesline. On our homestead they get a hint of warm pine trees in the scent. When I look at my daughter's skirts and my husband's well-established Levis dancing in the breeze they symbolize, to me, the life and heart of our homestead.
I also love how solar power saves me money - about US $130 per year (based on five loads per week - http://www.dryertips.com/how-much-does-it-cost-to-run-my-dryer.html). Hanging is also a little gentler on clothes than the dryer. It won’t melt the graphics on a T shirt or disintegrate the elastic in your underwear. Hanging your clothes outdoors provides them with the sanitizing effects of the sun and provides you with a little Vitamin D and exercise. You can reduce your ironing (and I’m all for that) by letting the breezes blow out the wrinkles. And one last incentive: Dryers account for 17,700 structure fires a year!! (http://www.laundrylist.org/en/line-drying) So, let’s go green and hang ‘em high!
What you need
- Laundry basket
Install the clothesline
When backpacking with the kids we would throw the lake- or river-washed laundry over a bush to dry but I highly recommend a clothesline. Today, there are nice foldaway racks (see bottom right) and retractable clotheslines, freestanding-frame rotary (umbrella) clotheslines, and pulley clotheslines if you want to stand in one spot while you hang. My own clothes line is a simple rig the Homestead Hero and my son nailed between some trees. You can buy clothesline or use nylon rope or even telephone wire. Hang it as high as you can comfortably reach. It will tend to drop if it stretches a little.
The old-fashioned push down wooden clothespins are cute but harder for me to use. I use the wooden ones with the spring that you squeeze open. They also make plastic clothespins which would probably hold up to moisture better. As I hang the clothes, I clip the clothespins onto my pockets, blouse front, waistband, whatever to have them handy. An over the shoulder bag would be convenient I think.
While cane baskets are pretty and rustic, I use a plastic laundry basket because I think there's less chance of clothes catching on it or getting stained.
Clothes Hanging Tips
- What to hang - Generally, if the label says “dry flat” I do. Wet wools and hand knitted or crocheted things may stretch out of shape hanging on a clothesline.
- Down - Down products like sleeping bags or comforters do best in a large dryer with a couple of clean tennis shoes or soft balls to help distribute the down.
- For softness - I like the stiffness of towels hung outdoors. I figure I’m saving on exfoliating products, though the stiffness leaves after a couple of dry-offs. But, if you prefer softer towels, there are several things you can do. You can toss them in the dryer for 5 minutes before or after hanging them. You can shake towels before hanging them on the line, with a "snap". This loosens the pile. Then do it again when removing them from the line. If a fair breeze comes up they will dry faster and come out softer. You can also add vinegar to the rinse cycle.
- Wind - If it’s real windy out, use extra clothespins when hanging your clothes on the line. Or be prepared to humbly go and collect your underwear from your neighbor’s corn stalks. (At least they only have ears and not eyes. Sorry.)
- Freezing temps - Don't hang clothes out when it's freezing. First of all it’s stinkin’ miserable and they take forever to dry. But, also clothes can freeze. (see Laundry Blues blog.) Since water expands when it freezes, so too will the fibers in your clothes and they may never be quite the same. People have done it for years but there’s no need to now with the nice indoor racks available.
- Bring them in - If you leave your clothes outside past dusk they’ll begin to get damp again. So bring them in while it’s light.
- Reduce ironing - I kinda straighten and smooth each piece of clothing, towel or sheet as I hang it and it reduces the need for pressing. Not being picky about that also greatly reduces the need for pressing.
- Tree sap - If your clothesline attaches to conifers (pine trees) like mine does, think about the possibility of your clothes contacting sap as they blow in the breeze. I start hanging clothes a little ways down the line, away from the tree so the clothes can’t reach over and get sapped!
- Sheets - Widthwise seems to be the best for hanging sheets, and tablecloths. First of all it takes up less space on the line and secondly it puts the stress on the warp threads (the ones that run lengthwise), which are stronger than the horizontal threads.
- Blankets - Blankets and other heavy items can go across two lines, or more, as needed.
- Short on clothespins? - If you’re short of clothespins, you can overlap garments and use one pin to hang the edge of one piece of clothing and the beginning of the next. This is best for items that are not real thick or inclined to bleed ( like red) when damp. Two pair of underwear can hang from the same clothes pin.
- Hold them high - Take care not to drag things on the ground before you get them hung. Discouraging.
- Folding - I like to fold the clothes as I take them off the clothesline. This saves me time on ironing (are you coming to understand my feelings about ironing?) and also makes putting them away easier. If you cannot abide a few wrinkles and intend ironing the clothes, you can remove them slightly damp and iron them immediately.
- Fading - The sun can fade your clothes, so don't leave them out too long! To lessen fading, dry clothing inside out or dry them in the shade, and bring the laundry in as soon as it has dried. My guess is that it’s still less damaging than what the dryer can do to frequently washed clothing.
- Rain - And when it’s raining there are very nice freestanding clothes drying racks available.
As a little girl I misunderstood the old hymn about bringing in the sheaves thinking the words were bringing in the sheets. I associated the we shall come rejoicing part with my mother's sweet disposition as she went about her tasks like hanging and bringing in the sheets. When I hang clothes that song often comes to my mind and I hope I can come rejoicing through the routine work of my days.
Aug 20th, 2011
I didn't know where to find this info then kaoobm it was here.
Jan 12th, 2012
I love to hang laundry and make my own soap too....it smells so clean and it is very therapeutic for me... God, I love being a homemaker. Love your blog
Jan 28th, 2012
Keep it coming, wirters, this is good stuff.
Jan 29th, 2012
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