Cappers Farmer Blogs > Old Dog, New Tricks

To Hang Or Not To Hang

Mary ConleyDear lovers of sustainable living. I remember when my parents bought their first clothes dryer. Mom was elderly and had a shoulder problem, so it was a real blessing for her to not have to hang clothes anymore. I always loved my reliable Maytag dryer, which got much use while raising our four children, but the fall of 2008, I did the opposite of my mother and gave up my dryer for a clothesline – mostly. Much to my surprise, I’m still hanging our clothes five years later, and hope to be able to continue for a long time.

A while back, I saw a request from Chris Martinson’s Peak Prosperity daily newsletter asking for tips about hanging clothes. Maybe you, like I did, think all there is to it is just hanging them instead of throwing them in the dryer. Not so. With our modern day washers, there is the problem of lint. Honestly, I was shocked to see so much of it on my clothes the first couple times I hung them, and didn’t know how to remedy it. Somehow, the amount of lint coming from our clothes never occurred to me each time I cleaned out the lint trap on my dryer, but having it all over my clothes joggled my brain a little, and I am amazed that there is anything left of our clothes after a few washings!

Besides thinking of the environment, I wondered about our personal energy savings and checked on the web for the cost of running gas and electric dryers in our area. Hey, saving money might make it even more worth while. Suddenly, I started noticing how long it took to dry things like a load of jeans, towels, or a throw rug, and I just couldn’t do that anymore.

I dry everything inside the house here in the city as our neighborhood covenant doesn’t allow clotheslines, and personally, I like to do it this way. Although I have always heard that people love the way their sheets smell after drying on a clothesline, I can’t help but think that wet clothes catch all the blowing dust and they just might become dirtier than before!

Here is how I do it and what I’ve learned:

The wooden folding rack: They are easy to find and not expensive; you probably already have one. I use mine for hanging all the small items such as wash cloths, underwear, and socks.

Clothesline: My sweet hubby fixed two lines in his workroom. They are attached at one end and I can attach them at the other end when needed. He never complains if he has to duck the laundry to get to his tool bench, but I do try to hang more at night and the clothes are usually dry by morning.

Odds & Ends: I fold my dishtowels once and put them over a hanger above my dryer. I also hang other things there on hangers, and I have metal kitchen chairs where a rug or other items may dry at times. What I’m really saying here is that because I wanted to do it, I found a way.

Wash on the line

The clothesline – a farm amenity.

A wonderful clothesline came with the farm, so when we are there in the summer, I try to hang clothes out early in the morning before the wind picks up and blows the dust. We are a little isolated so no one sees me in my nightgown. I hope!

Benefits: Less ironing. I’ve always, and still do, throw shirts and blouses in the dryer until they get warm and then hang them, but my surprise was that all clothes come out less wrinkled when I hang them on the line. The weight as gravity pulls the dampness down, seems to also pull out the wrinkles. Jeans and Larry’s shorts don’t dry with turned up cuffs or creased zipper plackets as they sometimes did before, and his shorts do not require any ironing. I hang his many T-shirts from the bottom so there aren’t any hanger marks in the shoulders that I used to press out. I even hang sweaters from the bottom, and they dry longer instead of wider.

Downside: Towels are not soft, for sure, but you get used to it. I think of them as exfoliating while I dry! Washcloths are only rough until you get them wet, anyway. Jeans feel slightly stiff, but only while putting them on, and then body heat instantly softens them. Larry says that he never notices these things anymore.

Now for what I consider the BIG problem. Lint. I’m always open to any suggestions, but this is what I’ve found. The most important step is to be far, far more careful what you wash together. I would suggest you buy all your towels of the same color. I’ve always purchased white towels and washcloths for easy sanitation so I lucked out there. Other than that, I now use a small amount of fabric softener in the rinse water in place of the fabric sheet I used to throw in the dryer. Vinegar just didn’t do the job for me. 

Maybe this all seems silly to you as we certainly are far from being poor. What can I say other than it just makes me feel good to do this little thing for our beautiful world. Do any of you hang your clothes? Sign in and leave a comment below and tell us about it. Oh, BTW, if you still use your dryer, I’m guessing you will start noticing how long one of those big loads take to dry from now on! Sorry!