Clothesline Hacks 101

I’ve been using my new clothesline for almost a year now and I still love it as much as I did when we put it up in November 2020. I’m proud to say we now hang at least 80% of our laundry to dry now instead of using a dryer, which has made a significant cut in our family’s carbon footprint. According to this report, a “household running a dryer 200 times a year could save nearly half a tonne of carbon dioxide by switching to a clothes rack or washing line”. If you want to learn other ways to save energy and water while doing your laundry, please read Eco-Laundry 101.

Now for the hacks, because it has taken me awhile to become a time and space efficient clothesline user and I’m happy to pass along my tips from this year.

Clothesline Hack #1: Do your laundry the night before.

If you put your laundry through the washer the night before (cold cycle), you can hang your laundry right away when you wake up as part of your morning routine. Yes, your clothes might be a bit wrinkly, but the fresh air and sun will take care of that for you. And, if you are doing a week’s worth of laundry, it gives you a chance to get the second load in right away (I can get a second load washed and dried most summer days if I need to).

** Winter Variation: I tend to hang the laundry later in the day during the winter because the sun comes up later. In the winter, I often start a load when I wake up and I only get one load in on laundry day.**

Clothesline Hack #2: Keep a chair nearby for your basket.

Some people have a fancy basket stand built into their clotheslines, but I don’t. I have found that keeping an outdoor chair near the line gives me a place to park my basket and keeps me from having to stoop down for each item. I leave the basket out on the chair while the clothes dry.

Clothesline Hack #3: Sort your laundry before hanging.

This hack has really helped me save time and energy while hanging our laundry. I now sort all of our clothes by person before hanging them up. Then each person gets a line (plus one for dish towels, masks, etc). This saves me tons of time when I am taking down the clothes because I just fold everything into the basket in categories and can deposit them where they belong straight from the basket.

** Winter Variation: I sort the clothes inside during the winter and drape them over the sides of the basket before I carry it out.**

Clothesline Hack #4: Let your pins do double duty.

Each of my clothespins holds onto the corner of two pieces of clothing. This saves me time when I am hanging the clothes up and when I am taking them down, essentially halving the number of clothespins I need and use.

Along those lines, if something is extra heavy (pants, jackets, towels), you can always add extra clothespins to keep them up.

Clothesline Hack #5: Check the weather.

This may seem really obvious, but you’d be surprised how many times I fell into old habits this year and did a load of laundry when the hamper was full without checking the weather for the next day. It’s easy to do and saves you from scrambling outside to rescue your almost dry clothes when it starts to rain.

The weather doesn’t have to be 80 degrees and sunny to dry a load of laundry, by the way. I hung clothes all through the New Hampshire winter and didn’t have a problem as long as it wasn’t actively raining, snowing, or foggy/misty. And wind is actually great for drying laundry, as long as it’s not strong enough to blow your clothes right off the line.

** Unexpected weather? That’s New Hampshire for you! I use a tarp to cover the entire clothesline if it starts raining unexpectedly and the laundry is still really damp and/or the rain isn’t going to last long.

Clothesline Hack #6: Use hangers for fragile items.

If you don’t want to pin your nicer shirts and dresses, you can always hang them up on a clothes hanger directly on the clothesline. It works just like hanging clothes in the bathroom to steam them. Honestly, I gave up on this strategy awhile ago because my husband and I just don’t care if our clothes aren’t perfect, but I totally respect that some people do.

Clothesline Hack #7: Socks, socks, socks, and masks!

Socks are the bane of my laundry routine – always have been – but I’ve learned some tricks along the way to make them easier.

As long as it’s a sunny day and I’ve hung the laundry early enough in the day, I’ll pin socks together as a pair. They dry perfectly fine that way, and it saves me time when I’m taking things down later (wool socks, especially in the winter, need their own pins). Masks, also, can be pinned together. I usually do two to four masks on one pin.

Another strategy I use, especially when I’m in a hurry, is to set up our expandable clothes rack right next to the clothesline and drape our socks and masks (and often underwear) on that so I don’t have to deal with clothespins at all. Just don’t do this if it’s windy… underwear flying into your neighbor’s yard is never fun.

Clothesline Hack #8: Line-drying on a tight schedule.

This could really be a post in and of itself, since so many people seem to think they don’t have the time to hang their laundry, but here are a few strategies for those hurried days:

  • Only line dry the bulky stuff: Hang just towels, jeans, jackets, and other heavy, hard to dry items on the line and dry everything else for 20 minutes (trust me, it works)
  • Let it stay up overnight: I used to bring my laundry in when it got dark, even if it wasn’t completely dry and then either re-hang it in the morning or run it through the dryer for 10 minutes, but either way, that meant I had to re-sort the laundry. Now, unless it’s going to rain, I leave damp laundry on the line and it just dries the next day. This also works if you only have time to hang laundry in the afternoon or evening.
  • Only line dry on the weekend: Save up your big loads of laundry (especially sheets and towels) for the weekend and only run a load of necessities (masks and uniforms, in our house) in the middle of the week, if necessary. A smaller load of laundry is okay, if you line dry it. On weekends, I try to think about the clothesline at mealtimes, to keep me on task.

I hope these clothesline hacks will help you be confident and successful with your clothesline. Honestly, I really love hanging laundry. It gets me outside and my clothesline is right next to my garden, so I get to smell flowers and watch bees and butterflies while I hang my laundry.

Like this post? Remember to check out Eco-Laundry 101 for more tips on greening your laundry routine.

– Hannah

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