How to Dry Clothes without Dryer

MOTHER EARTH NEWS – Take advantage of the sunshine by learning how to dry clothes without dryer. It’s easier than you might think.

Drying clothes outside is perhaps one of the easiest things you can do to reduce your electricity bill. Clothes drying in a summer breeze is a common sight in Europe; my grandparents had a portable drying rack that took advantage of the sunshine and a few laundry lines in the basement for other days (and, of course, for the ‘unmentionablesî’. The outdoors imbues laundry with such a pleasant, clean scent that’s better than anything you could add to the dryer, and it’s one of the many reasons I look forward to the spring and summer every year here in the Midwest.

I’ve lived without a dryer for two years now, and Iím not looking back. Before, I would handwash and dry only a select few articles of clothing and laundry: fiber art pieces, for example, or particularly delicate clothing (which I admittedly don’t have much of). The meditative quality of hanging up laundry appeals to me: There’s something deeply peaceful about the laundry line swaying in the breeze, absorbing the freshness of the outdoors. And I suspect my cats find it entertaining as well. One will even accompany me to the washing line and watch me put up the laundry.

Drying laundry outside is fairly simple. All you need is a line off the ground and some clothespins. I keep one line in my basement for wintertime and another in my backyard for warmer temperatures. I haven’t encountered any problems with birds or insects; they seem uninterested in the laundry. I prefer to set the laundry out in the morning and collect it near the end of the day; with this method, Iíve only very rarely had something that was still damp, and that was typically a denser piece, such as a winter blanket, which I’d then stash on the basement line. Here are some tips to help you get started.

  • An outdoors clothesline can be as practical or as customizable as youíd like.
  • A DIY trellis clothesline does double duty as a place to train plants and to dry laundry.
  • Be creative about where you can place an indoors clothesline. Your unused greenhouse (or basement) could be the perfect place to stash some laundry.
  • Keep clothespins contained and at hand with a DIY European apron
  • Vintage laundry-day tips can help you make the most of your clothesline.

An outdoors clothesline is perhaps one of the easiest and most effective ways of drying clothes without a dryer. Steve Maxwell reveals his DIY clothesline and provides a detailed tutorial for how you can build your own and customize it to your household needs. He details what tools are best for the job, which materials to get, and how to make your clothesline sturdy. For those working with a smaller space, Troy Griepentrog offers ideas on how to dry clothes outdoors, such as single-pole rotary clotheslines, retractable clotheslines, and drying racks.

Combine function and beauty with this DIY trellis clothesline from Practical Projects for Self-Sufficiency (Cold Springs Press, 2014). Chris Peterson and Philip Schmidt will walk you through how to build this enchanting, double-purpose trellis. †They include several tips for optimizing the utility of your new clotheslines, including an optional pulley system, the role of turnbuckles, suggested materials for the wire, and much more.

If an indoors clothesline is more your speed, consider one readerís tips on how to repurpose a greenhouse during winter. She and her husband have a double clothesline in their greenhouse and keep some windows open in the greenhouse to let the moisture escape.

Regardless of whether your clothesline is indoors or outdoors, youíll need some way of keeping the clothespins contained. I use a repurposed tulip-bulb basket, but if youíre feeling fancy or just stylish, this DIY, European-style apron is the perfect afternoon sewing project. Brigitte Cornelius provides the pattern (available as a free PDF download) and details her process of whipping together this helpful accoutrement.

Finally, consider these vintage tips for making the most of your clothesline. White clothing can be hung in the sun, while colored clothing can be hung in the shade to prevent bleaching. (I’ve also found that hanging colored laundry inside-out helps to prevent bleaching in the sun as well.) Don’t let your clothing freeze; this will damage the fibers. Pin sheets, blankets, and tablecloths by the corners, rather than the middle. When taking the dried laundry down, set it down neatly in the basket.