Friday, May 1, 2009

Airing My Dirty Laundry

The title isn't exactly accurate, since clothes on the line are already clean! I've only been hanging out my laundry for a few years, but here are a few things I've learned. I'll start with tips to consider when buying and placing a clothesline.

To determine where to place your line, study your yard. Figure out which spots are shady and sunny at various times of the day. Check the ground underneath where you'd like to put your line. If it's near a bird nest, or bird-friendly trees, you'll likely see (ahem) evidence of that. You'll also want to look for sap, leaves or other debris (pods, etc.) and anything else that might make your clean clothes not-so-clean anymore.

Keep in mind that the sun is weaker in the morning and stronger in the afternoon, and also stronger during the summer than the spring and fall.

For our clothesline, we purchased a retractable model at Menards. I can't remember the cost, but I'm thinking it was around $30. We attached the main side to our garage and the hook on the house. To use it, I pull the handle out of the main side across and hook it on the house. I then turn the wheel to tighten the line, and turn the lock knob. This keeps the lines taut. I like this type because I don't have to worry about ducking under it when I mow the grass. If clothes fall off, they fall onto the concrete patio and not in grass or mud. Most importantly, it's right outside the back door and our laundry room.

Here are some line-drying tips (and I know I'm kind of a geek about it!):

On items that have been through the wash but are still stained, hang them on the line so that the stain faces the sun. This would be toward the east in the morning, toward the west in the afternoon, or toward the south anytime.

To keep items from fading, I try to vary how I hang them out. Sometimes I will hang items backwards, so the back of the item is toward the sunny side. Or, if they came through the wash inside out, I won't bother to turn it right side out until it comes off the line.

You'll learn the pattern of how the weather affects your dry time. Hot, sunny, windy days will dry clothes faster than cool, cloudy, still days. The humidity is a big factor as well, and if you live in a dewy-morning type area, your clothes hung out in the morning will take longer to dry until the dew dries off.

I bought a bag or two of inexpensive wooden clothespins at Wal-Mart and unless I have a ton of tiny baby things to hang, I have more than enough pins. If you find you're running short, there are a few creative things to make your pins go farther. I always hang towels, wash cloths, dish cloths, diaper liners, etc. together. I pin the first one on one side (usually the right side first), then pin the second (left) side to the right side of the next item. So, for two items, I use three clothespins, except I extend it out across the line for as many pieces as I have.

Other means of conserving pins include hanging overalls by looping their straps over the line, hanging bibs by their ties or velcro closure over/around the line, and hanging onesies upside down and use their snaps. Keep in mind that clothes that aren't pinned to the line may slide around with the wind. If I want to get more clothes on the line but don't care about a somewhat slower dry time, I will hang two towels stacked together, two t-shirts stacked together, etc.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention my clothespin apron! You can see it hanging on the line on the left side of the photo above. My mother-in-law made it per my request . . . I told her I wanted to be able to wear it while wearing the Goose on either my front or back in the Ergo, and I wanted to be able to wear it while pregnant, should we be blessed again. Now that I know a bit about sewing, I realize how tall an order this was! I don't know how she did it but she nailed every point. Since the pockets are on the side, I can reach the pins whether I'm wearing it forwards or backwards. I wear it pretty much every time I hang clothes. It's wonderful!

Back to the laundry, sheets take up a ton of space but they dry quickly. I usually hang them out first and fill in slower-drying clothes around them, then check them after half an hour or so. If they're close to dry, I pull them down (see post-line-drying below) and put up the rest of the clothes. Hopefully the slower-drying ones have a head start and will be done about the same time as the more newly-hung ones.

When hanging items on the line, I try to balance weight on the lines both front to back and side to side. That means that I neither place all the jeans on one single line, nor place all the jeans on the left hand side of my line. Further, because my lines vary in tautness, as I'm hanging clothes up I place heaver items on lines that are tighter. So, let's say I have a sweatshirt, a pair of jeans, and a t-shirt left to hang. I'll look at my lines and determine which is pulled down the least (the one that is tightest) and hang the jeans on that line. The next-highest line gets the sweatshirt, and the lowest (least tight) line gets the t-shirt. Yes, this is a bit geeky, but if I always hung jeans on the same line, they'd be dragging on the ground before long because the lines stretch.

Sometimes I will hang heavy or thick-waisted items (like jeans) upside down, or by the ankles or bottom hem. This saves a bit of space, too! If I have delicate items on which I don't want to leave pin marks, I sometimes hang those upside down, too. If you notice an item is wrinkled, try to smooth or straighten it when you hang it. I've found this to be especially effective on pant legs and jeans, and hemlines that tend to roll.

While I use my clothesline early spring through late fall, I still use my dryer some. I have found that if I don't dry our socks, they seem to stretch out and don't stay up as well. That is to say, they need the heat to shrink back down. For me, socks are a bit more trouble than they're worth on the line because they take up a lot of pins (even if you pin a pair together) and take a long time to dry.

I also take things for a tumble after coming off the line to make sure they are dry, soften them up, and remove the tiny bugs that like to hang out on them! I'm not sure what the critters are - they're black and white with wings, and they tend to chomp on me a bit as I'm taking clothes down. I don't want them biting the Goose, so most everything goes for a spin after it comes down. I usually just throw the wet socks in the dryer as they come out of the washer, and then later put a load of clothes off the line in with them. The dampness from the socks helps soften and remove wrinkles, too.

If you had a stained item, check it before drying! If the stain is not gone, don't put it in the dryer. Treat it again next time it comes through the wash and continue to sun the stain. Or put the item back out on the line the next day or two for several hours to try and sun it out. This will likely also fade the color of the item, though, so keep that in mind.

Do you have any line-drying tips or tricks? I'd love to hear how you do it! For more frugal ideas, visit Life As Mom here for Frugal Fridays.


Laura@HeavenlyHomemakers said...

Yay...I LOVE hanging my clothes out in the sun! It makes me SO happy and they smell SO good and fresh and clean and...I guess I'm a geek about it too. :)

The Messy Mom said...

I agree with Laura, love the smell. Thanks for the tips.

Mom2fur said...

I love hanging my clothes out. My dog, Shadow, loves it, too. He gets very excited when I come upstairs with a laundry basket, because he knows it means we're going out in the backyard!
I agree about planning your line according to the sunshine. We didn't do that, so I'm limited to a few hours a day. Well, live and learn for the next house!

Jimmy said...

I love that my wife loves to hang my laundry outside. No one does that anymore.

Emily said...

Great tips! I am finding out about the downfalls of having a clothesline between 2 trees, I've had to rewash a few items because of bird droppings. But it's the best place for our clothesline to be without having to put up an extra pole in our yard. Hopefully the positives of line drying clothes will outweigh the negatives! :)