By Juliette Fradin


Almost every summer, I go back to my native France, and it always strikes me that, from my great-grandmother to my friends, everybody hangs every load of laundry outside to dry. Backyard clotheslines may seem old-fashioned, but there are some great benefits to line-drying laundry. 

Juliette Fradin line drying 1
On a sunny day, head outside with your kids and line-dry your clothes while they play.
Photo credit: Juliette Fradin

I have been very serious about it for the past 10 months (especially since my dryer died!), when I decided to go old school and buy myself a rotary clothes line dryer. The switch is easier than I thought it would be, and I take full advantage of the sunny days and gentle breeze. 


You may think hanging a load of laundry takes a lot of time, but it is quite simple and quick. There are ample reasons to let Mother Nature work her miracle and provide that fresh scent and feel you can only get from the great outdoors. 


First, you become more aware  of how often you really need to wash clothes and decide if it can wait until a later time. You wash only when something is truly dirty. It saves you time, money and energy.


To be even more environmentally friendly, use cold water. Heating water for a load of laundry consumes 90% of the total energy required to wash that load. Add half a cup of white vinegar to the final rinse cycle to help dissolve the laundry detergent. Vinegar also acts as a natural fabric softener. Don’t worry, the vinegary smell will disappear when the clothes dry.


Second, air-drying is much easier on your clothes than drying them in a machine is.  A dryer can shrink fabric and cause tiny bits to break away —the fuzzy stuff in your dryer’s lint trap. Line-drying also reduces wrinkles. Hang pants and shorts inside out and by the hems, not the waistband. Since the clothes are weighed down by the water, they naturally stretch. To achieve a softer dry, give your clothes a good shake before hanging them on the line. Hang colored clothes in the shade or inside out to preserve the fabric dye, and hang whites in the sun to naturally bleach them. Full sun is also the best for socks, towels and underwear, as the sun’s UV rays quite effectively kill the bacteria that cause odor on these types of garments.


If you are sensitive to pollen, dry laundry indoors on a foldable rack while you wait for pollen season to pass. 


You might also have to line dry your clothes indoors if it’s raining or if you don’t have easy access to the outdoors. Use a drying rack that folds down when not in use or a retractable line for more hanging space. Be creative: Hang clothes on hangers from the shower rod, drape large items on the top of doors (they will dry quickly because heat rises), or simulate a breeze by turning on a ceiling fan, opening the windows or placing clothes near a heat vent. Air-drying your clothes indoors doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing venture. If you’re only able to air-dry some of your laundry, you’re off to a good start.


It is possible to line-dry clothes all year round. With cooler temps outdoors in winter, however, you’ll need more time or more breeze. Agitation speeds up the process. You might get freeze-dried clothes if it’s dry and cold outside, but clothes will be surprisingly dry when you bring them back into the house because of a process called sublimation (this is the process by which a solid — ice, in this case — changes directly to a gas, skipping the liquid state).


Third and most importantly, there is something very therapeutic about line-drying your clothes outside. Since I started line-drying my clothes, doing laundry has become a kind of ritual that keeps me in touch with the natural rhythms of the earth and helps keep me humble by reminding me of my small place in the universe. Along with many other simple rituals, it has made my life more satisfying.