Should You Dry Your Clothes on a Clothesline?

Should You Dry Your Clothes on a Clothesline?

Backyard clotheslines provide a simple, low-tech, eco-friendly, money-saving method for drying your family’s clothes.

Drying your clothes on a clothesline uses less energy, increases the life of your clothes and reduces your need for bleach to keep your whites looking their whitest.

However, clotheslines are actually quite controversial and have caused some significant battles between neighbors and between homeowners’ associations and homeowners.

The use of clotheslines is actually banned or severely restricted in cities and housing communities across the country.

Although the effectiveness and utility of clotheslines have been proven over the generations through everyday use as families’ primary or only way to dry clothes, opponents are determined to ban or restrict their use everywhere they can.

Those who are against the use of clotheslines usually use some or all of the following arguments to lobby against their use:

1. Folks do not want to see their neighbor’s underwear blowing in the wind.

2. Home values will go down if clotheslines are introduced.

3. It will make neighborhoods look like lower-income communities.

4. If people want to use clotheslines, they can use them indoors where they will not be seen.

5. Clotheslines will not lower energy use as much as proponents say they will.

6. They pose a potential strangulation risk for children.

7. Homeowners’ associations and community managers argue that there is not enough room in condominium and townhouse complexes for the inclusion of clotheslines.

8. Housing communities also argue that clotheslines will cause disagreements between neighbors.

9. Homeowners’ associations argue that allowing clothesline use within certain parameters would increase code-enforcement issues, disputes and potential lawsuits.

Clothes Dryer

While some cities ban or restrict clothesline use within city limits, it is mostly folks who live in communities with Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs) who are affected by clothesline bans.

Condominium communities, townhouse complexes, apartment buildings and master-planned communities often have bans or serious restrictions regarding clothesline use.

Fortunately for us, California is a Right to Dry state – yes, the clothesline controversy is such a big deal that states allowing clothesline use are actually called Right to Dry states.

In these 19 states, bans on clotheslines are prohibited, which means you can use a backyard clothesline, even if your homeowners’ association bans them.

Unfortunately, most people are not aware of this, and those who are often do not want to go up against their housing community to fight the ban.

Of course, some homeowners living in areas that celebrate the positive aspects of clothesline use might still be a bit reticent when it comes to installing one in their own backyard.

This is particularly true if they are concerned about the visual appeal of their outdoor living areas.

Once you have weighed the pros and cons of line drying your clothes, you just might come to the conclusion that a backyard clothesline is for you.

Towels on a Clothesline

Benefits of Drying Your Clothes on a Clothesline

Here are just 13 of the benefits you can enjoy when you choose to line dry your clothes:

1. There are more than 15,000 dryer fires every year; clotheslines negate the need for dryers, so they reduce this risk.

2. The gentle bleaching action of the sun can keep your whites whiter without the need for bleach.

3. Clothes that are consistently dried on a line, rather than in a clothes dryer, last longer and show less wear and tear.

4. You are sure to fall in love with how fresh and clean your clothes smell when dried outdoors on a line.

5. Clothes dryers use lots of energy, so whether you have an electric dryer or a gas one, you will save energy by hanging your clothes to dry instead.

6. Lower energy use means lower utility bills, so line drying clothes is an easy way to save money.

7. Reducing your energy consumption is good for the environment, so this is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint.

8. Spending time outdoors is good for your physical and mental well-being.

9. Hanging wet clothes on a clothesline requires bending, lifting and reaching, which means you can get some exercise and burn some calories while doing laundry.

10. The sun does not shrink clothes like clothes dryers do.

11. The sun also does not cause static cling, and you can save money by not buying dryer sheets.

12. No static cling also means no static hiding your socks away inside the arms of your sweaters, so this could mean an end to the lost-sock phenomenon.

13. Zippers and bra hooks can snag on sweaters and damage clothes in conventional dryers; this is not an issue when line drying your clothes.

Folding Umbrella Clothesline Sold at Lowes

Cons of Line Drying Your Clothes

Aside from aesthetics, there are not many cons to drying clothes on a line.

Here are a few cons you might want to consider:

1. It takes longer for clothes to dry on a clothesline than in a dryer.

2. Some clotheslines can take away from the overall visual appeal of your yard.

3. Like dryers, the sun can fade colored clothes over time.

4. You may not want your intimates handing on a line for your neighbors to see.

5. Outdoor clotheslines are not very effective on rainy days.

Other than the fact that clothes dry slower on a line, there are solutions to all of the other potential cons of using eco-friendly clotheslines.

Choosing a Clothesline

Choosing the right clothesline is probably the most important factor in whether or not you achieve line drying success.

It also will have a huge impact on how long you stick with this eco-friendly, money-saving method.

The wrong line – and a few bad experiences – results in some well-intentioned homeowners running back to their electric and gas dryers before they have really had the chance to give line drying a try.

But starting your line drying journey off right with a good clothesline that fits your needs and lifestyle will set you on the path to success.

Most of us probably think of the tall metal poles with lines strung between them that were permanent fixtures in our grandparents’ backyards, but clothesline design has come a long way since then.


Here is a quick rundown of some of the most popular clothesline options available today:

1. Folding Rotary Clotheslines

These have a single pole coming up from the ground and four arms at the top, allowing for four sides with lines strung across.

The arms can be folded down to take up less room when not in use.

2. Fixed Head Rotary Clotheslines

This option has been around for years and may be what you remember seeing your grandmother use when you were young.

A single pole rises from the ground and has four arms at the top for running lines on four sides.

These do not fold down and are permanent structures that really only work in yards with lots of room to spare.

3. Folding, Portable Clotheslines

Most home stores sell some version of a folding, portable clothesline system that may look like those mentioned above or may look more like an accordion.

Umbrella clotheslines fall into this category.

The nice thing about this option is that it can be folded up and stowed out of sight when not in use.

4. Fold-Down Drying Racks

This option is usually attached to a wall or fence and lies against the structure when not in use.

When you need to dry your clothes, you simply pull the drying rack up or down (depending on the style) and use it as you would any other clothesline.

This popular option saves space when not in use and can also be used for items that need to be dried flat, such as sweaters.

5. Retractable Clotheslines

Retractable lines are an increasingly popular option, particularly for folks who care about both convenience and visual appeal.

Retractable clothes lines can come with a single line or up to about six lines.

They are usually permanently attached to a wall or fence.

When not in use, they take up very little room, and smaller options are not that noticeable on a wall.

When you are ready to use your retractable line, you simply pull the line out and attach it to a mount on another wall or fence.

Single-line retractable clotheslines are fine for small, light items, but you will need one with multiple lines if you plan on drying heavier items, such as blankets.

6. T-Pole Clotheslines

These are the classic clotheslines most of us remember seeing when we were kids.

Like most things built back in the day, this utilitarian, permanently installed option is generally the strongest and sturdiest.

Feel free to throw your wet comforters and other heavy items over the lines on this one.

The downside to this option is that they are very visible, take up a lot of room and are not that attractive.


Tips for Successful Line Drying

Once you have chosen the right clothesline to best meet your needs, here are some tips to help ensure a satisfying experience drying your clothes outdoors.

1. Add ½ cup distilled white vinegar to your washer to remove more detergent residue and keep your clothes soft.

2. Hang clothes upside down to avoid the weight of the wet clothes stretching them.

3. Minimize fading by turning clothes inside out before hanging them to dry.

4. Place your clothesline in the sunniest area of your yard for faster drying.

5. Dry sweaters and similar items laying flat on a drying rack, instead of hanging them to dry.

6. We do not get much rain in Southern California, but you can install a retractable clothesline on your covered patio or use your portable clothesline on your patio to be able to dry clothes on rainy days.

7. If you do not want to argue with your homeowners’ association about their illegal ban on clotheslines, you can always use a retractable or portable option in your laundry room, garage or kitchen.

8. The lines on permanent clotheslines can become dirty over time, so remember to wipe them down periodically.

9. Make use of an under-used side yard by installing a permanent or retractable clothesline, which will allow you to save room and keep it out of the view from your outdoor entertaining areas.

10. For the greatest convenience, try to place your line as close as possible to the exterior door nearest your laundry room.

11. Keep your clothesline away from trees and other areas where birds may hang out.

Additional Money-Saving, Eco-Friendly Tips for Drying Clothes

Here are a few more tips that can help you save money and lower your carbon footprint while drying your clothes:

1. You can still save money and energy by drying just some of your laundry outside if you do not want your unmentionables in view of your neighbors.

2. If you continue using your clothes dryer, designate a weekly laundry day when you will do multiple loads.

Drying loads one right after another allows you to use less energy by taking advantage of residual heat from the last load.

3. You can also save energy (and ironing time) by taking clothes out of the dryer when they are still just a little damp and hanging them up to finish drying.

4. You can refresh your bed pillows by placing them outside on your clothesline instead of in your clothes dryer.

The sun and fresh air will remove moisture, make them smell fresh again and make them fluffier.

Your Turn…

What are your favorite ways to save money and energy when doing laundry?

Let us know in the comments below.

Photo Credits (in order of appearance): morgueFile, clarita; morgueFile, raymortim; morgueFile, Kevin_P;;;