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Pins and lines

During my early teen years, our clothes dryer was broken beyond repair. My parent’s immediate solution was to string a line across the backyard and buy clothespins. Our desert climate lent itself to air drying, so that is what we did for a long time.

My mom taught my siblings and I to hang clothes. Eventually, the long line was replaced by an umbrella-style configuration of clotheslines in the spot our jungle gym used to stand. Hanging wet clothes by wooden pins on hot summer days was not my favorite chore, so when we finally got a new dryer I was the happiest girl in town. I vowed to never hang clothes on a line again.

Then came $4.00 a gallon for gasoline and the domino effect skyrocketing prices of everything else. We began looking for ways to save money when I came upon this post at the Mommy Life blog.

I was surprised to learn clothes dryers rank second in household energy use, behind heating and cooling. It makes sense that they suck up so much power. Between the heating element and the tumbling, it would take a lot of power to keep it cranking and fluffing.

I do a lot of laundry. It’s a daily chore. If I don’t do at least one load every day, it quickly snowballs. I began to wonder what impact we’d make if I stopped using our dryer, so I shared my idea with my husband. He was all for it. We began to research laundry lines. Our first findings were really discouraging. Inexpensive lines were too short. Some of the umbrella styles we found were in the range of $250—which I couldn’t imagine spending in the name of saving money.

Finally, we found an umbrella style in our price range. I was excited by the 250 feet of line, which meant plenty of room to hang multiple loads. We selected a spot on the side of our house, away from where the kids play and behind our little blue spruce tree. Because we live along a well-traveled green belt, I didn’t want something terribly obvious. People walk on the path to enjoy nature and fresh air, not to see my bloomers flapping in the breeze. Also, we are lucky to live in a subdivision without restrictive rules regarding things like clotheslines or house color. Just ask the people a few blocks over with the two-story Barney-purple house.


I began using our clothesline two weeks ago. Colorado has the perfect climate for line-drying—high and dry. The clothes I hang are dry very quickly. They smell so fresh. Yes, they are a little stiff, but by the time I shake them and fold them, they are okay and wearable. The only things I will not hang on the line are our bath towels, hand towels, and washcloths. I will continue using the dryer for those items.

There has been a bit of trial and error as I had to remember what my mom taught me about hanging clothes. Shirts upside-down, full dresses by the shoulder seams, socks paired for easy balling, string shirts together and save clothespins by sharing corners. It is more time-consuming to hang clothes, but I’ve recruited the kids to help me. They are excited by our new backyard ornament. The novelty will wear off eventually, I know, but I am happy they have this new housekeeping skill. I’m happy they see they don’t have to push a button on a big white box all the time. We’ve explained we hope this will save our family money.


I’m hoping we’ll be able to line dry for most of the year. I am realistic about the coming winter, but if a day is mildly warm, I’ll be out there with my basket, pinning and pinning and pinning.

Here is an excellent resource if you are interested in line drying, too: Project Laundry List.

25 comments to Pins and lines

  • Oh! What a thought! My mother, grandmother, and aunt all used to hang laundry out on the clothesline. Many fond memories of running around barefoot outside as they hung and took down flooded my mind as I read your post. The forgotten clothesline! I should seriously look into doing that myself. What a great way to save money! Especially if we stopped being lazy using the dryer every morning to de-wrinkle instead of ironing 🙂

    Have a beautiful, blessed Friday!

    Lisa’s last blog post..A teachable moment

  • When we are able to move to a place with room for a clothesline, I so want to do that. Glad to hear that you are enjoying it!

    Have a great weekend!

    Shara’s last blog post..So you think you can dance?

  • Ali

    It does save a lot of energy. We don’t even own a dryer, mainly because we didn’t at first have room and then just got used to not having one. We live in humid South Carolina and it does take longer for the clothes to dry but we hang dry all of our clothes/towels/sheets/everything. The Pro’s are: reduced energy cost, clothes tend to last longer as dryer heat breaks down the fabric and elastic, color doesn’t fade as quickly, fresh air smell (if your area has fresh air that is). The Con’s are: If you need to wash/clean something quick, quick is not what your going to get, you have to plan ahead with your wardrobe, towels are crispy but once they hang in a bathroom that has been steamed up from a shower they tend to loosen up. You will have to iron more if you are a messy hanger, weather dependent (get a drying rack to hang inside if need be) Tips: NEVER wash towels with your other clothes even if they are in the same color category. This keeps fluffy stuff from attaching to your clothes that the Dryer usually captures in the lint catcher/thingy, don’t leave your clothes outside overnight (strange crawly things find there way into the clothes and morning dew makes them wet again and you really will have to wash the load again).

  • So why aren’t you hanging the towels? I wish I had a clothes line. My favorite hung-to-dry item is towels in my opinion. They are so much more absorbent and I don’t care for soft-I don’t like a soft towel anyway.

    I wanted a line, but darling hubby said it is an eye sore. Plus he doesn’t want to mow around it. Oye!

    Joanne’s last blog post..Thunk Thursday

  • Some of my fondest memories are hanging clothes with my grandma. You’re right about the towels though. It does make them too stiff.

    midlife mommy’s last blog post..Eyes to the East, Feet Planted Firmly in the West

  • That was always my chore in the summer- to hang out the laundry. I never minded too much because you just can’t get that fresh smell any other way.

    We went to the waterpark recently and our beachtowels weren’t quite dry when it was time to leave. My husband said “you know, you can dry things in the sun. I did it while I was in Iraq.” Oh, thanks for that knowledge, honey. I never would have known that otherwise!

    Cyndi’s last blog post..Trouble comes in threes

  • Sounds great, and nothing beats the smell of fresh clothing. (Truly fresh, not liquid All with “Morning Sunshine” scent.) We had two poles in our back yard for a laundry line when we first moved in, but we eventually took them out. They were pretty rusty. Even so, I kind of wish we hadn’t.

    The climate here is very humid, even in the “winter” (air quotes because a land that rarely sees snow or dips below freezing can’t be said to have a true winter, in my opinion), but I wonder if it would be worth trying to hang laundry outside anyway. Our electric bill has been astronomical.

    Anyway, glad you’ve found something that works. Will you post an update in a few months to let us know if the savings are significant?

  • My mom still hangs stuff out on her clothes line. Maybe I should…

    Do you have to label all 270 pencils too?!

    Kristin’s last blog post..Thoughts Flowing Through my Head

  • Our dryer was broken from Thanksgiving through April and I was busy hanging cloths on the line and my husband told our friends we were going green. We did save money.

    Happy Mommy’s last blog post..sincerely Fro Me To You ~ Summer Fun BABY

  • When we got our clothesline, I had mixed feelings – thought it would take up so much more time. But I love it – it’s a pleasant chore – the smell of fresh air, the breeze, and the wonderful smell that air-dried clothes carry. There’s a reason that dryer sheets come in “fresh linen” scent – and they just can’t quite capture the real thing.

    I like my towels crunchy too – they are more absorbent that way – and you get used to it. But you can just fluff them in the dryer for a few minutes when you bring them in – using less energy them drying them fully.

    Angela’s last blog post..Paper Crafting: Pull Tab Embellishments

  • Well, you know I’m jealous. I still cannot talk The Mr into a clothesline. And who cares what our HOA has to say about it anyway? For now, I just hang some of our laundry on the deck railings. We’ll just see what they think is more trashy; clothes hanging on the deck railings or clothes on a clothesline. heh heh.

    Stacey’s last blog post..Busy-ness

  • Very cool. In the Oklahoma humidity, I’m pretty sure it’d take a week to dry anything, LOL. But I’d like to try, honestly.

    Jenni’s last blog post..I Have Been Extremely Itchy Busy

  • We have pretty humid weather, and no yard that we own. Wonder how the neighbors would feel if we hung one of those pulley lines between our deck and theirs? 🙂

    I’ve used one of those folding racks indoors for years. I dry most items about 1/2 way and then put them on the rack.

    I’d be interested in hearing how much $ you’re saving if you do a follow-up post.

    Minnesotamom’s last blog post..Minnesota’s North Shore

  • My mom hung clothes outside on “the line” in the summer. Nothing smells more fresh than clothes off the line and I like that kind of crispy feel they get. Now (sigh) I buy detergent and dryer sheets that try to mimic that smell.

    Antique Mommy’s last blog post..Thoughtful

  • Gorgeous photos.

    I have such fond memories of hanging sheets on the line when I was a kid. They were like whimsical tents, blowing in the breeze.

    Heth’s last blog post..What I Did on Summer Vacation Besides Go To The Pool Everyday

  • edj

    Overseas (at least where I’ve been), no one has dryers. My kids learned what one was this year! I must admit I have been very happy to have one. 🙂 But I applaud you in going back to line-drying, which is what I’m doing myself once we leave. 🙁

    edj’s last blog post..Goodbye, Purple Rap Candidate

  • I have a similar history (broken dryer in childhood led to Mom recruiting tween-aged daughter for clothesline duty). But I didn’t hate it. And, like you, we do a lot of laundry.

    And so, the past couple of years I’ve started stringing a line between a tree and the jungle gym in the back yard and hanging clothes. By choice. As an adult.

    The kids help a little bit. Even our young boy. But I find that I enjoy the quiet, slow motions of hanging them myself. The dog trots out alongside me and flops down to chew a bone, knowing I’ll be out there for about fifteen minutes. I like seeing the breeze fly against the clothes, puffing them up. All that free energy drying them for free!

    I had not read the actual stats on how much energy is required to keep a dryer going. I just knew it was high and that drying clothes on the line was a super-easy, cheap solution.

    Thanks for writing about it. It’s nice to know that others are making that shift.

    Ann Kroeker’s last blog post..Eco-Friendly Experiments: Bicycling to Church (and thoughts on patience)

  • Beth

    I LOVE to line dry. One of the things I like doing is putting all of my hanging clothes on hangars – straight from the laundry line into my closet! Just line up the shoulder seams carefully so you don’t get hangar bumps in the corner and you are good to go. It saves line space and time.

  • I enjoy hanging everything out. I have two retractable lines so when they aren’t in use, they disappear! In the winter I hang them inside on a huge rack but that isn’t as satisfying!

    Debbie’s last blog post..Jane, Stop This Crazy Thing

  • Gretchen M.

    What will you do in the winter? Our HOA doesn’t “allow” lines, but when we moved in to this house, the previous owners had “hidden” a line about 4 feet from the ground, so it couldn’t be seen from outside the back wall. I don’t hang, but feel guilty about it. Here near LA, the air pollution would stick to the clothes pretty quickly!

  • It’s funny I should read this today, because I have been thinking about line drying for a little while now. I just mentioned to Hubs last night that I was thinking about it. We live in an apartment, so I would have a small area and the line would have to be strung between the two fence “walls” on either side of our patio, but I could at least dry the cloth diapers out there and maybe the towels.


    Valerie’s last blog post..My How He’s Grown

  • When I lived in England I briefly line dried, but I had forgotten all about it. What a great idea!

    Heidi @ hadleyesque’s last blog post..The Problem with Drama

  • Ann

    Hello, Gretchen! Thanks for your comment on my blog, it’s great to hear from you. We’re on vacation, the same place Heth and her family went. I just haven’t been keeping up with blogs at all, haven’t even hardly been using my computer. That will change once the weather cools down and we’re inside more.

    I’ve been thinking of you and hope all is well!

    Ann’s last blog post..Owen’s Question

  • Can you believe that i have NEVER owned a clothes dryer? Shocking..I know

    Melany’s last blog post..Just so sad

  • I like it. I remember hanging clothes to dry at my Nana’s house and I always loved it. It’s something I should try to do here as well. Thanks for the reminder of this great way to save energy – I’ll have to think about a way to incorporate it from a practical standpoint.

    Beth – total mom haircut’s last blog post..Beth’s Recipe For Birthday Success

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