How to Air Dry Clothes: 15 Practical Tips

If you’ve ever wondered how to air dry clothes – or why you should consider air-drying, have I got a treat for you.

I’ve been air-drying since I was a kid. Feeling the soft, morning dew under my bare feet as I propped the support post (a piece of 2 by 4 timber) just so, giving the overloaded wire line the central support it needed as it strung from a post on the porch to an old tree in the garden.

The memory of hanging the washing on my grandmother’s DIY clothesline (as they all were then) as a child, to becoming something of a clothesline connoisseur as the matron of my household, it’s fair to say I know clotheslines.

When I was a kid we had a large rotary dryer that doubled as climbing bars. After my parents downsized, there was only space for a retractable clothesline.

Now, in my own home, I have a large rotary clothesline which fits huge amounts of washing on it.

I’m in love with my clothesline. This is a good thing as we don’t actually own or have space for an electric clothes dryer. For us, it’s air dry on the clothesline or bust.

Benefits of Air Drying Your Clothes

There are so many reasons to consider air drying your clothes.

1. It’s almost free

The ongoing costs to air dry are minimal. There’s no need to pay for electricity or dryer sheets.

After you’ve chosen the right clothesline for your home, and some good clothespins – you’re golden.

2. A clothesline requires little maintenance

Outdoor clotheslines are made to deal with the weather. They are hardy and most come with long warranties.

You’ll probably need to replace the line at some stage if they start to sag, but this is a cheap and easy thing to do, and we’re talking years, not months.

3. Good for the environment

No electricity was used, and no weird lint going into the landfill.

4. No shrinkage

I don’t know about you but when I use a dryer, I fear for my clothes.

Shrinking is a big deal when you hate shopping and try to live minimally, so I need my clothes to last. No worries with line drying.

5. Less damage to clothing

Your clothes will last longer if they are line dried.

6. Save space in your laundry room (if you don’t have a dryer)

You might not be as extreme as me, but you never know; after you’ve become a hang drying convert, you might be ready to get rid of your dryer, which is very helpful if you have a small laundry room.

7. No ironing!

Hang your clothes the right way, and you’ll never need to iron again. I don’t iron (or even own an iron or ironing board).

The Best Way to Hang Your Clothes

Here are a few tips and tricks for hanging your clothes on the line.

1. Half a cup of white vinegar added to your wash will soften items like towels before you hang them. More white vinegar uses here.

2. Give your clothes a quick hard shake or snap to prevent wrinkles before you hang them on the line

3. Turn your clothes inside out to protect colors and prints

4. Hang items upside down from the seams with wooden clothespins

5. Hang heavy items towards the back of your line. For example, towels and sheets would be towards the back with t-shirts and underwear to the front. This allows the wind to travel freely, not obscuring any items. This is more important when it’s not a super sunny day.

6. Use hangers for delicate items and preferably hang in the shade to reduce fade.

If this is not possible, reduce the amount of time they are in the direct sunlight. Lighter items will dry more quickly anyway.

7. Hang pants, slacks or jeans by the inner line seams. This will maintain the crease and eliminate the need to iron.

How to avoid fade when line drying

One of the most common concerns about line drying clothes is that they will fade from being in the sun. It’s a valid concern and makes perfect sense considering sun damage to articles left in the elements.

The truth is that the sun will cause your clothes to fade quicker. But I still think the small amount of (avoidable) sun damage is a worthwhile tradeoff for the huge benefits of line drying including less damage to clothing compared to using a tumble dryer.

Hang inside out

Hang your items inside out on the clothesline. Any prints or colors on the outside of the garment will be protected, and fading (if any) will be limited to the inside of the item.

Hang in the shade

For very delicate items, we recommend using a portable clothes drying rack and moving it into the shade. As long as there is a breeze or warm air, your clothes will still dry in the shade.

Line dry overnight

Weirdo alert – one of my favorite things to do on warm summer nights is run a cold wash through my washing machine as soon as the kids go to bed, then hang my clothes on my rotary washing line in the dark.

I love standing in my back garden on a clear, starry night and arranging my washing on the clothes line.

It’s almost meditative. I know I’m a total weirdo. But, I’ll often wake up to dry clothes, If there’s dew, usually an hour in the morning sun (when UV rays are lower) will do the trick.

Line dry inside

We have some washing line rope strung from wall to wall in our laundry room.

If it’s raining outside or I am worried about an item being damaged on our rotary clothesline, I’ll hang it inside and keep the window wide open.

There are some health risks associated with line drying your washing inside, so taking steps to mitigate them are smart.

Line drying inside is my absolute last resort. You could also hang a retractable washing line in your garage, or under a porch so you could line dry out of the sun.

Don’t overdry

Depending on your local climate, your garments could dry in a matter of hours.

When we have a gusty easterly I can get my washing dry in under an hour which is delightful.

You hardly ever need to leave your washing on the line all day, so to reduce the chance of fading, minimize sun exposure and bring your washing in as soon as it’s dry.

Whites only on the line

If you really can’t stand the idea of your colors fading, then it’s best to stick to whites-only on the line.

The sun does wonders with whites, killing stains and making sheets feel amazing.

It’s totally fine to line dry what you can. Small changes make a big difference to the environment and your electric bill.

It’s no secret that line drying can cause colored items to fade, but with some clever planning, you can still line dry your colors with minimal sun exposure, keeping them brighter and in better condition than if you used an electric dryer.

Which type of clothesline is best?

The best clothesline for your home depends on the size of your garden and your laundry requirements.

Below is a little more info about each type of clothesline:

Rotary Clotheslines

Rotary clotheslines (sometimes known as rotary dryers) are large rotating clotheslines which move with the wind.

If you have a lot of space in your garden, a rotary dryer is excellent for fitting full loads of bed sheets and towels.

It’s perfect for a family-sized wash. We have a rotary clothesline in our garden.

Umbrella clotheslines are rotary clotheslines which invert like an umbrella to lift the outer lines higher.

The inversion allows for maximum spinning and is perfect if you don’t get a lot of direct sunlight in your garden, or the clothesline is obscured by a fence line.

My fave rotary clothesline is the Brabantia Lift-o-matic because it’s removable, height adjustable and tough as heck. Check it out here>>

I also have a comprehensive guide to rotary clotheslines here.

Retractable clotheslines

Retractable clotheslines are handy for smaller gardens or courtyards, where space is at a premium.

The Minky Outdoor Retractable Clothesline gives you 49 feet of hanging space, or 98 feet if you go for the double line pack. It’s a great budget option.

Often mounted between a house and a shed or fence, you can hang the clothesline when you need it and retract it back when you don’t.

Larger retractable clotheslines (like this Household Essentials retractable clothesline) can still hold a lot of laundry so they are often the best option for families with a small garden.

Folding clothesline

If you are in an apartment with a balcony, a folding clothesline can be mounted outside so you can still air dry.

These will hold less than a large clothesline, but you still get the benefit of air drying.

This design from Smart Dryer has loads of uses.

Portable clothesline

If you have a homeowners association which won’t allow clotheslines (this is the most ridiculous rule I’ve ever heard of, but it definitely happens), a portable clothesline is your best bet. I really like this design by Whirligig – read more reviews and check the price here

I really hope this guide to air drying your clothes is helpful. If you have any line or air drying tips to share, please add them in the comments.

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About Emma

Hey there! I'm Emma. When I'm not wrangling kids I like to walk aimlessly around hardware stores and watch HGTV for hours on end.

2 thoughts on “How to Air Dry Clothes: 15 Practical Tips”

  1. I’m a summer-time-dry-over-night weirdo too! When we moved into our current home we had a rotary clothesline but it was strangely too low, made worse by uneven ground underneath it that was difficult to mow. If you hung sheets on the line they ended up in the grass! Less than idea. We ended up taking it out. I’ve been using portable drying racks ever since. What I love about that is that I can put them out in full sun, if it’s raining I can bring them under the porch and I can bring them inside to finish drying if need be.

    • I’ve seen that before where a clothesline was mounted really low (I assumed it was for someone short before adjustable clotheslines height were available). Drying racks are great too. We did that in our last apartment, shifting it around to wherever the sun was at the time.


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