Hanging Laundry To Dry Outdoors: Clothesline Helpers

Drying garments outdoors, done hit or miss, can be the most exhausting part of the wash-day procedure.

Here are a few rules to follow which will make less stooping and straining:

  • Don’t have the clothesline so high that each piece calls for stretching.
  • Before wheeling garments out, sort them in the basket in the order in which it is planned to hang them, ie., sheets together, towels together, etc. This will prevent chasing back and forth along the line, either carrying damp clothes or pulling the basket.
  • Buy a child’s wagon or build a little platform on wheels on which to trundle the garments along and save lifting the basket. (An old baby carriage with the hood removed would be ideal–serving both as basket and wagon.)
  • Hook the clothespin bag on the line and push it on ahead of you or rig up a little trolley wheel which will make pushing easier. (Here are some patterns to make your own).
  • To save sprinkling* take the items down while damp. Follow the same procedure noted above and take in similar pieces at the same time. Smooth and fold them, which will save time later and allow a bigger load in each basketful.
  • Arrange dresses and blouses on wooden hangers to make ironing easier.

Rights and Wrongs Of Hanging Items

As in everything else, there are rights and wrongs about hanging clothes. Here are some rights:

  • Clean the clothesline with a damp rag (do this after it’s up).
  • Be sure pins are clean and smooth.
  • Position white articles in the sun where they can bleach; colored fabrics in shade where they will not fade.
  • Place sheets and other large pieces first, fitting small pieces into the spaces.
  • Fold sheets in half, hem to hem. Position over line the long way with one-third of the folded sheet on one side, two-thirds on the other. Secure on either end and in the middle with clothespins.
  • Never hang anything by its corners or hems will tear.
  • Place towels with one-third of length over line, pillowcases the same, open end down.
  • Napkins, handkerchiefs, belts, etc., may be hung in groups. Make sure colored and white articles are not mixed.
  • If there seems to be a strain when an article is fastened with a clothespin, move more of the article over the line.
  • Be careful that the clothesline is not hung too close to bushes or any structure which garments may touch if the wind becomes stronger.
  • Hang shirts from yoke.

Sprinkling Tips

  • On hot sticky days, mildew will form rapidly. Do not let dampened items stand more than three or four hours. In the winter, they may be left overnight. Colored pieces should be sprinkled immediately before ironing.
  • A large salt shaker, a mason jar with holes poked in the metal cap or a clean whisk broom will aid in distributing water evenly.
  • Use warm water, since it penetrates and spreads more easily than cold.
  • Do large items first, one at a time. Small articles, handkerchiefs, dish towels, may be laid in piles, sprinkled and rolled together.
  • Heavy fabrics must be quite wet. Double areas, collars, cuffs, hems, also require more thorough sprinkling.
  • Roll garments smoothly, with as few wrinkles as possible. Pack them in clothes basket and cover with clean cloth.

Source: Woman’s Home Companion Household Book, 1948

*Sprinkling was a common method of preparing items for ironing…nowadays people prefer using the steam setting on their iron although some believe that certain items are ironed easier and turn out nicer when sprinkled damp first.

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What Readers Are Saying: 12 Comments
  1. Craig Meade says:

    Jeans. Should they be hung from the legs or the waist? Having done it hundreds times I think hanging by the legs is best – only because the waist area has multiple layers of cloth and is the slowest to dry. I figure the more that the waist area is waiving in the wind, the faster the jeans will dry.

  2. Moira Bruce says:

    Hanging pants from the legs also makes them less wrinkled. The weight of the “body” portion pulls down from the leg opening, keeping the fabric more taut while it dries.

  3. Denise says:

    How do I keep towels from feeling “Crunchie” after hanging them on the line?

    • Deb Hanson says:

      I also read that using vinegar in your rinse cycle helps with towels feeling stiff, haven’t tried this yet, but many swear to it.

      • Ramona says:

        We’ve been using our clothesline almost exclusively for two years. Using scratchy towels are complaints I hear most often. My solution is to dry them on the line, then toss them in the dryer for 5 to 10 minutes while slightly damp. If they are already dry, dampen a corner first. However, I’ve decided that the scent of fresh air, skin exfoliation and stimulated circulation are added benefits of using scratchy towels!

        • Sam says:

          The ‘crunchy’ is mostly due to laundry detergent that has not rinsed out. Most people use waaay too much detergent in the wash; either heaping a scoop or doubling etc. Try cutting back significantly on amount of detergent rather than wasting water with an additional rinse. The vinegar idea is solid too; it helps to rinse out the detergent or soap. A good snap of the towels both when hanging and taking down should also help. All together these will improve the feel of your line-dried towels significantly.

          • melissa says:

            I totally agree. Use less soap and vinegar in the rinse cycle also helps soften and fluff fibers. Snap those towels a few times when hanging up and when taking down. Great work out for the arms while you’re fluffing the towels.

    • Tracey says:

      You are putting them on the line too dry – if you reduce the spin speed of the wash the towels will take longer to dry but they won’t be stiff and crunchy. I use a spin speed of 600rpm or even less.

  4. bon says:

    Unfortunately, big thirsty towels were meant for dryers. If there is insufficient wind, they will not dry properly. To date, I haven’t found a remedy for this problem.

    My grandmother had a technique she used on items that were “sprinkled” but could not be ironed right away. Generally, she did this with cotton work shirts. Once sprinkled, she would fold them in half length-wise, roll them up tightly and put in the refrigerator until ready to iron. She claimed this made those cotton shirts iron very nicely.

  5. Trish says:

    Years ago the older man that installed my washing machine said you only need a Tablespoon of laundry powder maximum for a full load. That’s all that I have used for years and my washing is all clean.
    (When they changed to small boxes with ‘super’ cleaning soap powder, they didn’t change the size of their scoops to smaller ones!!)

  6. Nancy T says:

    I do not own a dryer and don’t want one. I have a wringer washer so my clothes are pretty wet when I hang them to dry. Despite using really old fashioned methods, I spend no more than an hour a week of my time on laundry. This includes everything – from washing – drying – to putting stuff away.

    I fold my sheets and blankets in half, then mark the top and bottom of the sheet/blanket with some stitches. It makes finding the exact center of the sheet easy when your hanging it up wet on the line or when your folding it alone later. I just look for the stiches when placing the sheets on the line and when it comes off the line, the exact center has been pressed in during drying.

    On not so great drying days, I hang my towels lengthwise on the line. This shortens their drying time. Shaking the towels so they make a snapping sound prior to hanging them prevents stiff towels and fluffs them as well.

    If it is raining tonight but is supposed to be a sunny day tomorrow, I will hang my towels and bedding out at night. Rainwater rinsed and sun dried clothes smell intoxicating.

    A cool windy day will dry your clothes as fast if not faster than a sunny but still day.

    I have a guest bath with a bathtub. I have a wooden dowel going across it. I hang everything, including underwear, on hangers. I close the shower curtain and forget about it until the next laundry day. Then I hang up everything in the closet – including underwear. The only thing I put in a drawer is socks. Once I have hung up the laundry to dry – the only chore left is hanging the dry laundry into my closet. I spend far less time on laundry than people who own dryers – and I pocket the savings.

    I purposely placed my clothesline right next to my back porch so that about 3′ of it runs parallel to the porch. That way it is very high off the ground but easy for me to reach. It is one of the kind of clothes lines with that rolls on 2 pulleys. Mine is about 50′. When I later enclosed the porch, we positioned a window so that I could continue hanging my laundry there. Works perfectly.

    • Irene says:

      Nancy, you are a woman after my own heart!
      When I was young, I didn’t own a washing machine, and I washed all my clothing in the bathtub with a toilet plunger. Then I rinsed it well and hung it up over the tub to dry. I swear I spent less time and effort doing laundry that way than I do now…

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