June baby steps challenge: air dry laundry

That’s my husband, and that’s me in the background hanging the laundry. But this isn’t our house, this is the London home we stayed in last summer when we did a house swap with a couple there. It was fabulous: they stayed in our home in Los Angeles and we stayed in theirs in London. It felt just like living there, and was much more fun that staying in a hotel, on top of being actually affordable.

Our “exchange partners” had a very small washing machine in the kitchen, and didn’t even own a dryer. Since it rains a lot in London, even in the summer, a lot of days we were hanging laundry inside the house. When it was fairly nice out, we’d hang it outside. Hanging out the clothes seemed to be much more common there, so it made us start thinking about doing it back in L.A.

In May, I issued this baby steps challenge to stop those catalogs and junk mail once and for all. So far, I’ve accomplished 75 percent of that goal, and I won’t be able to see the full effect for a couple of months. But I feel good about the progress I’ve made on that issue so far. Now for June, I think using a clothesline to air dry the laundry is appropriate for the warm weather.

I’ve got to admit I have some trepidation about air drying the laundry. I know it’s absolutely better for the environment. But I’ve resisted because I know it will take more time, I’m not crazy about the aesthetic of the line hanging across the backyard, and I actually worry that the smoggy air isn’t healthy for drying clothes. But I’m moving forward, with a little nudge from my husband. Because even without my asking him, he’s put a clothesline up in our backyard. It even took him some time, because he had to saw the poles to the proper length and install a retractable line. Now all we have to do is actually use it.

Do you want to join me in the June baby steps challenge? Or maybe you’ve been air drying your laundry for years. Either way, let me know in the Comments section.


  1. Book a Day says

    Hanging laundry is the best! It dries quickly in the summer. I always fluff for 2 minutes in the dryer to get rid of bugs. :)

  2. hiptobeme says

    The sun is a natural bleacher and kills bacteria. Once you get used to it you will love it. Growing up we always hung our clothes, I miss that fresh smell. Now I live in a condo and rules prevent me from hanging a line. Boo to silly rules :( I can still dry inside though and I often have things hanging from my shower rod and clothes rack.

  3. Alea says

    I second air drying for a couple minutes; I do it to remove pollen.

    If you don’t take to air drying your laundry you can always use the poles as May Poles for a midsummer’s night festival!

  4. Debbie says

    I actually hanging clothes on the line, for some reason it is a very satisfying activity. These days I live in an apartment with no outside space to hang, but I still hang my clothes on a rack inside. I like the hanging, but don’t like the rack taking up space. You might actually come to like it!

  5. An ostrich named Sam says

    I love hanging laundry outside but right now my line is out of commission, and won’t be up and running until early July. :(
    I live on the east coast of Canada and every home in my neighbourhood has a clothesline. One of the most beautiful sights is an orderly line of clothes blowing in a breeze! People still comment on who hangs their clothes the right way. I can still hear my grandmother talking about neighbours who hung their clothes haphazardly. ( It drove her crazy) Thanks for bringing up some good memories.

  6. Ellen says

    I'd love to see a picture of your new clothesline–I think the retractable one will be less obtrusive than I expect and may encourage me to get one. There's so much dirt that comes into my apartment that I find it hard to think of line drying as CLEAN. And, I've seen a mouse recently, so I don't want any more wires or lines that mice, rats, or squirrels can traverse upon. But I know I waste Money when I waste Electricity using my electric dryer.

  7. Jinger says

    I live in an apartment, thus a clothes line is not possible. However, I do dry small loads on a drying rack on my porch. I'd love to hang out sheets for that fresh clean scent.

  8. simplyvarga says

    I LOVE hanging my laundry to dry. The smell is heavenly.
    It really doesn't take much extra time. And I enjoy doing it, it's almost a zen, mindful type thing for me.
    A few tips to avoid crunchy clothes. Use way less detergent than you are used to. It's amazing how little you need. Put vinegar in the dispenser for liquid softener. Also, before you hang give your clothes a quick snap. The only clothes that I run through the dryer for a few minutes are my lint collecters i.e. black clothing and polar fleece items. I completely air dry towels but you might want to run them through the dryer for a minute or two as well.

  9. Lynn says

    I love air drying clothes, but clotheslines are not allowed in our neighborhood. I am thinking though that I could get a stand up dryer rack and dry them on my deck. I remember hanging all my laundry when I was young mother, and using cloth diapers. Am I giving away my age??? :o)

  10. Angela says

    thanks for all your comments! I think this challenge is going to be an exercise in patience, a good thing for me.

    Book a Day- I will use that tip about fluffing in the dryer.

    hiptobeme- I'm not sure how fresh the smell will be here in Los angeles, which is part of my hesitancy. But maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised.

    Alea- thanks for the creative suggestion for the poles. I should know if the experiment worked by next may 1st!

    Debbie- A lot of people mention they like doing it, and maybe I will as well. There are some chores I don't mind at all, and laundry is one of them, so maybe I'll get into the "zen" quality of hanging clothes on the line.

    ostrichSam- I love your story- it's so funny thinking about how there are always rules, usually unwritten, in every community or group. your grandmother's aesthetic was offended by the shoddy hanging quality.

    Ellen- oh dear, see- here's a comment from someone who actually lives in L.A. I will not do this if I see rodents running across the line. Retractable maybe isn't the right word, it's not like a tape measure, it just snaps off and can be wound up on one side so there's not always a line up. Even the poles can be taken down when company is over. And yes, it is so dusty and filthy here and that is probably the biggest thing that's kept me from doing this up until now.

    Wildermiss- I'm going to write a post about home swapping soon. We loved it! you can get started by checking out homelink.org or homeexchange.com.

    jinger- Again, I hope the sheets DO have a fresh, clean scent. I have always hung some things inside- lingerie and hand wash items. There are all kinds of racks you can buy if you have the space.

    simplyvarga- I'm hoping hanging the laundry will be part of my meditation training. Thanks for the useful tips- when do you add vinegar to your wash?

    Lynn- My mom is 67, and I definitely remember her hanging the laundry in the backyard when we were kids. Your generation did all these things that are coming back now – because they're so smart!

  11. simplyvarga says

    During the rinse cycle. my machine has an automatic fabric softener dispenser than releases in the rinse cycle.

  12. Karen says

    I'm a Londoner like your exchange partners and also don't have a dryer. We have a clothes horse for wet days. If I had room then I might get a dryer but really just for towels.

    My parents do have a dryer in their (larger) house but they always hang on the line if the weather allows it. I don't think we do it for environmental reasons, it is just 'normal' i.e default behaviour.

    We lived in Carolina for a few years and were bemused by the huge size of the washing machines. And even more baffled by the ban on hanging washing out in our garden. We put a washing line up in the attic and hung the washing there. We just couldn't get into the habit of always using a dryer. It seemed perverse when it was always such nice weather (compared to London) for hanging clothes out!

  13. Kristen@TheFrugalGirl says

    I put my clothes in the dryer on air dry(no heat) for a few minutes before I hang them out, and that makes ALL the difference in the world.

    I have a retractable line too, so it's mostly out of sight when I'm not using it.

    And it was delightful to see a picture of you. :)

  14. Greenjoycie says

    I hang all my clothes – in winter I hang them in the basement on 2 drying racks and a short clothesline. I put t-shirts on hangers to dry. The basement's too damp in summer so I hang them outside.I have a retractable 5 line clothesline.I love it. I have to take advantage of nice days to do laundry. I just can't use a dryer when it's not really needed.

  15. Angela says

    simplyvarga- thanks. our machine is very old, so nothing is automatic, but I can tell when it's on rinse.

    Karen- yes, I think it's normal London behavior, like you say. Not being particularly environmental or anything, just normal. As it should be!

    Kristen- I'll try that tip about air fluff- that's also what I use for clothes I wash and dry by hand. Glad you liked the photo.

    Greenjoycie- 5 retractable lines sounds good. I'm already worried there won't be enough room on the line and it will be several "hangs" per load.
    thanks for commenting!

  16. Anonymous says

    I am living in London for a few months and I hate hanging my clothes out because of the crunch (I have to hang them on a clothes rack inside my flat- no yard) but I will use less detergent as per the previous comment and see if that helps. Yeah, the Londoners thought it was so weird that I was shocked at the lack of dryers! I was used to doing laundry once every two weeks. Now I have to do it more often because the washers are smaller and I can only hang up so many things. I believe that if you can hang clothes you should! Hopefully we will learn to enjoy it more.

  17. het lieveheersbeestje says

    Here another European (dutch) that always airdries her clothing! I also love it. And when it rains? I have a standing dryingrack in the house and a hanging one. We have four children, so each day a full washing machine (6 kilo). I love the smell of airdried laundry.. But I wonder why it smells so good. I have this little theory that all the dust, micro animals and dirt blows out in the wind and that the sun somehow sterialise the laundry… Overhere many young woman that have a job, use a dryer, but I am a housewife, so I have enough time to hang out the laundry. It's a nice part of my daily routine.. By the way, my washing machine uses very little water and electricity and I always wash on 40 degrees celcius.

  18. Rose Marie Pacheco says

    I am the inventor of the Tibbe-Line, a device used to air-dry laundry on an existing clothes and can be made into a portable clothesline. You can hang 21 articles of clothing in the space of 39" and hangars are used instead of clothespins. Go to http://www.tibbeline.com to see product.The Tibbe-Line is also multi-functional in that it can be used to transport clothing in a vehicle, as a space saver in a closet and for people in wheelchairs, giving them access to their own clothes in the closet. I have cut my laundry time by more than half as well as cutting down on my electricity consumption and electric bill as well as helping the environment. They retail for $14.95 Set/3 plus S&H. If you have any questions or want more information please feel free to contact me by phone 719-544-7673 or email at http://www.rosemarie@tibbeline.com

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