Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Clothes on the Line

The summer (okay, technically still spring) sun is egging on the vegetable garden, coaxing blooms from poppies and irises and lilacs, moving dinner back to after eight-thirty, and drying clothes on the line in record time.

Yes, I'm blogging about laundry. Lovely, clean solar-dried laundry.

My protagonist, Sophie Mae and her housemate, Meghan Bly, are highly domestic. Like me, they cook, garden, bake, make soap, spin, knit, make cheese, and keep chickens. But today I realized that they always use the dryer when they do laundry. No, that fact doesn't show up very often -- only in Lye in Wait, I believe -- but as their author, I know it's true.

Might have to fix that.

Of course, it's harder to use a clothesline in the Pacific Northwest. According to google weather, it's raining all this week up where Sophie Mae and Meghan live. Even when it isn't raining, the humidity can be high enough that towels don't really dry on the line. Like, ever. In fact, you could put perfectly dry clothes out on the line and they'd become damp. Still, I made good use of a clothesline for three or four months out of the year. And a drying rack often sat in front of the banked woodstove overnight in the winter.

Not the same as sun-dried clothes, though.

Last year I invested in a five-line retractable job. It's on the back porch, and when we want to spend time out there it whips into the housing on the wall like an old-fashioned roller blind. Okay, maybe "whips" is a bit strong. But it does work, and that's worth the four months it took me to track it down.

The porch is mostly covered, which is perfect for drying laundry because it doesn't fade from the direct sunlight. The dryer is still solar powered, but the clothes last longer.

However, I'm pretty sure our home owners association frowns upon clotheslines. They have all sorts of arcane rules, most of which I'm studiously ignorant of. You can't see my clothesline from the street, though, so no one has ever complained. And I'm perfectly content not to show my "small clothes" to the neighbors. Win win all around.

Hints for using a clothesline

  • Locate line in a shady or partially shady place.
  • Hang shirts upside down to avoid funny peaks on the shoulders. Slightly folding them over and pinning on the shoulder seams also works.
  • Hang jeans upside down so the airflow will dry the waist more rapidly.
  • Smooth clothes as you hang them to avoid wrinkles.
  • Buy good quality clothespins. Check the wire for strength and, if you choose wooden ones (I do) then make sure the wood is smooth. American-made clothespins are much higher quality than those made in China. Most of the big box stores carry the latter.
  • Tumble clothes for a few minutes in the dryer after taking them off the line to avoid that rough, scratchy feeling (actually I only do this for towels).
  • Know that it takes more time. Enjoy the process of hanging up the clothes and taking them down. Think of it as a meditative workout.
  • Store your clothespins in a bag. Inspect them regularly for rust and/or mold. Both will transfer to your laundry.
  • If you are in an area where the pollen is flying at a particular time of year, avoid drying outside during that time. You'll just have to wash your clothes all over again.


  1. Line-dried clothes do smell like summer. It reminds me of helping my grandmother put clothes on the line when I was very young. All I could do was hand her the clothes pins, but I thought that was doing alot. :)

    Thoughts in Progress

  2. I love hanging my sheets and blankets on the clothesline, like I did earlier this week. With temps near the 90's I haven't had any problems getting things dry!!

  3. Clotheslines. Memories of childhood! I'm older than most of the bloggers who follow me; who have always had clothes dryers in their lives. In my day there were no dryers. Not until I was 22 or 23 did I get one. Anyway, your fun post here inspired me to write my post today on my memories of clotheslines! Thanks!!!

  4. In some cities like Fort Collins, CO, HOAs are not allowed to ban outdoor clotheslines. If we can have hens, we can dry clothes outdoors!

  5. This brings up childhood memories of hanging clothes on the line. Fun time for my sister and I to talk in private - though we hated hanging my mom's "small clothes", which weren't very small at all.

    This was kinda sweet.


  6. What a lovely post. Following you now.

  7. Mason, I helped my great-grandmother hang clothes on the line, too. There is something nostalgic about the process.

    Janel, temps in the 90s will definitely get the job done! Spring is about to tip into summer here, and we'll be seeing plenty of 90s then.

    Ann, I so enjoyed your clothesline post. Especially the image of playing in the tents you constructed.

    Linda, that's good to know. We're actually in the county -- barely -- but I'm sure the rule is the same.

    Donna, you made me laugh out loud re: not-so-small clothes. ; - )

    Thanks, Rayna. Welcome to Hearth Cricket.

  8. When I'm rich and have a staff, I'll have fresh line-dried sheets on my bed every day ...

  9. Stacey, can I come visit? Like, for months at a time?