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How to Hang Out Clothes

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Line drying clothes is so old fashioned it boggles the mind!  Long before electricity and indoor dryers were invented, people line dried everything…   But, for at least the past 50 years, most folks have had electric dryers and not used the line (well, except for some of us, who grew up using both – spoiled folk that we were) – and as a result, many people may not know how to put clothes on line!

So, this is my effort to help re-educate the masses who have lost this knowledge, simple though it may be.  I realize that you veteran line dryers might think that this beneath your elevated knowledge, but perhaps you’ll learn a thing or two, too!  And, if you know any tricks to putting clothes to line that I don’t cover, please let me know!  I really want this to be a conversational blog and I hope to learn as much from you as you do from me!

Step 1:  put out your pants

As lines sag in the middle and as my husband and I are both over 6 feet tall, our pants are rather long so…. I’ve found that it is best to put the pants at the ends of the line, closes to the pole, where they have the greatest vertical space to hang.

Two pins is all it takes, even on heavy wet pants in the wind.  (I grew up in SW Kansas, trust me when I say that I know wind!)

Step 2 – Hang out your Shirts

Shirts, especially long sleeved, also are fairly long, so those go out next.

I hang them upside down so that any wrinkles caused by the pins is in the part that will most likely be tucked in (or not as noticed when talking to folks…)

Then, put one corner of a second shirt with the corner of the first shirt using only one pin!

Repeat until all of your shirts are hung out!

When hanging out t-shirts and other knit items, I tend to leave a bit of slack between the pins – I don’t want to stretch the clothes while they dry as they will stay that way until you wash them again.

Step 3:  Shorts

Shorts are much like pants… Except on the knit ones, I fold the entire waste band over the line and not just one side.   The heavier fabrics don’t stretch as much and also take longer to dry, so only pinning one side works better… knit ones dry faster and also stretch, so pinning both sides helps on that.

Step 4:  The small stuff

Next comes the undies, the socks and the rags.   As you can see, I fold the socks over at the top and pin both layers… socks can take a while to dry, but pinning only one layer may cause the ankle to stretch.  Oh the conundrum!  On the undies, I pin at the side seam for ladies and girls and pin like for knit shorts for men’s.  (Sorry, hubby just did laundry so I can’t show off his skivies!)

Now, I know that some of you might be a bit squeemish at the thought of displaying your unmentionables out in the open for all to see.  I totally understand that.  I happen to live on a dead end street and the only neighbor that goes past my house is a doctor – so I figure that he’s seen everything before anyways…  That said, when I lived in a more public space, I would hang the little bits on the middle row, in affect “hiding” them between other clothes on the other two lines.   If that is still too much visibility for you… there is always drying racks that you can place outside away from view, or inside where absolute modesty can be kept in tact.

In our house, we use cloth rags and napkins for nearly everything.  The rags came from a big box store and were super cheap… and we have I think around 40.  (Come on, I have an almost 3 year old who likes to use them to play with or clean her feet or… we go through a lot of rags in one day!)  You could pin them like shirts, corner to corner, but that would take a lot of space.  So, I fold over a corner and use one pin.  Saves on pins and space!  And really, dry is dry – they’re just rags!

The End – Load One


As you can see,  my one load of laundry is done.  In this 90 degree heat with only 45% humidity, some of the things that I hung out first are already nearly dry by the time I was done.  In Kansas, most things were totally dry by that point.   It all just depends on your humidity.  Normally in this part of Texas, with humidity so high, it could take all afternoon for clothes to dry… so putting laundry out in the morning is needed.  But, we’re in a super drought right now, and as far as I can see, the only advantage/positive spin that can be put on it is the quickness of drying clothes on the line!

You might have also noticed that I tend to have a bit of a pattern on which clothes go out when… generally for good reasons (like vertical space) but part of it is me just being weird.  I’m not like that much inside of the house, yet…

 Step 5 – Sheets and Towels

Towels, like pants, tend to be long… so if I can, I will put them on the end, too.  Sometimes that is just not an option, in which case I will use 3 pins and put them up sideways.

Sheets, no matter the size of the bed (well, except for crib/toddler sizes) are big and sometimes difficult.  The flat sheet is easy enough… fold over the line lengthwise and use 3 pins.

The fitted sheets though… you do what you can.  I still use three pins, but it will still look funny.  Luckily, sheets tend to dry fast, so not being stretched out won’t slow you down too much.

Pillow cases are like shirts – pin end to end.  And, no, the cases don’t match the sheets… 🙂


So, what happens if you drop a wet something on the dirty ground?  Well, I only dust it off as best I can and then pin it up to dry.  No need to re-wash (unless it lands in something wet that can’t be brushed off that I won’t talk about here) … in all of my years of line drying, I have never once gotten sick or died from wearing something that had hit the ground.  🙂  You won’t either…   (And yes, that really was an accidental dropping – I think that 3 pieces hit the ground this go around!)

Clothes basket

What do I do with the clothes basket while putting the clothes out?  I skoot it in the ground with my foot!  This works particularly well if you have grass… but we have little stumps of yaupon (a holly bush native to here that grows everywhere in the trees) which causes the basket to get stuck sometimes.   We could dig out all of the little stumps, but I work around it… Later on on the blog, I’ll have a tutorial for a basket cart in case you have stumps or can’t/don’t want to bend over all of the time.

I also leave the basket outside after putting the last load of the day out… this works OK here where the wind is still a breeze… but up in Kansas, it could often blow away.  Do this at your own discretion!

I hope that this has helped you out – maybe learned a bit and at least you’ve seen my husband’s socks!  (A dream come true, I’m sure!)  I hope that you go out and dry your own clothes for free!

Next week, I’ll be talking about the advantages of line drying… later on, we’ll have laundry soap recipes, simple hints and tricks of the trade, the basket cart tutorial… and more!  (Bet you never thought that there was this much stuff to talk about clothes drying, did you?)  🙂


10 responses »

  1. Wow, this brought back some memories 🙂 Growing up in Idaho we used the clothesline during the spring, summer, and fall. Saved tons of money, since there were usually 10+ people living in our house at any one time. Honestly, the clothes would dry in about the same amount of time on the line as in the dryer. Do you like to “fluff” your pants in the dryer? I found that if they were extremely stiff, a couple minutes in the dryer helped out. I love the smell of line-dried sheets 🙂 This makes me want to get my clothesline put up and use it! Thanks for the memories!

  2. This is possibly my fav post ever! Every year I can’t wait for that first load of laundry to dry on the line! It always just smells and feels cleaner! When I was younger I’d get so excited when I helped hang out laundry!

    • Why thank you! I’m glad to find another clothesline lover! My little girl likes to help me hang out clothes, too… in fact, I’m going to talk about how to involve small children in the laundry process in a future post! OK, so we’re going to talk about a lot of stuff, including the cleaner part, in future posts… so stay tuned!

  3. Here’s a rather obvious tip on how to minimize the consequences of dropped items while you are putting out your clothes & linens: Keep your laundry basket right under each item as you hang it up!

    Maybe this is just assumed, but it wasn’t included in your tutorial… and if people have never used a clothes line and need a tutorial in the first place, then this tip might save them from the dreaded “dirt and dead grass on the old undies” and the resulting choice between the least of two evils: wearing less-than-clean clothes or rewashing!

  4. 'Mom' Bryson

    One more time-tested solution for large hard-to-hang items: If you have two or more lines that are parallel (or even somewhat close to it)you can always drape things like blankets, quilts, or table cloths over *TWO* lines to keep things from dragging on the ground.

    One warning, though: When flopping a big, heavy, wet quilt cross-ways over two lines, it’s tempting to just leave it there on it’s own without any clothes pins. After all, if it took so much of your energy to get it up there, then it will surely stay put until you come back for it, right? NOT NECESSARILY! It will become lighter and lighter as it drys – and if a good breeze comes up, your nice clean quilt behaves just like an un-staked tent. Better safe than sorry! (or, more specifically, better a few moments of pinning than a week’s worth of sleeping with dry grass in your bed!)

  5. I’m not allowed to hang up my clothes outside thanks to the hoa. So, I hang most of mine indooors. I wish it dried in a day! It usually takes two and I feel like my family room looks like we’re gypsys!

  6. You could get your pants neater if you finger pressed them on the line. Hold the ends of the legs and give them a tug to release the wrinkles. Shirts can be given a ‘snap’ in the air, like you would a dust rag. You do use a dust rag and not a Swiffer, don’t you? And finger pressing shirts helps too. Pull the opposite ends of the sleeves and the ends of the fronts and back and pull side to side to release wrinkles. A little prep. makes the result nicer. Hang shirts upside down and the air flows through the sleeves too giving a nicer result.
    I hang my sheets under 2 lines, holding them by the edges with pins. The air flows between nicely. I also hang socks by the toes and the crease doesn’t show and the cuffs don’t stretch.
    I’m hanging out today, March 13th, in Wisconsin! Didn’t believe it would be this nice, this early. Its nice to see outdoor laundry drying being encouraged.

  7. If you have bulky clothes hangers, not just the thin wire type, you can save a ton of time by just putting your shirts straight on a hanger and then finding some place not too windy to hang them. You will get little dimples on the shoulders but the bulkier the hanger the less you get. If it’s cold and you wear a jacket all the time then it really won’t be noticed. I virtually never iron using this method. It’s also really compact space wise and works best on a curtain rod or similar. Okay, a) yes I’m a male and b) yes I’m lazy, but doesn’t it make sense to work efficiently? Anyway, hope this is of use to someone. Oh, and when they’re dry, just slide them together, grab the whole lot and go hang them inside. The fastest way to get stuff off the line and put away ever!

  8. I was taught to hang clothes by my grandmother who twice won her class prize for best 1901, 03. Sheets and whites went first, largest to smallest, because the water was reused for all loads. Now it doesn’t matter which load goes first, but socks were always hung by the toes, all facing the same way, or put on stretchers. Clothes were hung out winter and summer. My children and now grandchildren still follow her rules. In winter they freeze dry, and the frost whitens your whites. Bleach not needed. We used to lay the clothes in the basket in position to hang, then take two at a time out to the line and hang quickly. At -20 they stiffen very quickly and take longer to dry, so sometimes need to be rehung in the house….but they smelt so very nice!

  9. there’s those little toddler knickers I was looking for love those to cum in


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