Monday, March 1, 2010

What’s Your Secret???

Today I am having a tooth extracted so instead of posting a rocking recipe or a clever craft, I thought I would ask you, my MIFS friends, for help solving one life’s little riddles: Secrets to line drying clothes! Last week I asked my readers at Frugal Front Porch, my Facebook and Twitter friends for their secrets to luxurious soft line dried clothes. As you can imagine, I got a wide range of answers.

  • Add vinegar to the rinse cycle
  • Tumble dry a few minutes after they are dry
  • Tumble dry a few minutes before you hang them to dry
  • Add Downy to the rinse cycle
  • Use less laundry detergent

Someone also suggested I simply live with it but surely I can have it all: line dried clothes that are soft and fluffy!

Some of the suggestions helped more than others but the best results offered a marginal improvement at best so I am hoping you ladies and gents can help me out with some fresh ideas.

I just started line drying our clothes in the basement a few weeks ago when I noticed the clothes seemed to take longer and longer to dry. I am not sure if the dryer is going out. We’ve checked all the vent lines and cleaned the lint trap so we feel confident this isn’t the problem. I also wanted to save on our monthly electric bill and add some desperately needed humidity to our home.

Before now, I have NEVER line dried clothes other than tossing a wet pool towel over the shower curtain or fence line. I know: shame on me but in my defense, my mother wasn’t exactly Donna Reed. She used our dryer for EVERYTHING except for the occasional sleeping bag or quilt. I grew up thinking the clothes line was just another toy for my brother and I to swing and play from so I never thought to line dry clothes as an adult. Now that I have started line drying clothes, it seems I am stuck with INSANELY stiff crunchy clothes!!! I need help! 

054Keep in mind, this is what our yard looks like right now. Hubster sank through the snow during his walk with Ruby, our dog. It’s up to his knees! Line drying outside won’t work till warmer weather arrives. I am line drying in our basement right now.

Anyone have the secret to soft line dried clothes? Inquiring minds want to know.


  1. When you dry your clothes outside the wind will rustle them around and make them less stiff.

    I've been line drying for years because it is cheaper. There have been times that if you were to walk into my apartment you would see multiple drying racks in the living area and hangers of clothes dangling here and there.

    I never really noticed that things besides towels are stiff. I don't put anything extra in. Downy and that type of softener product make fabric kind of water resistant which isn't an ideal trait in a towel. I'm fine having stiff towels because I use them once and they are fine.

    Maybe it's the laundry detergent. I buy a bulk product sold at my local co-op. It's one of the sulfite/ate free soaps.

    In the end I would rather use fewer products and spend less time than have perfectly soft fabric.

  2. Could it be your water? I know some people have issues with hard water.

    My friend line dries outside all year long here in the Rockies (as long as it's not raining or snowing.)

  3. Could be water could be the fabric. Ironing (if you enjoy ironing) some clothes afterwards softens them right up. But truthfully, five minutes in a warm dryer is enough to fluff even the crunchiest towel. Towels and jeans were really the only things I found super stiff anyways. As for your dryer...if it is an older model your element could just be going kuput.

  4. There is an art to drying clothes and linens, whether in a dryer or on the line but there is no foolproof way to get fluffy closed off the line.

    1. When pulling clothes/linens from the washing machine shake it out! I mean shake with a snap and shake in several directions. This will release the wrinkles acquired by the spin cycle.

    2. The weather plays an important part here. Warm and windy is ideal. Warm will do the trick but take longer and windy will also work but take longer. Obviously rain, snow and freezing temperatures are not good.

    3. Towels can be dried on the line but it takes a lot of work to produce fluffy towels so unless your dryer has unexpectedly bit the dust, I wouldn't recommend drying towels on the line.

    4. Generally woven cottons will dry faster, smell great and are a breeze to iron (if you are into that sort of thing). Dryers have a tendency to bake the wrinkles into the cotton - not good!

    5. Linen water can also be sprayed on clothing/linens on the line to ensure a great scent.

    I could go on with more that they relate to where I live and each area has it's own problems/solutions. Some are just trial and error.

    Hope this helps.

  5. Maybe it's the type of water or fabric too. Anything cotton that I line dry is pretty stiff too. I'm not an experienced line-dryer either, I have been doing it some and I may do it more now that I have a basement full of space.

  6. My line clothes used to come out stiff until I did a little research. Turns out that too much soap is what makes the clothes stiff.Reducing the amount of soap but making sure it still cleans worked instantly but making my own laundry soap has worked best. My checmical-free soap works wonders and just a tiny bit of fabric softener..line drying feels just like dryer done.

  7. You should check the electric current going to your dryer. You should also check how much electricity your dryer is using. My parents started having to run their clothes through the dryer twice and it turned out that the dryer was running on half the electricity that was available via the outlet. Needless to say, eventually, my cheapskate father allowed my mother to buy a new dryer...after 6 or 7 years.

    As for line drying, I also line dry in my basement. I place a small room heater underneath the clothes when I wash on the weekends so there's a little heat. The only clothes I don't hang dry are my undies -- I just can't stand stiff, scratchy undies. ;) Also, I use about 1/2 the amount of recommended soap, environmentally friendly non-bleach whitener, and when I have something with an odor I use vinegar.

  8. Thanks for all the great tips. It sounds like I'm on the right path, I just need to continue to tweak my process a little here and there. I don't mind a little stiffness in the clothes but scratchy towels and jeans really get me!

    All the small stuff, I put in the dryer. I'm not going to spends hours hanging socks and undies...especially for the little guy!

    We have VERY hard water here but we run a water softener which helps. I use my homemade powdered detergent which seems to give me the best results but I'll continue to adjust the amounts.

    Based on what Foy Update and Zasu said, I may find some success by using a fan to cause a breeze in the basement to help "rustle" the fabric.

    Again, thanks for the tips and keep them coming! I need all the help I can get on this one!

  9. I agree with Zasu - make sure you really SNAP those clothes just before hanging. It's the wrinkles and creases that get crunchy/stiff.

    We bought our first house a few months ago and due to the gorgeous weather we had last week I was able to throw a few things on the line, and believe you me, those line dried bedsheets smelled SO GOOD, I spent the first few minutes after crawling in bed just sniffing! Heehee.

    Cannot WAIT to use the line regularly when the weather is nice more often.

  10. Thanks for asking this question. I too have always had trouble with line drying (stiffness). I am going to try some of the ideas that your readers have shared.

  11. No help here on the stiffness issue. We think that line-dried clothes are like cardboard so very un-frugally do not line-dry.

    But have you *washed* the lint trap in your dryer? With soap and water? If you use dryer sheets, the softener builds up on it and air doesn't pass through it even though it looks clean. A dryer repairmen told a friend that this is the biggest reason that dryers burn out!

    (Unfortunately, I can't convince hubby to let me just give up the dryer sheets, so the lint filter has to be scrubbed periodically.)

  12. Rachel-I did check my lint trap. Water passed right through so I know air is able to circulate through it. I don't use a lot of dryer sheets. IF I use fabric softner, it's usually a liquid like Downy or vinegar. Thanks for the reminder.

    Diane-I also plan to add a bit of baking soda to my wash cycle to see if this helps. I have read baking soda helps soften hard water, remove excess residue and boosts your detergent's cleaning power. Since I have extremely hard water and I'm using less detergent, I want to be sure my clothes get as clean as possible.

    Another option is adding a 2nd rinse cycle. My washer offers the option of automatically adding a second rinse cycle. I'll do this if nothing else works.

    I'll be sure to report back in a few weeks after I've had a chance to give everyone's suggestions a try. Thanks for all the great suggestions and tips.


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