6 Reasons Not to Dry Your Clothes Outside

person hanging a towel up to dry

The Spruce / Michelle Becker

Read any advice on how to lower energy bills at home, and one of the top recommendations is to set up a clothing line for drying laundry as a way to save money, protect the earth, and whiten clothing. But there are drawbacks to sun-drying your clothes in the great outdoors. Take a look at these six reasons why you may want to keep your clean laundry indoors and off the clothesline.

clothes line-drying outside

The Spruce / Michelle Becker

Local Ordinances

Many towns, municipalities, and even some neighborhoods have rules and regulations about outdoor clotheslines. To some, clotheslines are considered eyesores that lower property value. Other areas allow home clotheslines if they're hidden from the street, but that doesn’t mean that no one will complain about seeing your underwear flapping in the breeze. Disobey these rules, and you could be looking at a costly fine from your homeowner's association or city.

Lack of Space

While there are many different designs for clotheslines suited to various homes, you'll still need to designate a specific spot in your yard for your setup. You'll want to choose a place that is not under a canopy of trees, and one that receives plenty of direct sunlight. There must be clearance around the lines for you to move freely as you hang and gather clothes. With outdoor space at a premium, consider what type of support structure is best for you and how you use your yard. Retractable clotheslines may be a solution if you need the space for children to play or want to be able to entertain outdoors without clothes hanging about. If you don't have suitable space in your yard, line-drying might not be for you.

Unpleasant Odors and Allergens

Not everyone has a sweet-smelling meadow just outside their door. If your clothesline is in a less-than-desirable area, your clothes may absorb odors from nearby highways, animal farms, or manufacturing plants. Keep in mind that line-drying your clothing can also bring outdoor pollen or mold spores into your home. These allergens can be very troublesome for those with compromised immune systems, asthma, and pollen-sensitive allergies.

Insects and Animals

You're not going to save energy in the long run if you have to rewash your laundry after hanging it outdoors to dry thanks to insects and birds making flyover visits. Bird droppings and insect specks often require another trip through the washer, and some dropping stains can be nearly impossible to remove, especially if you have fruit vines or trees with red or purple berries nearby.

Poor Weather Conditions

Sunny, dry weather is ideal for line-drying unless it's so dry that dust is kicking up and staining your clothes. Even worse is a quick rain shower, which can bring down leaves and debris that can stain clothes and require another washing.

dark jeans can fade from drying outside

The Spruce / Michelle Becker

Pros and Cons of Drying Methods

One good thing about drying your clothes on an outdoor clothesline is that it will not shrink your favorite outfits like the high heat of some dryer cycles can. Additionally, the ultraviolet rays of sunlight are also a great way to "bleach" white linens and clothes so they look practically brand new.

However, if you have colored clothes, sunlight is actually one of the worst things for them. The intense rays can cause fading, and your colorful clothes can look dingy in no time. You should also avoid hanging any stretchy, heavy clothes like knit sweaters—the weight of being hung can stretch that knit longer and longer, and birds have even been known to pull some loose threads out from clothes to use for their nests.

A third option to consider is a folding drying rack. Not only can it be placed outside in the sun when you want to dry your clothes in a spring breeze, but it can be easily taken indoors in the case of unexpected weather, impending company, or pesky animals.