Top Line-Drying Laundry Problems Solved

Say "goodbye" to stiff towels and clothespin marks

Basket of laundry in front of clothes line with clothes hanging to air dry

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

Line drying towels and clothing may seem like an old-school way to get your laundry done. But this age-old practice actually saves you money (by cutting down your electricity use), encourages sustainability, and is gentle on your best fabrics. Still, you may feel like you don't have the time, or can't expend the effort, to hang out your wash. You may even think it's an eyesore to your neighbors. Add that to issues like your son's pollen allergy, your space constraints, or an unexpected rainstorm, and the simple task of doing laundry becomes more of a hassle than it's worth. If your line-drying efforts have been plagued with problems, our simple solutions will get you back on track.

  • 01 of 10

    Towels and Clothes Don't Stay Soft

    Stiff gray towel held in front of clothesline with clothes air drying by flowers and shed

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

    The biggest drawback to drying towels and clothes on the line is the cardboard-like stiffness that results from being air-dried. This happens specifically on cotton towels and clothing, as the residual water molecules adhere to the surface of natural fibers, causing them to stick together.

    Still, line-drying isn't always a recipe for crunchy clothes. The key is eliminating the hard water residue on your fabric.

    To do so:

    • Add one cup of distilled white vinegar to the rinse cycle
    • Use one-half cup of powdered borax in each load
    • Lessen the amount of detergent from the get-go
    • Toss the dry, crisp towels into the dryer for a quick fluff to soften them before folding.
  • 02 of 10

    Line Drying Aggravates Allergies

    Clothes hanging outside on clothesline next to sunflowers giving off pollen

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

    If someone in your family suffers from pollen allergies, set up a clothesline in your laundry room, basement, or garage, instead. You can also enlist the help of a foldable drying rack placed in any indoor room, or even hang clothing from your shower rod. If it's just one type of pollen that causes the allergy—like tree pollen in the spring, or grass pollen in the summer—wait for that season to pass, and then resume outdoor drying.

  • 03 of 10

    Line-Dried Clothes May Fade

    White clothes and bedsheets hanging on clothesline to dry without fading

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

    Prevent fading by hanging your colored laundry inside out and placing it in a shady spot, or under a covered patio or carport. As long as there's a gentle breeze, ​your clothes will dry equally as well in the shade. If you're still worried about your favorite colored duds, dry your darks indoors, and only hang your whites outside. Bonus—the sun will bleach away any stains, and help your whites keep their vibrancy longer.

  • 04 of 10

    HOA Prohibits Clotheslines

    Clothes and towels hanging on indoor drying rack to air dry

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

    If your HOA covenants or city ordinances prohibit the use of clotheslines, set up drying racks in the backyard, instead. After your load is dry, take your racks back inside, or stick to drying your laundry inside altogether. ​A retractable indoor clothesline or drying rack will still get the job done in tight spaces. However, check to see if your state is on the "right to dry" list, which voids clothesline bans in 19 states.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Line Drying Clothing Takes Longer

    Clothes hanging on clothesline as sun sets behind sunflowers with laundry basket in front

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

    True—line drying clothes involves a little time upfront to properly hang your laundry. However, the time spent completing this task saves you both time and money on the backend. Line drying reduces wrinkles, cutting down on the need to iron, and fresh-air drying preserves fabrics, making towels and clothing last longer. Once your laundry is hung, let the sun take it from there and dry your load in about the same amount of time it would take in the dryer (weather dependent).

  • 06 of 10

    Line Drying May Lead to Rewashing Clothes

    Clothes in laundry basket to be rewashed in front of clothesline with clothes hanging

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

    If your yard is decorated in fruiting trees, or if you have plenty of feathered visitors, you may be concerned about berries or bird droppings on your laundry. To eliminate this problem, hang your clothes under a covered porch or carport, in your garage, or in an outbuilding (like a barn). If dust is a problem, avoid hanging towels and clothing close to the road, or on especially windy days. Use enough clothespins to prevent clothes and bedding from falling off the line. Most items will require two, but heavier items may need more.

  • 07 of 10

    Line-Dried Clothing Shows Clothespin Marks

    Clothespins added to towel and clothes on clothe line to air dry outside

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

    Learning how to hang clothes properly, without visible clothespin marks, is more of a science than an art. Hang shirts upside down, pinning them on the hem in a discreet location. For pants and skirts, pin at the waistband, in an inconspicuous area, to avoid marks. Tank tops and bathing suits can be hung by their straps, and underwear can be pinned on its side seam. When all else fails, a quick fluff in the dryer should eliminate any residual marks.

  • 08 of 10

    Neighbors May See Undies

    Underwear and sport bras hanging on clothesline to air dry

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

    If drying bras and underwear outside embarrasses you, hide them on your inner lines, in between towels and bedsheets. Alternatively, you can place them in a mesh laundry bag to dry, and rotate it once during the process to fluff things up. Still, if you really don't like the idea of hanging your intimate garments outside, use an indoor drying rack for this purpose.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    No Room for a Clothesline

    Clothesline with cord mechanism hanging clothes to air dry closeup

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

    Those with small outdoor spaces can benefit from using a retractable, or an umbrella, clothesline. Retractable lines can be strung from one outdoor structure to another, and then retracted when not in use. Umbrella clotheslines expanded into an umbrella shape, and then fold up to be put away after you're done. Drying racks placed outdoors also provide a space-saving option for drying.

  • 10 of 10

    It Might Rain

    Vintage Linens Drying on Drying Rack
    Vintage Linens Drying on Drying Rack Sony Farrell/Photodisc/Getty Images

    You can't always count on Mother Nature to give you sunny skies on laundry day. But, you can check the weather before hanging your towels and clothing out to dry. If you plan to leave the house and thunderstorms are possible, hang your laundry on a foldable rack and stick it under a covered area. Should a little drizzle catch you off guard on a summer day, check the sky to see if the passing shower will be followed by sunshine before pulling your whole load down.