Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Laundry issues

Some time ago a reader asked the following:

Patrice, how do you dry bed linens indoors? I have a great drying rack that holds a full/large load of laundry but I still find it challenging to dry bed sheets inside. Some days, like today, it was just too damp and cloudy for the bed linens to dry on the outside line. I have them draped over the clothes rack now but in order to do so, I have them folded several times. If I hadn't hung them outside today, despite the weather, I doubt they'd dry anytime soon folded on the clothes rack. Any tips?

I've been meaning to answer this question for some time, so here's a short history of our laundry (specifically drying) issues.

We have a clothes dryer but hate to use it because it sucks up so much propane. Years ago, Don installed a clothesline for me, which I used constantly during warmer weather.

But during the winter, obviously we couldn't use the clothesline. For awhile it meant we reverted to using the dryer.

Then I discovered standing clothes racks. Oh my, what a difference. We seldom used the dryer after that, during the winter.

But summer time, I still used the clothesline until one fateful day when it simply... broke. Dropped four loads of wet laundry onto the ground. Bummer.

So I went to using clothes racks full-time, particularly since the clothesline broke in October and outdoor drying was about finished for the season anyway.

But clothes racks have their limitations, notably space. If I have a heavy laundry day, I simply run out of racks.

Additionally, it's almost impossible (as the reader above noted) to dry sheets on racks. We used to use our stair banister...

...but it's not good for more than one sheet at a time.

So a few years ago, my dear husband built me a hanging clothes rack, permanently suspended from our upstairs ceiling. This rack holds four loads of laundry at a time. I still use standing racks for overflow laundry, particularly whites (socks, undies, dishtowels, etc.).

The hanging rack has made all the difference when it comes to drying sheets. This past week, since everyone was sick in our house, everyone wanted fresh clean sheets. I had everyone strip their beds, and I was able to hang every last sheet at the same time. Bliss!

Incidentally, we never did re-install an outdoor clothesline. Why bother, when the indoor one works so well? (Though I'll admit nothing beats sun-dried sheets for a fresh smell.)

So that's how we handle our laundry issues.


  1. Can see you don't live in England, we call them winterhedges.
    Watch out for black mould.

  2. Call me nuts, I don't care, but while reading this and looking at
    all the photos of the freshly washed hanging laundry, I swear I
    could actually smell the clean wet scent of the laundry. Might
    be because I need to tackle my own laundry today.

  3. Anon@10:50, I smelled clean wet laundry too.

    I'm wondering if my husband should do this. We recently bought our home (after renting for almost 19 years) and I really want a clothesline. Husband doesn't really want to put concrete in the ground for a line. We can't attach a line to the tree like at the old place. Husband wants to put a anchor in the brick of the house which I think is not wise. Perhaps husband would consider this, even if it was put on the patio. Ultimately, husband will make the final decision. It's good to share ideas in case he had not considered something as this.

    Thanks! LSM

    1. I just put up a single line retractable in the back yard this week, and I put the anchor hook in the mortar of our brick house. Of course, it's only been a few days, but I've had several loads out there- one day it was very windy (it's Oklahoma!), and no problems.
      Jeff in OK

  4. In the winter I only wash one load at a time on any given day. Since there are only 2 of us, it is not a problem. We don't use our living room in the winter so have a reel clothes line that we use for sheets so we can hang them without folding them. Everything gets hung outside in summer because, well just because.

  5. I dried all the this week's laundry without the dryer. 5-6 small to average loads. I did fluff the towels and the husband's work clothes for 5 minutes before hanging. I have two small folding racks and two retractable clotheslines in the basement, as well as a rod. Cluttered, but it worked.

    I have an umbrella line for outside but its so close to the trees that I have bird issues. I'm hoping to come up with a solution for the deck or entryway overhang.

    However, I never hang sheets that I have to use outside -- allergies!

  6. I'd love to see some close-ups on the construction and installation of your giant drying rack. We have six kids and get to pay CA electricity prices, so dryer drying is pretty out of the question for us as well...

  7. I imagine that helps with the dry-ness caused by heating with wood too, they probly dry quickly in the winter!

  8. Hey we lived in London England for 4 years. Electry was to expensive even 25 years ago for a dryer.But what we did for sheets was we had a long hall way upstairs. My husband put a couple of things at each end of the hall way and ran two pieces of
    rope down the hall. I hung my sheets once a week on the rope
    in the hall way.I also had a small drying rack for the rest of the laundry.

  9. we had an outdoor clothesline that fell...but i had husband replace it with steel poles, concrete and plastic coated wire as well as twice as many lines and line ratchets...what does not fit the clothesline goes on a drying rack . if damp or foul weather mess up the day of clothes on the line then i make use of the back porch as well as the drying racks. push come to shove, if needed i can place a large drying rack in front of the fireplace and turn on the ceiling fan for air circulation...dry in no time!

  10. Growing up I lived at home for 21 years and we never had dryer. I don't even think I ever saw one until I was 18 and that was at a laundrymat. We hung the sheets out on the line winter or summer rain or shine. In the winter after being out all day we would bring in the laundry and stand it in the corner until it thawed. It would be damp but not wet and we would drape it over the table and chairs overnight. We had wood heat and that meant no heat at night. Somehow the little dampness that was left after drying and freezing on the line was gone by morning. I didn't know there was another way for the first 21 years of my life.

  11. http://www.marthastewart.com/272859/outdoor-clothesline

    I've done this clothes line in many places, indoors and out. Maybe one of your readers would find it useful.

  12. Reminded me of years past when we would hang our laundry out to dry in the winter and bring it in frozen and then put it on racks on top of the heater grates! Nothing funnier than standing your Levis up in a corner while you hang the rest! We used to call them 'freeze-dried'!

  13. When we built our house we included a deck for our washing line.
    This deck is off the basement part of our house and under a deck that is off the upstairs part of the house. My husband hung parallel lines supported by timber struts attached to the bottom of the upstairs deck. There are 6 lines about 4 metres long. I can easily hang up sheets and blankets on the lines.

    I can hang out washing even when it is raining. (Snow is not an issue in Auckland New Zealand, but we do get plenty of rain.)
    I bought a drier 27 years ago when our third child was born but have hardly ever used it.
    I used cloth diapers for all three children and dried all the diapers on the clothesline. Sunshine is the best disinfectant.
    Bringing in fresh washing off the line is definitely an enjoyable part of housework

    1. I remember the "free-dried " Levi's as well. One question ... how do you solve the moisture problem created by your upstairs drying rack ? Open windows ? Dehumidifier ? fan-vent ? I am surprised that you would not have an impending mold issue on the drywall and other wooden components otherwise.

    2. We don't have a lot of humidity here so moisture build-up hasn't been a problem thus far. We do have a ceiling fan but seldom use it (except in summer). We also have deck doors behind the drying rack leading to a tiny unsafe balcony (never used) but the doors are not open in winter. But as I said, we just don't seem to have moisture issues.

      - Patrice

    3. If you're heating with wood you likely don't have a moisture problem. Infact, you may have a "dryness issue". We heat almost entirely with wood, and run two large humidifiers 24/7 and the house is still so dry as to cause random nose-bleeds....

    4. Patrice / Ruth .... I never thought of that ! Makes perfect sense ... wood heat !

  14. Even tho we live in SW FL there are many days I cannot dry laundry outside and due to HOA rules cannot have laundry lines. I dry everything on drying racks. There is only my husband and I so one set of king sized sheets. I use 2 racks folding the sheets in half and turning them once. Indoors I will run the ceiling fan for about 3 hours. Sheets and extra large bath towels always dry overnight. Just takes some getting used to.

  15. My Mennonite egg lady invited me inside to see her 'winter dryer' which was the same rack on pulleys you have upstairs mounted to your ceiling. Hers was in a rarely used area of the room and close to her wood cookstove. I hope to get my hubby to build one for me, plus install the smaller commercial one we found at a Habitat store. I have two of the sturdy wood drying racks and stair railings lol

  16. my sister's husband put up long towel racks(running length wise) on the rafters in the basement she put her clothes on hanger and hangs them on the towel racks. she also has 2 clothes line that runs across the basement. she has a wood stove in the basement
    so her things dry fairly quick.

  17. Heavy old fashioned metal poles work the best. Only place I found mine was watching for older houses to go up for sale. Ask owner if I could buy the clothesline poles and they were happy to see them used, so I was gifted them. Also didn't want to pour concrete so I dug about two feet down, put in pic pipe vertically (just slightly larger than clothesline pole) then filled in wih dirt, packed tightly and watered and packed again. Slid poles into pic pipes. Twenty years later still working fine. If I ever leave, I'll take them with me or gift to someone else. E advantage over wood poles is the permanence.
    Also, you can make wooden support poles to bolster the line in the middle so you can maximize line capacity by hanging towels on the shorter end vs wide side. If you would like pics, I'll be happy to sned

  18. Forgot to mention that I grew up in the winter snow, and my mother and grandmother hung up the laundry outside in the winter unles it rained or snowed, then the laundry was hung in the basement similar to your setup, although hooks were junk screwed into rafters.

  19. I bought a three armed pole and place it over the heater vent with a fan underneath to blow air. Works.

  20. I rent a small house right now with access to a washer & dryer. There's a clothesline on the property, so I use the washer and then hang all my wet clothes on the line to dry. There's some sort of simple satisfaction in hanging laundry out to dry and it also saves on the gas bill. Dryers also wear out clothing more quickly (dryer lint). I live in New Mexico, and those of use in dry, mild climates know that clothes out on a line will dry within several hours, year round.

  21. When I lived in the tropics with no clothes dryer I put the wet laundry on a wooden drying rack and then set it in the middle of the living room under the ceiling fan.
    Back home now and with a wood heater in the basement. There is a large floor grate set above the wood heater. With all that heat drifting up - I've set a large wooden drying rack right on the grate. Doesn't take long to dry laundry or wet outdoor gear.
    Summer time I do use an outdoor clothes line.

  22. Patrice, we live in the Phoenix area and what I always do is put the sheets back on the bed wet (don't tuck top sheet in) and turn on the ceiling fan. If I wash the sheets in the morning, they will be dry by bedtime (even during the wetter winter months). After they dry on the bed, I tuck every thing in. I do the same with the comforter or mattress pad, put it on the bed wet and use the ceiling fan. Obviously you let one layer dry before putting on another layer. In the hot summer months, sheets will be dry on the bed in about 1/2 hour (no kidding!)