Line drying clothes and sheets conjures up all sorts of images and ideas. For some, the clothesline is an eyesore. But others see it as an energy saver, or a reminder of life before WiFi, before you could extend your dryer’s cycle by smartphone. Consumer Reports’ textile expert, Pat Slaven, is a big fan of line drying and while it’s a simple task, some practices are better than others.

Slaven is the resident textile expert at Consumer Reports. But at her own home, she line dries clothes, sheets, and even towels when the weather permits. “A dryer uses energy and over time the tumbling breaks down fibers, which wind up as lint,” says Slaven. “And seeing laundry flap in the breeze on a sunny day, and smelling of fresh air when folded, takes me back to my childhood.” 

The documentary “Drying for Freedom” looks at why some communities banish clotheslines and the environmental consequences. There are right-to-dry states that now allow clotheslines to hang freely. If saving energy is your priority, know that about four percent of the electricity used in the average home goes to drying laundry, according to the Department of Energy. Find out how much you spend on drying clothes by using the DOE’s appliance energy calculator

The Best Way to Line Dry Laundry

If you live in an area where line drying is permitted, start with a clothesline hung in a sunny spot where birds do not perch above, and with durable clothespins that open easily—the heavy-duty wood ones work well. Then follow these tips:

• Shake items after washing to lessen wrinkles. Front-loaders and HE top-loaders spin faster than agitator top-loaders and can crease laundry to a greater degree.
• Use the sun’s bleaching power to whiten sheets and clothes.
• Turn bright or dark items inside out to reduce fading, including jeans
• Hang shirts from the bottom, and pants and skirts from the waistband so the clothespin marks are in a less conspicuous spot.
• Fold stretchy knit shirts over the line, instead of pinning from the top, to prevent the shoulders from puckering and the body from stretching out. 
• Hang wool garments outside when they have a smoky or funky odor. Wool is one fabric that releases odors easily, so you can hang them outside with no need to wait for a sunny day.
• Between drying sessions, bring clothespins indoors to protect them from dampness and mildew.

What Not to Line Dry

• Line drying allows the down in jackets, comforters, and sleeping bags to dry flattened or in a lump. The fluffier the down, the warmer you stay because there’s more distance between you and the cold air. So use the dryer, and add several tennis balls. They fluff the down by beating up against it.
• Sweaters should be laid flat to dry to avoid stretching them.
• Think twice about line drying if you or someone in your family has allergies as pollen can collect on your laundry.

For more laundry tips, see these fun videos on how to remove mustard, red wine, ink, and chewing gum from clothes.

Questions? Email me at kjaneway@consumer.org.