Colorful shirts on a clothesline.

Line-drying clothes and sheets conjures up all sorts of emotions. For some, the clothesline is an eyesore. Others see it as an energy saver, or a reminder of life before WiFi—at least before you could extend your dryer’s cycle via smartphone.

Line-drying is a simple task from a simpler time, and there are plenty of reasons to go this route vs. tossing all your laundry in the dryer.

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Over time, a dryer's tumbling action breaks down the fibers in your clothes, which wind up as lint. And if saving energy is your priority, know that 4 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. Use durable clothespins that open easily; the heavy-duty wood ones work well. Then follow these tips from Consumer Reports' laundry experts: 

• 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 will be in a less conspicuous spot.
• Fold stretchy knit shirts over the line instead of pinning them from the top to prevent the shoulders from puckering and the body from stretching out. 

When wool garments have a smoky or funky odor, air them out. Wool is one fabric that releases odors easily, so you can hang clothes outside with no need to wait for a sunny day.

Finally, always bring your clothespins indoors when you're done. You want to protect them from dampness and mildew.

What Not to Line-Dry

• Line-drying makes the down in jackets, comforters, and sleeping bags 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 against it.
• Lay sweaters flat to dry to avoid stretching them.
• Think twice about line-drying if you or someone in your family has allergies, because pollen can collect on your laundry.

Shopping for a Dryer?
Our clothes dryer buying guide is a great place to start. Then see our dryer ratings of more than 100 full-sized and compact clothes dryers. Use the filters and Features & Specs tab to narrow your options. And be sure to check our brand reliability data.

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