Lessons In Laundry

Friday, April 26, 2013

ひろしま青空美術館 Hiroshima Aozora Bijutsukan

Colorful quilt’s, faded blue jeans and bright whites hanging on an outdoor line is the quintessential picture of homestead life. But, don’t think fresh, natural smelling, line dried clothing is reserved only for those who live in the country – because it’s not. Every suburban house, whether it be home or homestead can garner the benefits and the pleasures of hanging laundry on a clothes line.

It may not seem that hard to stick a clothespin on a piece of clothing and put it on a line, but as many have found, the results can be scratchy, stiff and wrinkled clothing.

So – what are the tricks that will give you soft, fresh smelling clothes? They’re simple.

But, before you’re ready to hang clothes on a line you’ll need the right equipment for the job. That means a sturdy clothes line, clothes pins and a clothes pin bag or apron. There are several different styles of clothes lines to choose from, but I like the 5-line retractable dryer because it extends 34-feet, which gives you 170-feet of hanging space. I also like the umbrella style because it rotates and allows you to bring the clothes to you.

Clothes pins and bags are easily found at Wal-Mart and are very reasonably priced. But, you can tap into your inner farm girl and make your own by using a spare apron and sewing a 10-inch long pocket onto it, or for an adorable solution take a toddler size button-front shirt and stitch the bottom closed, then put it on a hanger, fill with clothes pins and hang on the line.

  • To ready clothes for the line, put them in the dryer on an air or fluff setting for 5 – 10 minutes. This uses almost no electricity and will make your clothes just as soft as if you ran them through a full dryer cycle. If you don’t have a dryer hang, clothes on a windy day. The buffeting wind will create the same result as a fluff cycle.
  • As you hang each piece of clothing give it a firm, sharp SNAP. This only takes seconds and will help shape the garment and shake out some of the wrinkles.
  • When washing clothes, use a fabric softener or white vinegar to help soften them. This will help keep clothes dryer soft.
  • If you live in areas of the country that have bright sunny days, fading may become a problem, but it’s great for brightening up whites. If fading is a concern, just turn colored clothes inside out before hanging them on the line. Fading can also be kept to a minimum if clothes are brought in as soon as they are dry. But, whites can be left out longer and will become brighter.

Now is it time to hang your clothes on the line? Not just yet.

To make the whole process move along faster try these simple steps, then, as you become more comfortable with the process you can adjust them to meet your own needs.

Before you put clothes on the line sort them quickly into your laundry basket starting with large items like sheets, table clothes and bath towels. Fold in half and place in the basket. When it’s time to hang just pull them out and pin them on the clothesline.

Next pull out all pants and jeans and fold the legs with the seams together. Fold these in half with legs facing up for quick hanging.

Then pull out all shirts, T-shirts and smaller towels and stack them in the basket by like items, starting with the largest items and ending with the smallest items.

Next comes underwear, stacked in a flat pile with waistbands facing the same direction.

Last in the basket are socks. Match socks into pairs and give them a good TUG to straighten and flatten.

This may seem like a time consuming process, but you’ll quickly find it goes by fast and will eventually help you because you can pick up a stack of like items to hang and don’t have to constantly bend over to get each garment. And, when pulling clothes off the line they are already pre-sorted for you, which makes the folding or putting on hanger process go by much faster.

Now it’s time!

Hang pants upside down, by the legs. Water wicks down and the weight of the water and the waistband will help pull out the wrinkles.

Shirts and blouses are also hung upside down to help pull out wrinkles, but also to prevent little puckers that form when clothes are hung by the shoulder.

To hang T-shirts, fold in half by the side seams, then in half again and pin by the bottom of the shirt. This will help prevent shirt corners from pointing out.

Sheets and tablecloths should be folded in half length wise and hung by the corners. If needed, you can pin in the middle also.

If you don’t want your unmentionables flapping in the breeze for all the neighbors to see, hang them on the opposite side of larger items so they are hidden. Socks are hung by the toes, while undies are hung by a side seam.

To help save you from bending over to pull each item from the basket, place a small table, old TV tray or basket stand near the clothesline.

When taking clothes off the line, fold as you go and you’ll find everything is ready to put away or hang on hangers by the time you reach the house.

Some final tips

See which way the wind is blowing and hang smaller items in front (unless you’re hiding your unmentionables). If you hang larger items in front they will block the wind and take longer for your laundry to dry.

Always bring clothes in at the end of the day. This helps the fabric last longer, prevents fading and saves clothes from night deposits by birds and other critters.

Also, do not leave clothes pins on the line, as they can cause black marks which can be transferred to your clothing.

Every once in a while run a clean rag over your line to clean it off.

Now you’re ready to enjoy the benefits of line-dried clothing – lower electric bills, fresh, clean smelling clothes and time outdoors. Amazingly enough, hanging laundry on a line is very therapeutic. The simplicity of it seems to calm the mind and quiet the soul, even if it is for just a few minutes each week.

To purchase laundry and clothesline equipment as well as other useful homesteading supplies check out Lehmans.com and Verrmontcountrystore.com.

Creative Commons License photo credit: kamoda

One Response to “Lessons In Laundry”

  1. Retractable Clothesline says:

    Talking of clotheslines, I have not repaired our clothes dryer given that it’s been broken and have begun drying out our laundry washing exterior!

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