Give Me a Line

Of all my husband’s lines, my favorite is the one that pertains to doing laundry. It’s my four-strand “Binford” clothes line that he made for me.
I consider myself somewhat of an expert on line-drying clothes. Years of learning my lesson the hard way with clotheslines have helped to develop the line-drying criteria and etiquette I currently use. I love to convert clothes dryer users to old-fashioned laundry drying by properly educating them about the practice and informing skeptics of the benefits. It also fits right in with the current “go green” movement.
A clothesline should be fairly close to the house but not obstructing one’s view of the driveway. Clothesline hesitancy is likely to occur if packing a lot of heavy, wet laundry a long way or having to make several trips back and forth is required. A sunny area that gets gentle breezes ensures faster drying; just avoid places where driveway dirt can blow in the direction of the clothesline. Installing heavy-duty metal tubing T-posts instead of wooden ones is ideal and strongly encouraged. Metal ones last longer and can withstand being consistently used at the maximum weight limit for laundry. Four strands of wire between the T-posts using a minimum of #9 heavy duty gauge wire holds up a lot of clothes. I recommend spacing T-posts 25 feet apart. Even if it’s not always used, 100 feet of clothesline is handy when washing 3-4 loads of laundry at a time; making a very productive laundry day.
Consider the height of the T-posts and wires. Shorties like me appreciate wires that are within easy reaching but not so low that sheets and blankets drag on the ground.
Investing in several packages of clothespins ensures not running out partway through a load. I strongly advise buying the primo ones with strong springs. Cheapies break easily and don’t pinch clothes very well in windy conditions. The key to making clothespins last a long time and not having to replace them every few years is to establish a habit of taking clothespins off the line and placing in a bucket, then storing indoors.
The freshness and softness factor needs to be addressed with line-dried laundry. I prefer the naturally fresh scent of the sun and the outdoors but some people snivel about the stiffness of line-dried laundry. Adding liquid fabric softener to the wash and vigorously snapping out shirts, jeans and towels can resolve this but diehard dryer users may still be hard to please. Be mindful also, of modest family members who worry about visitors seeing their undergarments on the clothesline. This can be resolved by hanging sheets and towels on the outer wires to hide their underwear hanging on the middle ones.
The pros to hanging laundry out on windy days are that it eliminates washing machine wrinkles better, gives an iron-pressed look and dries laundry fast. The cons are that wind gusts can yank laundry plumb off the line and twist up the clothes that are still on the line. It’s also difficult to hang up and take down laundry when it’s windy. Gentle breezes and hot sunny days are the quickest dryer settings.
Just to clarify, I do still use a clothes dryer but mostly in the wintertime. It’s just that when the weather’s nice out, I like to let it all hang out.
column originally published May 30-June 6, 2009

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