Laundry Experiment: Cold Water and Line Drying

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Recently I was invited by Seventh Generation and MyBlogSpark to participate in Project Laundry Line.

The challenge? Wash your clothes in cold water and dry them on the line for 30 days.

Hmmm…. me thinks, I can handle that.

In fact, I was already washing our clothes in cold water and I had some experience with line drying. I also had some residual fear of bees and moths from said line drying experience. But, you know me, I’m always up for a challenge. I figured I’d find a way around that. And I did.

Yes, yes, I did.

  1. Up to 10% of a home’s energy use is due to the clothes dryer. Reducing the usage (or not having it at all) was saving me a few bucks.
  2. Line drying is a very savvy, green thing to do. You’re cool if you dry your clothes this way.

So, to dry your clothes on the line can make you cool and richer. Who knew?

Some observations from the first 2 weeks of the challenge:

As you can see, I’m drying the clothes indoors. Oh, let me count the reasons why… One, the weather here in San Diego is often cool and overcast. Not the most efficient clothes drying weather. Two, I won’t forget them outside. Three, I have this fear of bees.

I’m finding that I can fit two loads of clothes on this indoor clothes rack. So, if I wash and hang two loads at night, they are usually dry by morning. And, if I do the same in the morning, they are ready to be folded by bedtime. This means I can get four loads washed and dried in a 24 hour period. This is proving to be sufficient, even in a family of 8. Kids clothes dry quickly, which is a big plus.

Tricks to line drying

  1. Dry clothes that are destined for the closet on hangers. You don’t have to mess with clothespins. As soon as they are dry, hang them up!
  2. Pin tshirts on the line upside down. This way the “crunchy” part caused by the pinching of the clothespin will be on the bottom hem and not on their shoulders.
  3. Hang socks by the toe for the same reason.
  4. Don’t forget your clothes outside after dark or the bees might get them.

I also found some tips to make line drying easier:

  • wash the load at night or first thing in the morning so that it has enough daytime to dry. Clothes take longer to dry in cool weather.
  • shake out each article of clothing to help eliminate the wrinkles.
  • hang tshirts and socks upside down so that the marks from the clothes pins aren’t as noticeable.
  • hang shirts on hangers on the line. Takes just a few seconds to slip them on and makes collecting the dried clothes a snap. Putting them away is even easier.
  • sheets dry really quickly. Just fold them in half and then fold them over the line.
  • hang jeans by folding them over the line. Flip them halfway through to dry the other side.
  • don’t leave clothes out after dark as they can attract insects, such as bees and moths. (Ask me how I know.)
  • check the weather so you don’t have to rush out in a downpour, collect your clothes, and rewash them. (Ask me how I know.)

While we are back to having a running dryer, I have still left the clothes line up. Once I get over my bee/moth phobia, me and my clothes pins will be back in business.

What’s been your experience with cold water wash and line drying?

Disclosure: Seventh Generation and My Blog Spark provided me with a “Project Laundry Line” kit that included Seventh Generation Natural 2x Concentrated Laundry Liquid, a portable laundry line, clothes pins, a laundry basket, and a Flip camera to record my experience. I was not compensated in any way for participating in this challenge or offering this giveaway, nor was I required to do so. My opinions are my own. For more information, please see my disclosure policy.

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  1. I have searched the series to try and figure out what model/brand of clothes rack you received. When I google I only get outdoor ones {pictured in a yard} or ones that seem significantly smaller than the one pictured above. Could you please share that information with us? I used to have a wooden accordian style rack many years ago and am ready to replace it with something a bit more portable…

    1. @Elka Minor, this one is supposed to be used outdoors, but I didn’t use it that way initially. Now we use it for drying outside after the beach. I’m sorry I don’t know what kind it is, though.

  2. having two lil kids age 6 and 4 there are stains that need extra help, what is the best stain booster to use that wont harme the cloths but be tough???? oh and cheap sense were a one very very small income family.

  3. I have been using this clothes drying rack to dry my clothes in the house for a couple years. I have two of them and set them up in different places depending upon the time of day. It was great to get rid of the dryer out of the house. Since it is the second largest energy hog after the refrigerator. I really noticed a difference in my utility bill when we made the switch.

    To help keep clothes soft I just give them a little movement as I walk past them through out the day. That seems to be plenty enough like a slight breeze to keep them from drying stiff.

  4. We often get brief afternoon rainshowers, so I struggle with taking clothes outside for drying (I only do line drying for my cloth diapers).

    Are you finding that having all your laundry in your hallway is kind of annoying? I think that would get on my nerves a bit!

    1. Well, I’ve started doing four loads in one 24 hour period and that gets it over with for a few days.

  5. I wash almost everything in cold and line dry everything as much as possible. I have five kids with four of them six and under. The whites and stuff with stains going in a warm/cold load with Oxyclean. Since I have two still in diapers, those loads are done in Hot/Cold.

    However, I have the most incredible clothesline so I can dry stuff outside for about 3/4 of the year here in Pennsylvania. My husband built a very solid clothesline for me last year out of 4 x 4 posts with four lines after years and years of making due with running lines through the porch railing and around a tree that is now gone. You can see one of the posts with the hooks in this post:

  6. I grew up with my mom only hanging out clothes on a line. When it rained she hung them inside. We didn’t even get a dryer until we moved to MA and there were 6 kids’ worth of laundry to do. So now as a mom I try to only dry my clothes outside. I’ve always washed in only cold water b/c I knew it was a money saver. When it’s cold or rainy we hang a lot of things on hangers in doorways or on the drying rack. It’s funny that this post just came up b/c I just had an issue three days ago that I’ve never had before. I got home to take in the clothes (very thankful that the forecasted thunderstorms hadn’t hit) and noticed what I think is bird poop on my husband’s school khaki shorts (he’s a PE teacher). We tried soaking them in Oxi Clean and doing Shout spray but the stain is still there a little bit. It’s a brownish stain, not white or gray like bird poop usually is. Any suggestions? He was annoyed and wants me to start hanging things indoors again. But when it’s 90 degrees and a whole load dries in 2 hours, how can I resist??

    1. @Caroline,

      When I have a stain that hasn’t quite come out, I let it hang dry so the dryer doesn’t set the stain in, and then try again. Sometimes it just takes a couple washes. I have a squirt bottle of white vinegar that I squirt on stains and I usually add a cup of baking soda to lights and whites. I also use stain stick. That helps keep the colors bright, especially my daughter’s light yellows and pinks that often become dull when washed with my boy’s clothes.

  7. I am a strictly cold water washer since about March, and have been hang drying all of our pants since then as well. They just take too long to machine dry and if I do them at night they’re usually dry by morning. Everything else goes in the machine dry.

  8. I line dry (or rather, shower rod dry) almost all of my work clothes… most are blends of some sort and most are black (makes me look skinnier and I need all the help I can get) — a dryer is not the best friend of black clothes. I also line dry most of my daughter’s school blouses and such. She’s 15, and most of her clothes are not the sort that benefit from a dryer. Jeans, undies, towels, pjs, tshirts and socks all go in the dryer. I want those to be comfy.

  9. Before we moved in November, we had a clothesline. I miss it terribly. So in the new house, I’m trying to figure out where to put one. But I love clothes dried outside, especially sheets. No better smell in the world then line dried clothing and sheets. The towels went in the dryer. Everything else outside on the line. Cannot wait to have a clothesline again. For me, when I took things off the line, they got a good “snap” before they are put in the basket, and that pretty much took care of any bugs that might be clinging. Earwigs was the big problem. My husband still “snaps” his jeans before he puts them on, I asked him why and he said habit.

    1. Now, I’m not with you on the smell. Must be the chapparal around here or something. But, I don’t like the outdoor smell. That’s funny about the snap. And the ear wigs would totally freak me out. That would kill the deal. Good for you for persevering. 😉

  10. I may be weird, but I find it relaxing to hang slothes on the line 🙂 I will usually start the washer when we go to bed — then, first thing in the morning I hang it out. I love it!

    The only issue we have here in Newfoundland is that the weather is not always the best. But, we do have lots of wind, so the sun doesn’t always have to be shining to get my clothes dried.

    1. I think it is relaxing, too. A moment to slow down instead of rush.

  11. I always wash in cold, unless someone had an accident (either in their clothes or their bed) and always felt like clothes get nice and clean. I also hang dry about 30% of our clothes (indoor, like you, because it gets too windy/dust storms here). Clothes last so much longer. Colors more vibrant, less shrinkage, plus it saves energy.

  12. I wrote about this last year, including a formula to figure out how much your dryer costs to run per load (saving $ motivates me!)
    How much the dryer costs

    If you can, dry items such as underwear in the sun to sanitize – even the hottest water cycle in the washer doesn’t get hot enough to kill e. coli, so unless they are bleachable you’ll need powerful UVA/UVB rays to kill the nasties!“>Washing in cold water tips and tricks
    <a href="

  13. I can not hang our clothes outside because I am allergic to bees but I do hang them up in the house.I do 2 loads of clothes a day for a family of 6.We save around $20.00 a month doing this.I have always washed in cold water so I really dont know how much this is saving us.We live in N.C. so I would guess our utility rates are different.I love your blog!

  14. I have been line-drying clothes for about 10 years now and I love it, especially when the electric bill comes! In the winter I hang the clothes in the basement since we have a boiler and a forced-air furnace running there it is very warm and dry.

    In the summer the clothing hangs outside in the sun. With towels or jeans, I simply hang until they are ALMOST dry and toss them in the dryer for 10-15 mins. to finish. They come out soft and I avoid the 40-50 mins. dryer cycle. The residual moisture released in the dryer softens the fibers.

    Hanging my clothes on a nice spring/summer day is like therapy for me. I listen to the birds singing and enjoy the sunshine. By the way, my hubby refuses to put a clothes line in the yard so I use a portable wooden drying rack on our deck.

  15. I love hanging my clothes out on the line…you cant get that wonderful smell in the dryer..I’m one of the weirdo’s that like scratchy towels. I live in Yuma, Az. One of the hottest places on earth, and can dry anything in about a half hour. I always use cold water. I put a cup of vinegar in every load, that seems to take care of the stains.

  16. I have been using cold water and line drying clothes forever…my mom did this as well. I wash only whites in warm water. We only dry towels, socks, and undergarments. Usually onlly 1-2 loads in the dryer a couple times a week. We are a family of 5 (3 very active boys involved in sports). Most of the time, I hang the clothes by hangers on a pole in my laundry room and in doorways when I need extra room. I hang the jeans and shorts by the beltloops, and fold nylon shorts or shirts that I do not want stretched at the shoulders over the hanger. If you pull the clothes out of the washer as soon as the load is done and give them a good shake, most wrinkles come out. Sometimes you can even smooth them out with your hands while the garment is still wet. We have found less shrinkage especially with t-shirts and sweatshirts. We see a huge savings compared to our friends who dry everything.

  17. It’s funny the things I take for granted! I live in Australia – and have been washing in cold water and line drying forever! Admittedly our climate is more suited for line drying. I don’t use fabric softener either, but use white vinegar as a softener when washing towels or sheets. I also use a clothes rack (or airer) for drying the kids clothes – it is just their size and they love hanging their own clothes out to dry!

  18. I took out our clotheslines a couple years ago after finding the outside “stuff” aggravated my son’s breathing. I have 3 drying racks that I use in the basement which works well.

    We’re moving soon to a place with main floor laundry (YAY) and my husband asked if my drying racks were coming (“we don’t have the room). I said I’ll make room!

    We’re on budget billing for our electric so I’m not sure of the savings. I mostly do shirts and jeans/shorts/pants and my cloth napkins. I will dry our pillowcases on the rack, but not enough room for the sheets, which is a shame b/c I LOVE the smell of line-dried sheets.

  19. I love to line dry in the summer. Made hubby buy me a clothes line for mother’s day last year. he wasn’t real thrilled with putting it in the backyard, but I convinced him we would be saving tons of money drying the cloth diapers outside in the sun. There’s nothing like the smell of dried in the sun laundry!

  20. I always wash in cold and hang my clothes as often as possible. I made my own soap which saves a ton since I only paind 60 cents for the next 6 months of so of soap. As for the savings, my electric bill dropped $50 in one month with just hanging the clothes. If they get really stiff I’ll put them in the dryer for 3-5 minutes (set the timer) to get out the stiffness and any critters that might be hiding.

  21. When my kids were younger, we lined dried alot. At least everytime th weather was nice. Have washed everything in cold for some time now. Use to wash warm with whites on hot. Now it’s all cold. I don’t line dry anymore. We live outside of town about 4 miles in an old subdivision of only about 23 homes all of which have 1 to 3 acres at least. Several years ago they finished the road that our driveway comes off of (use to end at our driveway). Now there is more travel and when it’s dry around here the dirt roads are dusty. When I hang clothes out, they end up getting dusty – so now don’t do it anymore. But I never thought about line drying inside. Going to have to try that. Hubby doesn’t like towels line dried, so might do those in the dryer, but hang everything else. Thanks for all the suggestions/ideas.

  22. Glorious! Well, to be honest with you that’s what I’m doing now…but not by choice. We FINALLY bought our very own washing machine (no dryer yet) and I’ve been washing & hang drying. It’s great, but it also means I do smaller loads because I don’t have the space to hang ALL of our clothes. LoL 🙂

  23. I would love to line dry now but our ‘gestapo’ hoa doesn’t allow a line. I do, however, use clothes trees on the back porch & our porch railing. It actually saves quite a bit on our electric bill when used regularly. I also cold wash mostly, but sometimes I find that I need to wash the stuff in hot or warm so I won’t end up with a ‘stinky’ washing machine.

  24. I love drying my clothes indoors–due to too many bugs/birds in our backyard. We hang them on hangers and use doorways and the shower curtain rod because we have no other space–small house and NO basement (living near water SUCKS for this reason). I also notice that things don’t get stiff like they do if hung outside. Saves us a lot of money for sure!

  25. I live in Arizona so we have dry, dry, dry air and certainly at this time of year, hot weather. I dry almost all our clothes (6 people) on a very cool rack I got at Ikea recently, as well as a very cool clip hanger (looks like an octopus) also from Ikea that I use for little things like socks and children’s underwear.

    Once I got good equipment it was much more enjoyable. I had been using a cheap wooden accordian rack that was really wobbly. That took a lot of the pleasure out of it. I’ve also strung a rope between two trees, used an old wire clothesline, used a new and flimsy umbrella clothesline, restrung an old and sturdy umbrella clothesline, and dried my clothes on the radiator. IOW, I’ve done about everything!

    I use fabric softener because it takes a bit of the roughness out of the clothes. I DON’T use it on towels though. I want them as absorbant and thirsty as possible. Yes, they are a bit rough the first time I use them, but by the second or third use, they are soft. I don’t mind the roughness anyway as it seems a bit like an exfoliant.

    1. I think good equipment is really key to it being successful. The clothespins that came in the laundry line kit are busting, so I was thankful that I had some better quality ones already.

  26. I wash most of our clothes in a mix of warm and cold water (I just use enough warm to allow the powdered detergent…Charlie’s Soap…to dissolve completely) except whites I wash on hot. Although, we have a really old washer/dryer set and the washer seems to only rinse on hot or warm for some reason, so that’s annoying. I’ve tried line-drying in the past (mainly when our dryer broke) but I can’t stand the stiffness and didn’t really want to mess with throwing the clothes back in the dryer after I’ve spent all that time line-drying them. I do line/hang dry swimsuits (when I remember) and some dress clothes but the wrinkles are obnoxious.

  27. About those towels …..I simply dry them in the dryer.

    I’m so guilty of the “all or none” mentality. But it finally dawned on me that I could line-dry the things that line-dry well. And then dry all else in the dryer. So I dry by machine: towels, my husband’s work shirts (they look better) and socks and underwear. All else I hang up in the basement on lines my handy husband installed. Whatever is on the line is done by the time I do another load the next day. It only takes a few extra minutes.

  28. Where did you purchase the drying rack you have? It looks like it is a tripod style, and a little smaller than the kind I’ve seen in backyards that spin but are cemented in.

    1. That was courtesy of Seventh Generation and My Blog Spark. It took awhile to figure out (cause I don’t read directions), but it is handy and can fold up and be stored in the laundry room when I’m not using it. (I’ll be giving one away in a couple weeks. Pass it on. 😉 )

  29. I dry all my clothes inside as well, mostly becauese of the same reason. We’re a bit north of you, so I can’t say we have San Diego’s weather (jealous…), but it works better to hang it inside. I use a couple of tablespoons of vinegar as my fabric softener, and I have no real complaints about it. I’ve been drying my clothes for about 7 months this way. ‘Course, I don’t have a dryer, so I sorta have to…

    1. I grew up in Saugus, so I know all about hot CA weather. We also lived in Paso Robles for five years. 115 degrees in the shade? I do not miss it.

  30. I did this consistantly all last year. My major complaint was the time factor, but found that if I involved my kids, then I got the one on one time with them and they also had an opportunity to help out a little more around the house…so in the end, time well spent. I stopped during the winter months, but the sun is shining….so here we go again 🙂

    1. You’re right. I’m finding that the girls do enjoy helping me and it gives us a project to work on together.

  31. If you are drying your cloths you hang up on hangers on hangers arent they getting that bump from the hanger because they where wet and doesnt that pull on the fabric?

    1. I don’t have a problem like that. And they’re hanging on the line otherwise. Hanging is hanging, one way or the other. Maybe it depends on the hangar. I have plastic ones and we aren’t having a problem.

  32. You have started what I have been doing since january. I have banned the tumble drier except in dire emergencies. I will use hangers tho that is a real good tip thank you

  33. After line drying my towels and Jeans, if they are too scratchy, put them in the dryer for 10 minutes. It softens them right up, then fold and put away. I love to line dry…but there are those days when the clothes line is full (today) and the Lord sends rain (today). Then we dash outside to retrieve partially dried clothes so the weight of the wet clothes doesn’t collapse the line. If the clothesline collapses and your clothes hit the mud from the rain…you have to start over, yes, I have experience with this.

  34. I wash most of my clothes on cold, but I do towels on warm. I also hang some of my clothes on a drying rack, but those are just the ones I don’t want to shrink in the dryer. It definitely is more work. I end up having to iron most of the clothes I hang dry. Have you had to iron a lot of your clothes during this experiment? Any other tips on getting out wrinkles other than ironing?

    1. I have done what others mentioned about tossing something in the dryer for 10 minutes to soften or dewrinkle. But, my kids don’t care. I don’t know that my husband loves it. But, I haven’t asked and he hasn’t complained. 😉

  35. I have been washing with cold water and line drying for years now. At my last house, I had a laundry closet and put a shower rod across it to hang the clothes to dry. We recently moved and now I have a clothes rack on wheels that I can roll out when I am doing laundry. It definitely saves money. I use fabric softener to soften the clothes and also make my own detergent from washing soda and borax to really save money. The only thing I use the dryer for is towels and maybe jeans.

    1. How long do you think it was before you saw a savings? I’m a little skeptical on that front.

      1. @Jessica Fisher, Oh it’s a big savings for sure. We started hanging all our shirts and pants on hangers over doorframes and using the bathroom shower curtain rod (we have no other space in our small house!) and only drying socks/underwear in the dryer and our bill dropped from about $70 a month to $39! We made no other changes (in fact, I lost my job about the same time, so I’m home even more often and use the computer a more therefore).

  36. I almost always wash in cold water. We use to line dry everything growing up. I hated the scratchy feeling of the towels. Any suggestions for avoiding that?

    1. @M @ bettycrapper,

      I’m not a mom, but I am a cold wash-hang outside laundry girl. Consider adding a cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle of your laudnry for a natural fabric softener and for extra deordorizing.

      As for stains, try pre-treating with Simple Green. It works esepecially well for grease spots on clothing… especially ones caused by food.


    2. @M @ bettycrapper,
      We always wash in cold and line dry as well. Too avoid the crunchy towels trying hanging them in the shade and take them down as soon as they are dry. In fact since I normally am just going to hang them on towel racks straight away I bring them in even they are just the tiniest bit damp still. They finish drying inside and aren’t crunchy.

  37. I always wash with cold water as well. I don’t hang my clothes though. 1) takes too long and I hate laundry as is and 2) there are way too many spiders by my clothes line.

  38. I never used hot water for washing until I had my son — but I’m afraid his stains won’t come out without it. Do you have a trick?

    1. I’ve just kind of accepted the fact that with four boys, we are going to have some stains. I am careful with the “dress” clothes, but don’t worry about play clothes too much.

  39. Hope this isn’t a silly question but do you need to add liquid fabric softener to your wash if you line dry?

  40. I enjoyed watching your video. Lots of memories for me. We lived overseas for several years and I had to line dry in most of the places because I didn’t have any other option. In Mozambique we even had to wash our clothes by hand (or foot – don’t ask) in the bathtub because we didn’t have a washing machine. I always hung our clothes inside – mostly because the places we lived were extremely hot and humid, so the clothes never dried. We traveled continually and very light, which means we didn’t have other clothes to wear while waiting on stuff to dry. Whatever room had an A/C unit (or the most breeze) is where you could find our makeshift clothesline. The thing I looked forward to the most about coming back to the States was wearing dryer-dried clothes (especially socks!) and drying off with dryer-dried towels. Glorious! I still don’t take it all for granted. However, even with that book that I just wrote about why I love dryer-dried clothes :-), I think it’s great if you can save money by hanging your clothes to dry. It’s all the little things that add up. Line dry your clothes now, save money to go to Disney World later – I could go for that! 🙂