Jul 14, 2016

14 Tips for Using a Clothesline

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Every summer, when I was a kid, my Dad and I flew to the state of his birth: Missouri. And every year, it felt like we were stepping into another world - a better world, with a slower pace, cousins to play with, ponds to fish, sweet tea to drink, and Grandma's house.

Grandma's house was a place to love. It wasn't fancy, mind you. But it had a huge, musty basement with a huge musty bed for my cousins and I to sleep in. Plus cows in the nearby pasture. Plus a pond and "crick" (creek). And my Grandma's clothesline.

I don't know why I was so fascinated by Grandma's clothesline - or, more specifically, watching her hang the laundry on it. It might have been as simple as the fact that I'd never seen anyone use a clothesline before. Or maybe it was the way Grandma hummed as she pulled pins from her clothespin apron and hung my summer shorts on the line. Suffice it to say, I have romantic memories of clotheslines. So one of the first things I've wanted to do on our new homestead is use one.

You already know this is a house with quirks. One of them is that there is a nice, existing clothesline with sturdy poles...but the previous owners planted blackberries on it. And then hung a string across the front porch to dry their laundry. This doesn't fit my romantic ideal for a clothesline, so eventually, the clothesline will get moved. (And then I want my hubby to build me a clothesline that looks just like this.)

Romantic notions aside, clotheslines are a super way to get outside more, conserve electricity, and save money. But since so few Americans use them anymore, the art of hanging clothes out to dry is nearly lost. Fortunately, I remember a few tips from Grandma.

1. Wipe down the line before every use. An old washcloth works well for this. Other homesteaders tell me cotton clotheslines are less likely to end up with gunk that won't wipe off.

2. Hate the stiffness of line dried fabrics? Add about 1/2 cup of white vinegar to the wash - ideally during the rinse cycle. This will make your dried clothes and towels feel softer.

3. Using too much laundry detergent can also make your clothes feel stiff. Try using less; the truth is, you probably routinely use too much.

4. Promptly remove laundry from the washer, to help prevent wrinkles.

5. Use decent clothespins. I quickly learned that cheap clothespins from the Dollar Tree or Walmart don't last long and sometimes have rough edges that snag fabric. It's worth spending a bit more to ensure you have smooth clothespins with strong springs that will last for many years. (Wood clothespins seem to last longer than plastic ones.)

6. Don't hang clothes in full sun, generally speaking. This will eventually fade your clothes and make fabrics wear more quickly. Instead, choose an area of open shade for your clothesline. That means not too close to trees, which can shed leaves, seeds, etc. on your clothes. Hanging clothes inside out may also help reduce fading. On the other hand, if your whites are looking dingy, a good hang in the sun will help brighten them.

7. Hang like items together. This saves a lot of time when it comes to folding and putting away. For example, instead of hanging a kitchen towel, then a shirt, then a sock, hang all the kitchen towels together, all the shirts together, all the socks together. Once everything is dry and you're taking items off the line, fold them as you put them back in the basket.

8. Hang an individual's items together. Make folding and putting away easier still by putting all of one family member's clothes on one part of the line.

9. Prevent ironing by hanging right. There are different schools of thought on this, but I like to hang shirts from the hem. Pants, too. This prevents more wrinkles, in my opinion. (Other people like to hang shirts right side up with clothespins on the armhole seam. Still others hang shirts first on a hanger, and then hook the hanger to the clothesline.)

10. Another way to prevent wrinkles: Before hanging, hold the item from one end and briskly snap it in the air.

11. Hang heavy items securely. For example, fold towels generously over the clothesline - even up to the halfway point - then use four clothespins to keep in place. They will take longer to dry, but they won't fall to the ground.

12. Save space by hanging small towels on one another. For example, hang one washcloth on the line, then use clothespins to attach another washcloth to the first, and so on.

13. I hear tell that a sock hanger saves time and space. I think you could use one for washcloths, too.

14. While taking items off the clothesline, shake. Sometimes a little bug lands on a piece of clothing, and this simple step prevents bringing it into the house.
Courtesy of Ukko.de and Wikimedia Commons.

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