Drying Laundry Without a Dryer: My Drying Racks and Indoor Clothesline Setup

I don’t own a clothes dryer. Although we bought our first ever washer a few months ago, we decided that we didn’t need to purchase a dryer. Now, nearly three months later, I’m happy to say that skipping the dryer was a great decision. For me personally, not owning a dryer offers a lot of benefits:

Energy savings: I’ve read that clothes dryers are one of the largest sources of household energy use. I’m sure we’re saving quite a bit of energy by not owning one.

Financial savings: No ongoing costs to run the dryer, as well as no upfront cost of purchasing the dryer.

Space savings:If you have a large garage to house your dryer, the space gained by not owning a dryer is probably negligible. In our 900 square foot apartment, however, storage space is limited so being able to use dryer space for something else is a huge benefit. I decided to put my pantry where the dryer would’ve gone:

Harder to Succumb to Laziness: If I owned a dryer, I’m sure I’d be tempted to use it when I just didn’t feel like hanging clothes. Without one in the apartment, I can’t do that! I do have access to dryers in our apartment complex’s communal laundry room, but that requires me to drag my wet laundry down the street and then pay $1.50, so you can be sure that I won’t be taking that route unless it’s some sort of laundry emergency.

My Air-Drying Setup

I dry all of my laundry inside. We do have a small balcony, but our apartment complex does not allow outdoor clotheslines. Even if they did, I’m not sure that I would take advantage of it, as I’d rather use our limited balcony space for our garden. Drying laundry inside been working for me for years so I don’t really mind.

I have two folding drying racks and one indoor clothesline. Between the racks and the clothesline I can dry a full load of laundry from my 3.5 cubic foot front-load washer. When I used to use the top-load washers in the laundry room at our old apartment, my two drying racks were usually large enough to accommodate a full load from those machines.

Drying racks

The drying racks are perfect for drying most of our clothes. Now that I have extra space, I set these up in our second bedroom, but when we lived in a smaller apartment I used to set them up in whatever random spaces were large enough to fit them. They collapse when not in use so I think they’re a great option if you want to air-dry at least some of your laundry but don’t have much extra space.

The drying racks pictured in the above photo are no longer available anywhere that I can find, but after those eventually broke I purchased this long rack and two of these taller racks. I have been very pleased with all of them.

Drying sheets on the indoor clothesline

I purchased my indoor clothesline because I needed a drying apparatus that could accommodate a whole load of sheets and towels at once. I ended up purchasing this inexpensive clothesline from Amazon. It works very well for sheets and towels as well as for clothes. Jesse installed it in our second bedroom (a.k.a. our garage as it also holds our chest freezer and dehydrator :)). When the clothesline is full of tall things like sheets, you have to navigate your way through the room but I really don’t think it’s a big deal. When not in use, the clothesline can retract back into the wall. I don’t usually bother retracting it, though, as we hung it high enough that you can walk easily walk underneath the line.

Empty clothesline

Planning Ahead

Living without a dryer definitely requires a bit of thinking ahead. No longer can you expect to finish a load of laundry within a few hours. Depending on how warm it is, you may have to wait a day or two before your laundry is dry and ready to be put away. Once you get used to it, this really isn’t a big deal, but it does require you to plan ahead by a day or two rather than waiting until you’re completely out of everything. These days, the only time I have trouble with this is when we’re traveling. It can be tough to time my various loads so that everything we need is clean for our trip.

Speeding Drying

It’s been so hot here this summer that I haven’t really had issues with things drying slowly. When I was really in a hurry to get a few things dry because I had to pack for a trip, however, I experimented with aiming our big box fan at the laundry to speed drying. As you’d expect, this made a noticeable difference in how quickly things dried. I may end up doing this in the winter, too, if things are drying too slowly in the cold.

Stiff Towels

The one major drawback I’ve encountered with air-drying is that some of our towels dry very stiffly. At one point I noticed that this was mostly happening to our oldest towels. Our newer towels were certainly not drying soft and fluffy like you get with a dryer, but they were only minorly stiff, unlike the older towels which are downright unpleasant to have on your skin. So, I bought some new towels, which are drying quite nicely. I’m hanging on to the old towels, in case I can figure out how to solve the stiffness problem, but for the most part we’ll be avoiding them. There are enough difficult things in life without adding icky towels to the list. 🙂

No Dryer Works for Us

For now Jesse and I are just a family of two so we don’t have a ton of laundry. I usually do somewhere between one and three loads of laundry per week. If you have a lot more laundry in your life, living without a dryer may not be achievable, but you might experiment with air-drying a portion of your clothes to see if it works for you.

I’m sure it helps that I’m rarely drowning in laundry, but I also find hanging our laundry to be a relaxing activity. I put on a good podcast and get to have a little break from the rest of my work. It’s always nice to enjoy yourself while also doing something that’s good for your budget as well as the environment.

Do you air-dry your laundry? Why or why not?


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28 Responses to Drying Laundry Without a Dryer: My Drying Racks and Indoor Clothesline Setup

  1. I do air dry part of our laundry, mainly my own clothes :-). I do it mostly because it helps my clothes last longer and is basically easier to deal with than the drier for more delicate items. I have a 12 inch long hook I bought at the container store which I hang my clothes on next to our freezer. Works out great!
  2. I air dry all of my delicates and work clothes (blouses, slacks, and dresses). On laundry days you'll find them hanging all over my kitchen where my washer is. But I've never considered air drying anything else. What a great use of your small space to save money and energy! Thanks for sharing at Living Green Tuesdays!
  3. Meri says:
    I have that issue with the towels too and was wondering how to make it go away. Hadn't come up with any bright ideas yet though.
  4. Meri says:
    Well we have old ones and new ones, and I've noticed that the new ones don't get as stiff. But they're starting to, and we've only had them for...three months maybe? They're not too bad, but I can see that they'll be just like the old ones in the near-ish future.
  5. Melissa says:
    I go back and forth with air drying clothes. Mainly because I prefer to air dry them and my husband prefers the drier. But right now our (shared) drier is broken. So air drying it is!
  6. Th1ck says:
    try a cup of vinegar to each load added when filling up with water it helps to soften..
  7. Thanks for sharing this post. I have hung up laundry inside and outside for 20 years or so. It is a great help to save $$ for sure. I do it because it's eco-friendly (outside sun/wind) and it does save our clothes...dress shirts, jeans and t-shirts for much longer. Important when you have three guys in the house. I used to hand out towels, but the guys complained and so they go in the dryer. Vinegar is a great idea and also if you can hang some towels outside on a windy day, that helps. Thanks again for your ideas...it's good to pass them on to others!
    • Meghan says:
      Thanks for sharing, Nancy. I've been adding vinegar to the fabric softener compartment, but maybe I should try adding some to the drum, too? I will have to try bringing some towels outside sometime, also--although it's a pain dragging my racks out to the balcony. :)
  8. Mariah says:
    Thanks for sharing this unique perspective! I'm getting ready to start cloth diapering, and was at a loss for how to dry the diapers... Never even thought about hanging them in the house! Found you through WFMW
  9. 'Becca says:
    Nice post! I really like the idea of putting your pantry where your dryer would be. We have that same type of shelving unit as our pantry (packed just as full, for 3 people) and it's great! I line-dry everything indoors, in the basement now, but when I lived in apartments and dorms I would string clotheslines across the room. It saves a lot of money, energy, and wear and tear on the clothes! You can reduce towel crunchiness by holding one end of a damp towel and snapping it briskly through the air to fluff the terry before you hang it. If it's still stiff when dry, crumpling it in a ball and rubbing it will help.
    • Meghan says:
      Thanks for the towel tips, 'Becca! I will definitely try them next time. I hope your shelving unit is not the exact same one as ours (it was called a Muscle Rack). It works great, but man was it a HUGE pain to put together!
  10. Deborah says:
    Rats!!! Someone always gets there first! I shake my wet towels as well, and although not as soft as from the dryer, it makes a huge difference. Since I'm using my chores as my gym work out alternative, I shake each towel (I try to snap but don't get it each time, I have big towels) 8 times on each long side, fold in half and shake 8 times holding the fold and again holding the two ends together. I also shake after they're dry, which also helps fluff them. I originally rotated because I don't like non-square towels. When I started hanging them I threw them in the dryer for a few minutes to soften, then realized it was the tumbling/crunching that made them soft, so I tried if shaking would do a similar thing. And this IS good exercise - I gave a dry towel to shake to my husband and blacksmith son and it wore them out, they were embarrassed! : ) I finished up the other six...
    • Meghan says:
      Thanks for these tips, Deborah. I wouldn't have thought to shake it this many times, so it's good you weighed in. I will definitely be trying this next time I wash towels!
  11. diana snipes says:
    iI dry my thinngs this way also. I also do not have a washer, but bought one form amazon called the woundre wash and it uses no power but hand power. it is great. i love not haveing to pay to do laundry becaue i live in a small alpartment and am on a fixed income. thanks for all your good ideas. loe them
  12. TinaC says:
    I have a dryer and use it to partially dry most of our laundry, then hang it on racks to finish. I have kids and do two loads of laundry a day at least, too much to have space to fully dry everything. And when the kids were young we used cloth diapers and even with vinegar in the wash they were too scratchy for delicate bottoms when fully air dried. I asked my mother in law what they used to do without a dryer at all and she said she ironed them to soften them, I work at home part time and simply don't have the time for that! Using the dryer for just part of the drying cycle and finishing on the rack kept them soft though. And light things just go right on the rack. So I'm saving at least a portion of that electric bill.
  13. TinaC says:
    Oh, and you can put shelves above the dryer for storage, we do!
  14. Robin P says:
    1 cup of vinegar, with a few drops of essence oil during the rinse cycle will leave your clothes and towels soft.
  15. Kent Slocombe says:
    Nice to see where some of the Slocombe/Slocum/Slocumb/slocumbe dispora have got to. In New Zealand I hang most washing outdoors, under the veranda if wet, and use the dryer rarely, maybe finishing things off inside if the fire is going. My concern would be the potential for the damp from the clothes going into the fabric of the building and causing damp therefore potentially dangerous mould ('mold' in US English) -if not then your heating bills must be higher to combat this? Kent
  16. Anna says:
    I too line dry all my clothes. We found having a dry uses too much electricity. Now it just used as storage. One way to make my towels softer is to use a good dose of fabric softner. Jeans come out softer too and for my work clothes, it cuts down on static cling.
  17. ProudHillbilly says:
    I attached one eye bolt to the side of my deck and another to a tree, with an iron shepherd's crook in the middle for support, giving me about 50 ft of line. Homemade laundry soap (a bar of fels naptha, borax, and laundry soda), a cup of fresh vinegar, and fresh air. I love opening my closet and smelling nothing but fresh cotton.
  18. Lee says:
    I line dry all clothes and until two weeks ago only used the dryer to dry towels and sheets. It broke, so I just started using the two large drying racks and indoor clothesline. I do more loads each day to allow enough time to dry. I do all this in the basement and since we run a dehumidifier constantly to combat moisture and potential mold issues it is another way to use something that is already running. And a dehumidifier runs on less electric.
  19. Rob B says:
    I use a dehumidifier...cheaper & smaller than a dryer. Keeps the apartment fresh too.
  20. Sharla D Pruitt says:
    the solution for The stiff towels is fabric softener No Lie it works I use that after I hand wash i let it soak in fabric softener and water
  21. Lynne Clark says:
    The solution to the stiff towels is actually: white vinegar. I found a Downey ball and have been using that for the vinegar. You don't need much. The fabric softener would work, but it would be more chemicals in your stuff and more money "down the drain" :-). Also, the softener makes them less-absorbent, so it takes more time to dry off. I have been air drying for decades, even when my son was in diapers [which were cloth]. I would take the clothes to the laundromat and take them home to dry on the lines I had set up in the kitchen [usually nails into the door frames and regular clothes line strung between]. As he got older, I graduated to a large wooden rack and coat hangers on the shower rod and in the closet. I dried work pants using a coat hanger with the hook placed thru the back belt loop and the pants twisted around to hang on the arms of the coat hangers.Yes, there was a bit of twisted cloth there, but that can be hidden by wearing the shirt out. I like eco-friendly and it is one of the reasons I still air dry [and I'm 69]. I also make my own detergent [fewer chemicals].
  22. blah blah says:
    Stiff towels = too much residual detergent. Most detergent brands instruct you to add about 2x as much as you really need to use. That's b/c most are a scented brand. If your clothes come out "april fresh", it's because there's residual soap on the clothes / towels that's still in there. This can cause skin irritation, which is why brands started making big bucks selling hypo-allergenic soaps. They still tell you to use too much, but the residual left on your clothes is hypoallergenic and doesn't irritate skin as much. So, the solution is to use less soap. It's often prefereable to use unscented detergents, b/c you don't want your clothes to dog-fight with other fragrances you put .. mainly perfume / cologne. Everything seems to be scented these days, so some folks smell like a dog-fight arena full of smells (shampoo, body wash, perfume, cologne, clothes soap and dryer sheets, etc). Everything you do to your body should be scent-free, that way the real scents, perfume and cologne, will stand out. If you absolutely want your clothes to smell good after hanging to dry, you can mist them with a bottle of rubbing alcohol and a small amount of essential oil. Rubbing alcohol helps disperse the essential oil (shake up the mix) and dries without damaging clothes. But, the essential oil can leave little oil spots if not done properly. (don't get cheap brands).

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