If you hang things carefully, they will often look smooth when they are dry, and you can minimize or avoid ironing. The best weather for line-drying, if you have a choice, is warm, dry, and sunny with a moderate breeze. You need some wind to billow wrinkles out of the fabric and hasten drying. Line-drying can seem interminable on a humid, airless day. But avoid extremely windy days. The flapping is wearing on the clothes; the wind is hard to work in and sometimes blows clothes off the Une. Avoid freezing weather also. It is painful to hang out wet things in such weather, and they will take forever to dry. Besides, water expands when it freezes; that can result in damage to fabric whose fibers have absorbed water. The idea that freezing outdoors is good for the wash is an old wives’ tale, born, no doubt, out of the superstition that great suffering always produces great good.
Make sure that your line and clothespins are clean. Wash the line, if necessary, with some ordinary detergent in water or household cleaner. Make sure it is sufficiently taut, strong, and secure to prevent the clothes from dragging or dropping.
Keep a plentiful store of clothespins and do not stint on using them. (Look for sturdy ones; some are shoddily made.) You can use old-fashioned wooden push-down pins (no spring) for sheets, towels, play clothes, and other articles that will not pull out of shape or stretch. Plastic clothespins are less likely to leave marks on the clothes—but be sure they are clean. For knits and stretch wear, including underwear, panties, T-shirts, and knit dresses, use clip-on pins (with a spring).
Usually you will turn three or four inches of the fabric over the line, enough to be sure that the fold will not slip or come undone, especially important if there is a strong breeze. Heavy pieces will be more secure if you turn one-third to one-half of them over the line. On windy days, too, turn over more, for added security. Do not let clothes drag on the ground. Be sure that the pin gets a good grip. To the extent possible, hang sheets, tablecloths, and similar flatwork so that their hems are parallel to the line widthwise. This takes less room along the clothesline and puts the stress of hanging on the warp yarns (they run lengthwise), which are stronger than the filling yarns. When hanging blankets or other large, heavy items, lay them over two lines so as to distribute their weight.
Hanging clothes properly reduces wrinkles and makes ironing easier. The wind smooths wrinkles and softens and dries clothes quickly, so try to hang garments so that sleeves, skirts, and legs billow out in the breeze. To accomplish this with sheets, pillowcases, skirts, and other pieces with double layers, hang them so that the fold (or the closed end of the pillowcase) hangs down and the open, hemmed edges are pinned to the line; do not pin the fabric taut on the side from which the wind is blowing but let it sag down a bit, so that there is an opening for the wind to enter.
To prevent fading, dry colored clothes in the shade or turn them inside out, or both. White linens usually benefit from drying in direct sunlight, which gives them a gentle, natural bleaching. White and light cottons may eventually yellow with prolonged exposure to sunlight, so some experts recommend that they be hung in the shade for drying. My view is that the more typical effect of sun on white cotton—for, say, an afternoon on the clothesline after each laundering—is to bleach it, which I like.
Sheets: Fold the sheet hem to hem, then fold 3 to 4 inches of one hem over the line and pin at both ends. Pin the corners of the other hem a few inches inside the first two. The sheet should open toward the wind so it blows out like a sail. Run your hands down the selvage edges to smooth them and make sure that the sheet is hanging square and even.
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