How do I... (1)

It may seem basic to many, but using a “solar dryer” (i.e. the clothesline) isn’t as easy as it looks! Here’s some tips that may help:

I use wooden clothespins. They sometimes get a little funky if they get too wet, but the plastic ones broke a lot faster. I fold a little bit of the fabric over the line before I pin it to help deter gravity.

In general, I hang shirts and dresses at the hem so that the clothespin marks don’t show up on my shoulders. You know, up where people’s eyes are. Pinning it on the side seam also reduces the appearance of clothespin marks…the exception is onesies, which get SUPER stretched out if you hang them by their “tail” (where the snaps are). On the other hand, if your kid is growing, and you can’t afford new onesies…

There’s nothing wrong with hanging laundry without pins. Just like there’s nothing wrong with laundry falling off the line and having to try to shake the dirt off, or having the dog rip it to shreds, or taking forever to dry because it’s not fully exposed to the breeze. As long as you’re okay with that stuff, skip the pins. I understand “hanging fatigue,” especially when it’s kids’ clothes that just take forever to hang each tiny piece. But you may regret just throwing it over the line.

An alternative to just throwing it over the line: wrapping it around the line. Girl Scouts will recognize this as a lark’s head knot, and it’s easy to do with bras and underwear of the female persuasion. For man/kid undies, I fold them over the line and pin them on the cotton, because otherwise the elastic wears out quickly. They dry slowly this way. I pair the socks as they go onto the line, because it’s easier to match them when they come off.

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Here’s how I hang pants–I do hang these right-side up, because the water evaporates better if it’s not all soggy at the bottom. Let gravity work for you! I also pull out the pockets so that it dries faster. Fast fact: if you don’t button them, you may regret it, depending on how close to the equator you live. I heard a sad, sad story once about a missionary mama who hung her brand-new jeans on the line, leaving them unbuttoned, and returned to find that the sun had bleached two triangles into the front of them where the zippered parts had flopped open. Mamas, don’t let this happen to you. 

And I see you trying to check the size on my jeans. Quit it.

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Here’s my clothespin “monster.” He doesn’t have a name, but he hangs on the line when I need him around. He’s had a few accidents over the years, so his original hangar has been lost. Here’s a simple, free pattern that’s similar to the one I used. Some people prefer aprons, so here’s a free pattern for one from a pillowcase. (Neat, huh?) The button eyes were my addition, because really, he makes me laugh.

And ladies, believe me when I say that it was an easy project. I can barely turn on my sewing machine, and I got it done in an afternoon. You can do it.

Now, let’s talk direction: namely, which way is the breeze moving? Think of the direction the breeze is coming from as the “front”: that’s the place to hang the smaller stuff like underwear and socks. That way, your sheets aren’t blocking the breeze from everything else.

My line isn’t tall enough to hang the flat sheets without folding them. So when I bring the bottom of the sheet up to pin, I only bring it up about 3/4 of the way instead of matching it at the top and just pin the sides together.  Then I make sure the open side is facing the breeze. That way, it catches it like a sail and dries both sides simultaneously. If it’s a heavy fabric, you can also put one pin in the middle at the top, and it’ll still work pretty well.

I hang whites in the sun so that they whiten and darks in the shade so that they don’t. You may not have that option, but sometimes you can reduce sun exposure based on how it’s moving across the sky. In general, intense sun exposure will break down the fabric and make things fade faster. For this reason, I knew one mama who would stick things in the washer late at night and hang them up early the next morning. That way, it dried before the sun was really beating on it. She said adding baking soda kept it from souring.

And since we’re talking about washing now, I loved this breathing washer tool when we lived in the village. It worked great and saved my wrists. I’ve kept it around for times when there’s no power or I need to hand wash something delicate.

You’ve got this, mamas.