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Line Drying Clothes in Winter

Did you know that you can continue to line dry your clothes throughout the year? There is even an added bonus for those of us in the northern hemisphere that I refer to as snow bleaching for your whites. So why is it that you can line dry your clothes without heat?

Winter Line Drying: Did you know that heat is not required when drying your clothes outdoors? In fact, your clothes may actually dry faster when it's 32F or less!

Past generations wouldn’t have given line drying in winter a second thought. It was completely normal to do it. In fact, it was the only option besides drying clothing by the fire which would create quite an obstacle course of racks in a large family. So why do so many modern homesteaders seem perplexed by the idea? Why do we associate heat with drying? Maybe because we don’t know enough about the topic of freeze-dried clothes.

Freeze Dried Clothes

Freeze drying is just a simple phrase we use to describe the term sublimation. Sublimation is the transition from solid to gas, bypassing the liquid phase. In other words, the moisture in your clothes turns into a gas and is just whisked away without needing to evaporate. How cool is that?

An added bonus for those of us cursed blessed with snow: You know those great UV rays that whiten our whites and reduce stains? When reflected off the snow, they are even stronger and the rays bounce, getting to all sides of the clothes without needing to turn the garments.

Save Money Line Drying

So why line dry in the winter? According to Project Laundry List, line drying saves an average of $25 a month off your electricity bill. Why save $150 a year when you could save $300?

Now I’m not going to lie. There are benefits of line drying indoors during the winter months. Possibly the biggest benefit would be staying inside where it’s warm and avoiding cold and wet fingers. Another benefit is added moisture in the home, which can be helpful since homes tend to be drier in the winter months. So maybe consider line drying just a few items outdoors. Maybe just your bedding or other large items that take up space in your kitchen.

Nifty Indoor Line Drying Options

If you aren’t sold on trudging through the snow to hang your clothes, here are some really neat ideas for hanging clothes indoors, especially when space is limited.

DIY Drying Rack by Sawdust Girl
DIY Project Ideas: 10 Laundry Drying Racks by ApartmentTherapy
DIY Built-In Laundry Racks by Me & My DIY
Drying Clothes in Humid Locations by Farming My Backyard

Have you tried line drying in the winter? Let me know about your experiences.

Winter Line Drying: Did you know that heat is not required when drying your clothes outdoors? In fact, your clothes may actually dry faster when it's 32F or less!

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  1. terri FARINA says:

    We have a wood burning furnace. It is a warmth factor 1st as these modern gas furnaces that are ‘energy effeciant’ keep running and running to keep you warm using a lot of fuel (#2) saving. Heating with wood saves us a lot of $$$ even if we are cutting, splitting, stacking the wood ourselves (exercise!!!). We line dry our cloths in the basement next to the furnace. As we have updated the house (windows, insulation, siding) it has become more airtight (great for keeping the warmth in) we like the moisture that drying the cloths in the house brings. We still use the dryer mostly on air fluff to get lots of lint removed and to soften the cloths. BUT if it is nice out I will hang all laundry outside.

    1. Keep telling yourself that lol. Hey, I’ve lived in both modern and middle of nowhere areas. I’ll take natural gas furnaces over anything else. The amount of people cutting, splitting, and fetching their own wood without a cost is miniscule. Most at the least buy the cords and cut and split themselves. And not manually. So there are costs of gas and electricity on top of buying the logs.
      The cost of a NG furnace keeping every square inch of the home at 72c is $85/m for 2800sqf. When I had to buy wood to get going before getting my own from my property, it was $1200 for wood. And I can say without a doubt, 90% of people ha to buy the wood 100%.
      I also had 2 wood stoves, basement and main floor. There were so many cold spots, and the 2nd floor, well you might as well have slept in a tent in the snow. So we had to get heat pumps which are inefficient in Canadian winters, costly to run, and again only heat where they blow.

  2. I live in North East Connecticut and although I am not a homesteader (I work a 50+ hour a week office job) I would not think to dry my clothes any other way than on the clothes line …..all year long. Temperature is not the issue, the humidity level is key. A good breeze always helps as well. I check the weather to see if it’s a good “clothes washing” day. I was the only mom at my children’s day care that used cloth diapers. My children were born 18 months apart (2000 + 2002) so there were a lot of diapers on my clothes lines. I also never used bleach on the diapers as I did not want to have those chemicals so close to their skin (or go down my drain and contaminate my well) so I used a washboard to scrub them before washing them and they were always spotless and white. When back packing through India I saw woman cleaning their closes on rocks…..their clothing was spotless. I did know an elderly lady from Block Island, RI. who said she saw sheets split in the wind in the winter. I would guess those sheets were not rung out as well as our modern washing machines spin our clothes out and there was too much moisture in them. I have never had a problem with my clothes splitting. I hung sheets out this morning at 10F. They quickly got stiff but within two hours they were flapping in the breeze, most of the moisture removed. Nothing like falling asleep on crispy fresh smelling sheets.

  3. Muhammad Bilal says:

    thanks for sharing great ideas.

  4. My grandmother (born in 1902) was raised in northern Michigan and told me about her mother drying outside in the winter. Thank you for the nice memory of one of Grammie’s stories.

  5. Richard Anderson says:

    Mr. Zeiger is correct with the caution about wind. Up here in Canada one would think that more people would line dry as it is an effective way to save on the cost of running the dryer. It’s very rare to see anything hung at any time of year though. I guess that, for many, the convenience of the dryer outweighs the cost in time required to line dry despite the benefits. There are also those who route their dryer vents inside during the winter months as they believe that it helps heat the house. I’m not going to tell anyone what to do in their own home but one would think that the moisture freezing the windows to opacity would be a bit of a giveaway as to why they cough a lot.

  6. Unfortunately this doesn’t work in areas like Oregon where it’s mainly rainy. :/

  7. My Mom was a Farm girl living in Southern Iowa. She told me of how they freeze dried their cloths by hanging them out side. Once dried they would bring them in and iron them – which old be a long process since th iron would be headed on the wood burning stove. They had very few options as they didn’t even get electricity until she was 16 years old.

  8. I loved this post! Very informative. I try to line dry bedding when I can. It does make it fresher. Nice post.

  9. If I tried to line-dry clothes in the Winter I’d have to leave them out there until Spring.. We get so much lake effect snow up here in Upstate NY that the clothes would just get covered with snow and I’d have to dredge through several feet of it to get to the clothes lines. It also can go down to negative 15 degrees for weeks at a time and not only would it be brutal to hang them up but when it’s that cold, I find it hard to believe that the clothes would dry even if it didn’t snow for several days – which it surely would… So it’s an interesting suggestion, but it unfortunately, it doesn’t work for everyone.,,,

    1. JACKIE MILLER says:


  10. It will be faster on a windy day.

  11. I put my boots on and carried the wash out to the line today because the weather is so beautiful in Midcoast area. Now that I know I can put the wash outside in the winter I am going to be out there! The neighbors probably already think I’m looney standing in the snow today hanging sheets. 🙂 Without a washer or dryer going and with the heat kicking on very rarely (and being kept at 58F) our CMP bill was nearly $200 this month. I’m looking for any and all ways to reduce that. Thanks!

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      Have you checked out Think Energy? They work in conjunction with CMP, but for much less money. CMP is currently charging $6.69 and Think Energy is charging $6.30. That 39 cents really adds up. Our bill went from $200+ to about $119.

      1. I haven’t read all the comments but I think the biggest bonus is that the clothes smell fresher longer

  12. We enjoy sword fighting with the frozen socks around here!

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      Oh that’s a funny mental picture! Totally something we would do.

    2. Suzan Atkinson-Haverty says:

      OH, boy did you make me laugh! My mother used to hang our clothes always on the lines out in the back yard all through the winter, even though we had a clothes dryer! LOL I used to go get my dungarees, which they were called back then, not jeans yet! lol and they could stand up themselves! lol OMG both my parents are gone now, and I think back to all of those things that were done to save money because of having four kids, and they were sending us to private schools. The best one was…..using powered milk, mixed with regular glass milk bottled from the farm down the road in MA,in 1970. My mother would always cut the milk half and half! I loved milk with a passion, and I hated it when she did this! So today,at 61, I still drink my perfect Hood Homogenized Milk pure and love it! No powder milk for me anymore! lol But I cam going to go back to hanging clothes outside. We live in a state, Massachusetts that lets these energy companies rape us. My bill is over 550.00 per month, and we live frugally! I am not lying! That is how insane it is down here. My parents lived for 32 years up in No.Turner and loved Maine! I love Maine and own land in Bethel. I still live down in MA though, but go to Maine a lot! I am sick and tired of these insane bills, and have been looking for ways to cut this damn bill down. So it will be outdoor drying for the sheets in winter. And I will pull out my old drying racks from the 1980’s I had when I was on my own single, and did not have a dryer. LOL I will dry the rest of the clothes and towels on the racks near the wood burning stove, or even in our large unused dining room. Also, I have just recently switched to doing much of my laundry with cold water! I remember my mother always did with her laundry detergent ALL! LOL Boy, 1st world country and we are all being forced to go back to the way our ancestors lived to save money! Who would have ever thought it would be this bad in 2017??? Your still young and able to do all that you do, but as you get older, life gets a little harder…I wish you all good luck in all that you do….I think it is great, that you are able to do all of these wonderful skills! Your ancestors would be so proud!

  13. I’m a die-hard clothesline kind of gal so in the winter, I do watch the weather forecast for the optimum clothesline days. In the case of several days of not so friendly weather, I must confess I put my clothes in the dryer for about 10 minutes and then immediately hang them up overnight to finish the process. Works great and I’m still saving money!

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      I do that as well 🙂

  14. Michelle Drake says:

    I wear gloves when I hang them outside. 🙂 I also button things around the line, when available, to save the step of reaching for clothespins. 🙂

  15. Just a slight pedantic problem with this post:
    The UV rays wouldn’t get stronger by bouncing off the snow, its more that the snow reflects more UV rays, so rays that might not hit the clothes directly could bounce off the ground and hit the clothes. It’s the quantity of UV rays not the intensity of the rays that increase.

    1. Anonymous says:

      Stronger radiation means more particles (“rays”) in a given space per unit of time. The particles have the energy they have, they don’t get stronger or weaker. We say we receive stronger solar radiation in Summer for the same reason — not just because the days are longer, but also because the Sun’s radiation we receive in Summer is more intense (i.e. more concentrated in the space where we’re living). Basic Earth Science. So the snow reflecting more radiation onto your clothes is indeed more concentrated, intense, “stronger”. She is only loosely saying “stronger UV rays” when she obviously means “stronger UV radiation”.

    2. So she could have said “stronger UV radiation” instead of “stronger UV rays”…yes, it’s an exceedingly small point.

  16. Thanks for the info, I thought drying outdoors in winter would take forever.
    FYI The first link doesn’t work and the last says you have be to be invited to read the blog.

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      Thank you so much for the heads up. I’ll look into getting those fixed.

  17. I was ecstatic to get our clothes line up! We had two “T” pipes welded, and then got the line and eye hooks to put through the holes with secured washers. These T posts were cemented in post-holes, and the pipes spray painted forest green. Only thing, the wasps were building nests in the pipes! Even so, We tend to use the wood rack in the house by the stove, but it takes up a lot of room. I’m laughing; after so much winter we just loved the bright sun and breeze, so out I put our laundry! (March) The next day-Woke up to two fresh inches of snow and everything white- all over again. After two days though, my clothes were reasonably dry, I could bring them in- they smell great! It was good to hear about frozen clothes, the possible wind damage, and that people have been doing this for some time~ Thanks!

  18. sue smith says:

    When I was first married I moved to an area where it was very cold and could snow 10 feet a night. The first time I hung laundry out to dry I was not prepared for the frozen boards I brought in 6 hours later. So here are a few things I learned -1) sheets or heavy things are hung out first 2) bring a few things in at a time to be able to fit everything on the inside dryer rack (this means you add less moisture at a time inside the house and 3)to prevent breakage of fibers don’t try to fold the clothes in the frozen state. The major difference back then was that the clothes lines had pulleys and you hung your clothes line from a porch area designed to hang clothes from. I will never forget those smells or the satisfaction from a job well done.

    1. I tried line frying in the winter and they never got dry! It was about 10° out. How long do they have to hang?

      1. Jessica Lane says:

        It really depends on how dry the air is, more than the temperature. It may have been to moist/humid.

  19. I hang our clothes out to dry all year round! It’s pretty easy here since the winters are usually dry with not much snow, and the freezing temperatures don’t deter drying at all. I had never thought about UV rays whitening clothes, but now that you mention it fabric left in the sun does fade! Hmm I think I need to hang my old, dingy down comforter out for about a week!

  20. I had never even thought about going out in the snow and line drying, but I may have to give it a try. I’m just now getting started on line drying in my home though, so maybe baby steps for me. Thanks for this post! I added it to my resources on a laundry post I just did.

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      Thanks Jenna 🙂

  21. I live in Downeast Maine. I am always studying what conditions make for the best line drying. So far, i have learned that the best drying, has to do with dewpoint and wind primarily, although a sunny day helps too. Basically, I check the dewpoint before doing laundry. If it is close to the temperature, I put off clothes washing for the day, as that means that the air is already too saturated with water, and cant hold much more before it starts to rain (or snow). I will be washing a long, heavy wool coat…I think tomorrow as it will be mostly sunny, west winds at 17 mph, a high of 23 degrees with a dewpoint of 10. Not bad!

  22. I’ve used my outdoor clothesline all year long for probably 20 years. I pay attention to weather forecasts and on days it’s not raining or snowing, I’ll have a line full of clothes. The best days are when there’s a little breeze- that helps with wrinkles.

  23. Mark Zeiger says:

    I haven’t seen anyone mention the major caveat of winter line drying: breakage.

    We took a photo of our laundry the first winter on our homestead, me holding a frozen shirt upright by the hem. My father saw it, and warned us about a problem he learned when living in Barrow, Alaska.

    When we dry clothes in the winter, we watch the wind. If frozen clothing gets blown around too much, it can break the cloth fibers. If our clothes are inflexibly frozen, we take them down when the wind picks up. If they’re partly dried at the time, and flexible, then we leave them, especially since, as many of you know, wind blown laundry is softer and fresher than calm-dried.

    It’s an extra thing to think about and guard against, but since we need our clothes to last as long as possible, we guard against wind breakage!

    This isn’t meant to discourage anyone from line drying in the winter. It can be done without damage to the clothes, and the savings are well worth the effort.

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      I’ve never heard of that happening. Thank you for the warning!

  24. When I lived in the Philippines I hand washed my clothes and dried them out in the sun. Thanks to the blazing heat of the sun my clorhes dry in a matter of minutes. This process made my clothes last for years and years looking brand new. I moved to a cold climate now and forced to use the washer and drier which only after one wash destroys my clothes eveb when placed on delicates. I’m trying to hand wash now but drying it has really been a problem

    1. Jessica Lane says:

      Hand washing and line drying certainly keep your clothes in mint condition.

  25. I do line dry clothes in the winter. We live in a small apartment, are on a tight budget, don’t always want to spend a full dollar for each dryer session.

    Thus we have a line on the balcony. That works fine on mild days, but we use the shower bar when it’s colder than 32 outside. Denver has a naturally dry climate and furnance use in winter dries the air out even more.

    My t-shirts and slacks can be hung on the shower bar (I use hangers and clip-hangers for this) just before bed and they’ll be dry by morning. Thicker fabrics take a bit longer, but it’s doable.

  26. I love this Jess! I can’t wait until we get our clothesline put up 🙂

  27. I have heard of “freeze drying” before but thought it was a joke! Thanks for the info!!! Now I am going to see if my husband can move the lines from the basement back outside, but closer to the house (sometimes it’s nice being 5ft tall haha!).

    1. I’m 1″ taller than my husband, so I do all the tall work 😉

  28. Kelli @ The Sustainable Couple says:

    Thanks for linking up and sharing on Mostly Homemade Mondays! We’re so glad you joined us, and look forward to seeing what you link up next week 🙂

    Kelli @ The Sustainable Couple

  29. janetpesaturo says:

    This is great – reminds me of Ma freeze drying the clothes on the prairie in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book, The Long Winter. Found this through Natural Living Monday.

    1. I do feel very “Little House on the Prairie” when I’m out there 🙂

  30. I love to line dry my clothes but with the hard winter we had in Michigan with close to 80 inches of snow and cold I’ll use my dryer. Can’t wait for Spring! Looks like we will get a little this week!

    1. This has been a rough winter. I did throw in the towel when snowshoes were required to trudge to the line.

    2. I’m counting on it. We still have 2′ of snow that NEEDS to go.

  31. Anna @ NorthernHomestead says:

    Growing up we line dried everything, and always outside. I do remember taking in solid frozen clothes at the and of a laundry day. My mom would hang them all over the house to get the last bit of moisture out. They would warm up quickly and be mostly dry.
    Today I still line dry, but since I do not have a laundry day, where everything needs to be washed in one day, I do not have so much at the time to dry. There is plenty of room in my laundry room to dry one loud and it adds much needed moisture to the house.

  32. I use my clothes line all the time but when the weather is bad we always use our clothes horse, it feels like it’s a permanent fixture in our house lol

    1. Deb Newton says:

      Describe a clothes horse please

      1. It’s just another name for a clothes rack.

  33. I love line drying my clothes. My clothes smell fresh. Plus there is the added bonus of your clothes lasting longer. This winter was hard to hang outside because of the weather but I try every chance I get.

  34. Honey Rowland says:

    We line dry year round. This was the first year we really didn’t though because it was soooo cold and had a lot of snow. By the time we finish with the animals we just needed to be in. Plus that warm moist air helped with the wood buring stove. 🙂


    1. Abid Farooq says:

      You have figured well. Impressive.