The Secret of Line Drying Clothes in Winter (even in Maine!)

Discover line-drying clothes outdoors in the winter. The benefits include winter bleaching, saving money, and enjoying fresh laundry.

A striped sweater hung on a clothesline with snow in the background.

It may surprise you to learn that you can line dry your clothes all year round. For those of us in the northern hemisphere, there is an extra benefit that I like to call “snow bleaching for your whites.” So why is it that clothes can be dried on a line without using heat?

Line drying in the winter would have been a given for generations past. Doing so was quite normal. Actually, it was the only choice available other than using the fire to dry clothes, which would require a lot of racks and make a difficult obstacle course for a large family.

So why does the concept seem so foreign to so many modern homesteaders? Why do we think that drying requires heat? Perhaps as a result of our lack of knowledge on the subject of freeze-dried clothing.

What are freeze-dried clothes?

Freeze drying is just a simple phrase we use to describe the term sublimation. Sublimation is the process of going straight from a solid to a gas without going through a 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?

Winter Bleaches Your Whites

An added bonus for those of us cursed/blessed with snow: You know that great UV radiation that whitens our whites and reduces stains? They become even more powerful when reflected off the snow, bouncing off the material to reach every side of the clothing without requiring the items to be turned.

Save Money Line Drying

So why line dry in the winter? According to the 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 to line drying indoors during the winter months.

Staying inside where it is warm and avoiding cold and wet fingers might be the biggest advantage. Increased moisture in the house is an additional advantage, which is beneficial because wintertime tends to make homes drier. So maybe consider line-drying just a few items outdoors. Perhaps just the bulky items that take up room in your kitchen, like your bedding.

Tips for Hanging Clothes in the Cold

When hanging clothes on a clothesline in winter, consider the following tips:

  • Choose a Sunny Day: Take advantage of sunny winter days to hang your clothes. The sunlight not only dries them but also helps disinfect and freshen them.
  • Time it Right: Hang your clothes early in the day to ensure they have ample time to dry before the sun sets and temperatures drop even more.
  • Shake Them Out: Before hanging, give your clothes a good shake to remove excess water. This aids in faster drying.
  • Space Items Out: Allow enough space between items to promote air circulation. This helps prevent freezing and ensures thorough drying.

These winter-specific tips will help make the most of line-drying during the colder months.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some FAQs my readers have asked me about drying their clothes outdoors during the winter months.

While clothes may feel stiff due to freezing temperatures, they won’t freeze solid. The sublimation process removes moisture as a gas, preventing the formation of ice.

Line drying is effective in winter, especially on sunny days. The sunlight not only dries clothes but also provides natural disinfection and freshening benefits.

Properly dried clothes on a clothesline in winter won’t be damaged. To avoid stiffness, give clothes a good shake before hanging to remove excess water.

While sunny days are ideal, line drying is still effective on snowy or overcast days. The sublimation process continues, and clothes can still dry, albeit at a slightly slower pace.

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.

If you’ve found value in this blog post and enjoyed reading it, why not share it with your Pinterest community? Pin the image below and spread the love!

A Pinterest-friendly graphic for my post on drying your clothes outdoors in the winter.

In addition to reducing electricity costs, line drying during the winter provides a special chance to take advantage of the snowy weather and use sunlight as a natural and sustainable way to dry clothing. So whether you use indoor racks or line dry outside on sunny winter days, this age-old method is environmentally friendly and frugal at the same time. 

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

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58 Comments

  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:

      I LIVE OUTSIDE OF BUFFALO,NY AND I LINE DRY OUTSIDE AND INSIDE FOR 2 YEARS NOW