It’s funny how your perspectives change as you grow. When I was a kid, I used to be embarrassed because my mom hung our laundry out on the line to dry. I hated the smell of line dried clothes, sheets and towels, to me that meant we were poor, we couldn’t afford a dryer. All of my classmates had soft, fabric softener fresh smelling clothes, our clothes, towels and sheets were stiffer and to me were just second rate.
Now, 30 something years later, I relish the smell of line dried clothes, to me it means freedom, self sufficiency and the satisfaction of a job well done. I just brought in a set of sheets from the line, I couldn’t keep my face out of the sheets, the scent is heavenly, and no, my line dried clothes are not scratchy and stiff, fortunately there are better cleaners to use that do not leave fabric feeling so stiff like they did in the “old days”.
I have experimented with several recipes of homemade laundry soap, I still use them when I do laundry in a washing machine, but when I hand wash (which I prefer) I have found that no matter how finely I grate the bar soap, it just doesn’t dissolve well enough, I have even tried turning it into a liquid, I just don’t like how it turns out, I can’t seem to get it rinsed out well enough and it leaves whitish places on my laundry.
I turned to Dr Bronner’s liquid soaps, being a liquid it dissolves readily in the water, it is low sudsing which is good, suds aren’t what cleans your clothes anyhow. Because of all of this, rinsing is so much quicker and easier. One of the reasons that line dried clothes tend to be stiffer and scratchier is because typical laundry detergent isn’t completely rinsed out of your clothes, even if you wash in a washing machine. Just look at the rinse water after a few minutes of agitation, you will see soapy bubbles, at best you can do a second rinse to try to get the residual detergent out, but even then it’s just about impossible, these detergents are designed to leave behind residues that contain optical brighteners, fragrances and such.
Now to the rinsing, I have tried all of the methods I’ve read about on line to help get all the soap residue rinsed out and help make the fabric softer, I have tried adding vinegar to the rinse water, I’ve tried adding baking soda, I still had stiffy scratchy laundry at the end when I line dried them. So I fell back on good old fabric softener, I use an unscented one by Downy, I don’t want chemical scents saturating the things that closest to my body and where I sleep. The fabric softener is extra concentrated so I don’t have to use much, and it has made all the difference in the world. Now even my terry towels are a pleasure to feel.
I have family coming out for a visit this weekend, so today I’m hand washing the sheets, along with a load of t-shirts. The first set of sheets were dry by the time I got the second set of sheets and the t-shirts washed, after hanging the wet laundry, as I brought in the dry sheets, I couldn’t keep my face out of the sheets, they smell so fresh, so good and they are soft, not stiff at all.
Another trick I use, this is a real shortcut, my shirts, especially my t-shirts (which I live in) I hang them on a plastic hanger to dry, to keep the shoulders from getting that weird hump from the ends of the hangers, I pull the neck of the shirt up toward the hook part of the hanger, just until the shoulder transitions to the sleeve is even with the end of the hanger, I use a couple of clothes pins to keep the shirt in place on the hanger.
I also use clothes pins between the hung shirts on the line to keep them from being blown together, this means the dry quicker. Since they are already hung up, when it’s time to collect the shirts from the line, all I have to do is remove the clothes pins from the shoulders, take them in the house and put them on the clothes rack. Some of my shirts I take off of the hanger, fold and put up, mainly the ratty ones, the good ones I keep on the hanger.
I am going to be ordering some Sal Suds (also by Dr Bronner) for general cleaning and doing laundry, it’s cheaper and I have read good things about it, it’s really an all purpose cleaner, from floor to ceiling, from dishes to laundry, and it’s biodegradable. I really love Dr Bronner’s cleaners and have used them for years. If you can get this in a local store, great, unfortunately it’s not available to me locally, if you are in the same boat, you can get them online here: Dr. Bronner Sal-Suds Biodegradable Cleaner, 32 fl oz liquid or the Dr Bronner’s Sal Suds Liquid Cleanser 128 Ounces. As of the time of writing this, both had free shipping.
It doesn’t take all that much time either, I do a little at a time, mostly doing it in my sink, I separate out my clothes, doing the whites and lighter colors first, brights then darks and blacks last. Often I’ll do one or two sets a day, so the whites and lights I’ll tackle one day, the others I’ll do another day. I fill my vessel with water, add some soap, then add the clothes, I swish the clothes in the soapy water, concentrating on any stains or especially dirty spots. When I’m tired of doing that, I’ll go do something else, then come back, swish some more, then wring out the clothes, if the water isn’t too dirty, I’ll wash more clothes. When I have everything washed that I want washed, I drain the water then fill the vessel back up with water and rinse the clothes, I almost always do 2 rinses. The second rinse I add fabric softener and if I’m doing whites or lights, I’ll add some Mrs Smith Bluing. That helps make the whites whiter and even helps with the light colored clothes. Again, I stop between swishing the clothes to do other things, it really doesn’t matter how long the clothes sit there.
Oh I almost forgot, my newest laundry aide, if you remember reading my previous DIY laundry article (this one has the most comments on this site to date!), I was using a plunger with holes in it to wash clothes, it worked pretty well, but I wanted something better. I remembered when I was a teenager, I worked in a Mexican fast food restaurant, we used an industrial sized potato masher while cooking the meat, I thought that might work for laundry, and does it ever! It’s not the round kind, it’s a thick wire that runs back and forth, it’s mounted on a long handle. Since it’s stainless steel, no worries about rust. It works great. This is what it looks like:
Be sure to get the one with the longer handle, you’ll appreciate it much better, so will your back. The handle on this one is 24 inches long, and the head is a little better than 5 inches wide, it gets those clothes really clean and doesn’t make a lot of splashes or suds.
Once they are fully rinsed and wrung out, I put them in a laundry basket and head outside to hang them. Where I live, the laundry dries really fast, we have very low humidity. If I really want them to dry faster, I pull out my wringer, that thing is worth its weight in gold! I don’t use it every time because I don’t have a proper washing area yet, it will be used every time once I get set up with a proper wash station outside, it’s one of those “works in progress”. I just had a gust of wind blow through, I ran outside to see if any of the laundry hit the ground, and yes, one shirt did bite the dust, fortunately it was already dry and I was able to brush the shirt off. If you have winds where you live, and you want to hand your shirts on hangers to dry, you might want to use clothes pins to secure the hangers so your clothes do not come off in the event of a gust of wind.
Life is good when you have the fresh scent of line dried laundry that is soft and so wonderful!
Not saying that everyone needs to live like this, BUT it’s nice to have the skills to be able to do these things.
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