How to Keep Line Dried Clothes from Getting Stiff

Six Tricks for Softer and Less-Stiff Line Dried Clothing

White towels drying on washing line
Photography by Yulia Reznikov/ Moment/ Getty Images

Do you like the idea of line drying clothes, but hate how stiff everything feels afterwards? Using the clothesline will save energy and money. Many people like the fresh scent compared with running a clothes dryer. But clothes hung out to dry often end up stiffer than the fluffy laundry you take out of the dryer. Check out these five tricks for perfect, crunch-free clothes:

1. Use White Vinegar in the Washer for Less Stiff Clothing

Add a half cup of white vinegar to the final rinse cycle in your washing machine to help dissolve the laundry detergent.

It is a natural fabric softener and you won't be adding the artificial scents found in commercial fabric softeners. The vinegar smell will disappear when the clothes dry, so no need to worry about smelling like a salad.

2. Use Less Laundry Detergent in the Washer

It is the residue of detergent left in your laundry that causes the clothes to be stiffer when you line dry them. Cut the amount of detergent that you use in the washing machine. Half the recommended amount is usually plenty to get your clothes clean.

3. A Brief Trip to the Clothes Dryer Before Hanging

Run your clothes in the dryer for 10 minutes, before putting them out on the line. You won't use much energy if you run it on Air Dry, Fluff, or Low. The tumbling action and air flow will help fluff up the fibers and this can result in less stiffness when they dry on the line.

4. Shake Shake Shake

Shake out your clothes before hanging them.

This works similarly to tumbling them in the dryer, although probably less effective. But it's only your muscles expending energy. Just don't shake them into the dirt or grass, or you'll have to wash them all over again.

5. Windy Day Equals Softer Clothing

Hang your clothes out on a windy day and the breeze will help fluff them so they won't be as stiff.

This isn't always an option, but it might be an inspiration to do laundry if the wind is picking up.

6. Fluff in the Dryer After the Line

Take in your laundry when it is still just slightly damp and run it through the dryer for a final 10 minutes. If you waited too long and it's crisp and dry, toss it into the dryer with a clean, wet washcloth for 10 minutes. You will have saved using energy for a full cycle and your clothes will be less stiff.

The Trade-Off: Stiff Clothing Can Save Money, Energy, and the Environment

Your clothes dryer is a big part of your home energy usage and expense, especially if you have a family that produces laundry daily. Some estimates are that the clothes dryer alone accounts for six percent of home energy usage. That can be over $100 per year out of your pocket, and it's burning electricity or gas unnecessarily. It's up to you whether you can tolerate a little more stiffness in your laundry when you are saving energy, the environment, and your wallet.

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