Advantages and Disadvantages of Air Drying Laundry

Reflective high-vis work shirts drying on a clothesline

Thinking about ditching your clothes dryer? Changing your laundry habits? Giving up (or reducing) use of these power hungry appliances has advantages and disadvantages, but we’re solid converts to air drying all year round. It all started by chance, but quickly became habit. Here’s the dryer-free scoop.

Ditching the Dryer

It’s been over ten years since I owned a clothes tumble dryer.

In truth, I never would have thought that going without one would be feasible. It certainly wasn’t intentional, at least at first. It just kind of happened. I left a snowy wintery climate and moved to a hot, dry area (extra hot and dry with drought at the time). The house was a rental without room for an indoor dryer. Not that I needed one, since I could barely get the basket fully pinned to the line before the fist items were already dry and ready to take in! Sizzle!

Line drying and rack drying became my new norm. Free and easy (most of the time). Despite moving through many homes since and through less-cooperative climates, I’ve never gone back to having a stand alone tumble dryer. We like the fresh feel of air dried laundry and it’s good for the environment, saving a bundle of electricity and money. It has a few disadvantages, but it works for us. 

Advantages Air Drying Laundry

  • Appliance savings on purchase, maintenance, and (if applicable) moving
  • Avoid the fire safety risks of clothes dryer operations
  • Space that would have been occupied by a dryer can be used for other purposes
  • Environmentally friendly energy conservation (tumble dyers are particularly high energy users)
  • Corresponding cost savings on your energy bill
  • Clothes last longer without the wear of tumble drying
  • Avoid the risk of shrinking or heat damaging items not suitable for machine drying
  • Fresh air help your laundry smell fresh and naturally clean
  • Sunlight helps your laundry dry cleaner thanks to the sanitising effects of UV
  • Sunlight can help brighten whites
  • No static cling all naturally and less ironing required (if you’re careful)

Disadvantages of Air Drying Laundry

  • Extra cost of purchasing racks and/or clotheslines if you are going to both line and machine dry
  • Installing and maintaining clotheslines
  • Weather dependency for outdoor drying
  • Moisture issues of indoor drying
  • Longer time required to dry laundry
  • Space limitations for volume of laundry
  • Supporting big wet heavy items for drying
  • Can look untidy or messy
  • May be restricted by council rules or neighbourhood covenants 
  • Sunshine can cause bleaching or fading of coloured items
  • Laundry can sometimes be dirtied by pollen, bird poo, etc. or blowing onto the ground
Green in Real Life blog space bar small left flower
Green in Real Life blog space bar small right flower

Our Current Household Laundry Drying Methods

Laundry at our place is dried using a combination of portable racks, hangers, an outdoor clothesline, and decking rails.

Most clothing is rack dried on a simple four-tier metal drying rack (on wheels, racks fold away for flat storage). Whenever possible, I place it outside on the deck year round for fresh air circulation and (when we have it) sun. I prefer the rack to the line as it’s easy to load/unload, clothes stays in place unpinned (less work, fewer marks), and I can rapidly move it if the weather suddenly changes. I have a pop-up mesh sweater rest for dedicates that can be placed on the rack or used alone.

For larger items like jackets and clothing that I don’t want to crease or wrinkle, such as dress shirts, we hangar dry. There are hangars on the top of the clothes rack for a few items. For larger washes requiring hanging, I use a basic portable clothes rail for hanging. It works a treat!

Larger items, such as bedding, bath towels, and pet blankets are trickier to manage. They take longer to dry, need more space, and/or are heavier to support when wet. I’ve taken to using our raised rear deck rails to support heavy items that risk stretching or breaking the clothesline. Rather shabby deck decor, but I try to avoid doing that kind of laundry when guests are expected.

If all else fails, our current washer can operate in dryer mode. It’s a dual function machine, although we only use it as a washer. There is also a laundromat nearby if emergency drying is ever required.

We’ve moved (again!) and are still happily dryer-free. The only significant laundry change is that I now have a very robust clothesline that can handle blankets and bedding. I’ve also switched to marine grade stainless steel clothes pegs. They work great and hold up much better to our weather. Strong NZ UV conditions (plastic) and wet conditions (wood) have been a peg killer for us in the past.

The Challenges of Laundry without a Clothes Dryer

Some folks dislike the feel of air dried laundry. Personally, I haven’t had any issues with air drying causing uncomfortably stiff fabrics (although I actually like that feeling of fresh and clean). Perhaps its because our frequently strong winds help flick and fluff the fabric during drying!  For fabrics with texture like towels, a flicking “snap” before hanging can help raise the terry texture. Repeating during rotation as things drys helps further fluff things up, too.

The biggest struggles for us with not having a tumble dryer are weather dependency and a lack of suitable dedicated spaces (indoors and out). If the weather is not playing ball, I will usually place the rack inside next to a sheltered window (rain can’t blow in, but moisture can escape). The deck is uncovered and we don’t have a garage. If it is cold and damp or I need to accelerate drying, I will place the rack near one of our heaters (at a safe distance away). For single items I sometimes cheat with our bathroom’s heated towel rail.

No matter what the weather or position, drying laundry here is front and centre. It isn’t ideal for visitors or for my own desire for a tidy orderly looking home.  Our new house is being built with open floor area in the laundry utility room where racks can be placed, if/as required. There is also a small under cover area outside the laundry door. We’ll be installing an outdoor clothesline (restricted placement due to covenant, but still functional) and I have requested hubby build a hard rail clothesline for outdoor drying blankets and other heavy items if the clothesline can’t manage.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Air Drying Laundry

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