Rainy-Weather Tips for Clothesline Users

Many people tell me they would love to do without a clothes-dryer, not only to reduce their electricity footprint but also to free up space in their homes and have one less piece of machinery to maintain.

But some people rightfully wonder, “How do I do without a clothes dryer if I live in a place that has a rainy season, or has a lot of cloudy/rainy weather throughout the year?”

As it happens, I’m in just that rainy boat right now! The rain feels delicious — cools down the air; wets the sidewalks and asphalt; nurtures the thirsty plants. But it puts a “damper” on what is usually the ultimate energy-efficient, free clothes-dryer and sheet-freshener, namely the blazing Florida sun plus a piece of slim rope stretched between two or three stationary objects.

Here are a few tips I’ve picked up over the years of doing without an electric dryer in rainy times.

  • Wait til the sun comes back out! My favorite tip is the simple, old-fashioned one: Just don’t do laundry on rainy days if you can avoid it! Or only wash small items like underwear. But if the rainy spell drags on and you just can’t avoid washing clothes …
  • Have an indoor drying rack or other indoor alternative. In addition to having one of those old-fashioned wooden racks that fold up neatly when not in use, I also have a couple of makeshift drying rigs* set up, one by my bedroom/office window and another in the corner of my kitchen where I keep the mop and broom. That area gets a lot of air circulation through open doors and windows. A young student from Germany, who stayed at my house for a month last spring, told me his father had engineered elaborate clothes-drying racks for their family’s apartment in central Berlin. The racks are raised and lowered by a pulley system as needed.
  • Choose an easy-dry wardrobe. As a general rule, it’s a good idea to avoid burdening yourself with thick heavy clothes that have to be washed frequently, or clothes made of fabrics that take a long time to dry. This is even more true in humid/rainy times. Choose lightweight items that will dry quickly. (In winter, you can layer these items for warmth. Multiple thin layers keep you warmer than one thick layer anyway.) Long underwear made of silk or breathable artificial fiber dries quickly, while your very thick snow pants and jacket should not need to be washed often. In summer, everything is lightweight, so it’s less of an issue, with the exception of thick towels which many people use year-round.
  • About those thick towels! Lots of people love the sensation of a nice thick fluffy towel, but boy are those things a pain to dry, especially in damp weather. You might consider trying out a thin small towel to dry off with, at least during rainy times. This is a bit of local wisdom I picked up while living in Tokyo. I noticed everyone at the public baths seemed to use these thin little hand towels, which proved to be surprisingly effective. I tried one and never looked back. If you want a big cloth to wrap around your body after showering, consider a sarong. They are made of thin fabric so they dry fast!
  • Love your denim jeans or other thick clothes? No problem! Either avoid wearing them in wet weather, or, if you really want to wear them, go ahead, but just don’t worry about washing them til the sun comes out again. Rather than stuff them in the hamper (where they will get damp and smelly, making them harder to clean), hang them on a drying rack til laundry time. Or stick them on the clothesline and let them get a rainwater rinse! Which brings me to my next tip…
  • Clotheslines aren’t just for drying! I often use my clothesline in the rain, to pre-wash my sheets or clothes. I also use the clothesline in rain to rinse out clothes that I have hand-washed in gentle soapy water. Even if it rains for days, and the stuff ends up sitting out on the line for days on end, no harm done. Once the sun comes out, they will dry, and they come out just as clean and sun-dried fragrant as if they’d been quickly washed and dried.
  • Professional cleaners are your friend. I’ve been self-employed since 1995, and even before that, I never worked in any office that had a strict dress code. But if I did, and had many suits and dress-blouses to deal with, I would most likely take them to a laundering service or eco dry-cleaner, rather than try to keep them looking crisp with a regime of hand-washing and line-drying. But actually, now that I think about it, there are a lot of super-easy-care business clothing options nowadays (even women’s jackets) that will pass muster in a corporate setting, yet are easy to take care of at home, so if I were in that position I would likely look into those wardrobe options first.

This is about all the tips I can think of for now. If I notice more things that I do to keep the laundry simple even in rainy times, I’ll add them later. And please feel free to email me your tried-and-true tips!

*My makeshift drying rigs: 1) In the kitchen, I have a sturdy PVC beach lounge-chair turned on its end. It’s an ideal drying rack for sheets or other large items, and serves fine for small items like dishtowels too. I scrounged it off the beach; some hotel had tossed it, probably because one of the slats had broken, making it unsuitable for use as a lounge chair. It makes a nice clothes-drying rack though! And 2) In my bedroom, I have clothes-hangers hanging on a pole that’s stretched between two high cabinets. The air from the open window will usually get the clothes dry enough even in super rainy weather. (The pole that the hangers are hanging on is actually the underside of an ironing board. I have no need for an iron, so instead I use the iron — which I inherited from my Mom — as a handy shelf for my clothes!)