How To Air Dry Clothes Without Stiffness

by Reader Contributors

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Line drying your clothing has many benefits but can leave your clothes feeling stiff. Our frugal readers share effective ways to line dry clothing without the stiffness.

Dear Dollar Stretcher,
Regarding hanging laundry, what can be done about the stiffness of the clothes? I stopped using the dryer to save money but my husband had a big problem with the stiffness. So I started using the dryer again.

I figure other Dollar Stretcher readers likely have some effective solutions to air drying clothes without the stiffness that I can use so I can go back to hanging our laundry and reducing our energy bill. (Our dryer is quite old and not very energy-efficient.) Thanks for your help!

How Do You Air Dry Clothes Without Stiffness?

We asked our frugal readers this question since many of them regularly air dry at least some of their clothing. Read on for their frugal, effective solutions to air drying clothing without the stiffness.

3 Handy Tips for Air Drying Clothes Outside Without Stiffness

We hang dry all of our clothing. Here are three handy tips to avoid the stiffness:

  1. Stop your washer before the entire spin cycle is complete. Having a little bit more water in the wet clothing actually helps prevent them from being wrinkled and stiff.
  2. Use less detergent. Often times, the major culprit is detergent build up.
  3. Also, be careful how you hang your clothing on the line. We hang all of our pants from the pant cuffs and hang them upside down. The weight of the pants actually helps prevent wrinkles and stiffness. I also hang all of our shirts from the bottom of the shirts so they are upside down as well.

Amanda of Buena Vista, Virginia

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Just a Little Spritz Can Prevent Stiffness

I live in California and love to dry my clothes outside, but I also found them to get very stiff from the lack of humidity, especially towels. Now after the clothes dry outside, I spray them very lightly with water in a spray bottle. I then toss them in the dryer on the air fluff cycle with no heat for five minutes. It makes a big difference in softness and gets the lint out. I also have a very low gas bill each month!
Kim from Camarillo, California

Rinse Laundry With White Vinegar Before Air Drying

I take care of the stiffness in my line-dried clothes by putting 1/2 cup of white vinegar in the rinse water of my wash. Then when I hang the clothes, I give them a good shake before putting them on the line. I find that my ironing has been greatly reduced with this method. Also, my towels are nice and soft and very absorbent when used.

Cut Back on the Laundry Soap to Reduce Line-Drying Stiffness

I read an article recently that stated that you should only use 1/2 as much soap or detergent as recommended by the manufacturer. I have done this and it works as well as the full amount.

It sounds like there is a soap build-up. The way to cure this is to wash your clothes without soap or detergent altogether (except for the really soiled ones). Then rinse as usual. Take the clothes through the full cycle. I have found that there is usually enough leftover detergent to wash the clothes a second or third time. Try it! Then when all the soap or detergent is gone, only use 1/2 the amount recommended by the manufacturer. This is only another way for them to sell more of their product.

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Insider Tips From an Expert

For the stiffness in line dried clothes, it’s not the sun but too much laundry detergent residue. My mom worked in a commercial laundry during her summer breaks and passed along these tips.

Don’t use fabric softener, cut back on the amount of detergent used and if possible, iron the clothes slightly damp. Some fabric softeners react with the sun causing stiff scratchy clothes. Use plain white vinegar as fabric softener instead. If you have a home water softener, cut back on the amount of detergent or use the extra rinse option on the washing machine. A home water softener increases the potency of laundry detergent. Ironing the clothes while damp is still the best way to iron.

Run the washing machine, with no clothes or laundry, with several cups of plain white vinegar on the hottest water setting. This process assists in cleaning out the washing machine as it might have laundry detergent build up. Lift the lid a few minutes into the cycle and check for suds. If suds appear, repeat the process once more.
Stacie G

When Drying Clothes Outside, Use the Dryer, but Just a Little

This works like a charm! I usually run the load in the dryer for about 10 minutes, then hang them outside. When I bring them back in after line-drying, I put them back in the dryer with a clean, dampened washcloth and dry in the dryer for about 10 minutes. The heat and moisture from the washcloth make them as soft as if you’d dried them the whole time in the dryer, plus you’ll still have that wonderful line-dried smell.
Toni of Shallowater, Texas

An Upside to the Stiffness

Yes, clothing dried outdoors can be “stiff,” but don’t despair. You can soften them up by not drying them completely outdoors and then bringing them in for only a few minutes in the dryer. You will quickly learn when it is the right amount of moisture left in the clothing for them to come inside.

However, I have a friend who is a dermatologist and she never dries her towels in the dryer. She claims the “stiffness” is the best thing for your skin. It acts as a exfoliating agent that is safe as you are not using any chemicals.

Reviewed June 2023

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