Cancel the Crunch: Prevent Stiff Line-Dried Laundry

I’m trying to save money.  I mean, we’re a family of four trying to live off of my husband’s meager salary while I look for full time work (or for HuffPo to call offering me a sweet gig writing for them full time!).  I need to save every penny I can.  One way I save money is by drying my laundry on the clothes line.  I don’t have to use dryer sheets and I don’t spend the electricity to run the dryer.  Also, I don’t heat up the house with a hot dryer when I’m trying to keep it cool in the summer.  (And sometimes paying to keep it cool.  Thanks AC.)  I mean, people have been drying their garments in the sun since they started wearing garments.  Can’t be too bad.

Line-dried clothing smells soo good, too.  I love laying in my bed, on sheets, fresh from the sun.  It’s like I’m wrapped in the sun as I fall asleep, but without the blinding light.

The downside?  Crunchy fabric.  Towels are the worst.  I hate stepping out of a refreshing shower, relaxed after washing the mommy gunk off of me, only to be confronted by a crunchy towel.  Cringe.

I set out to try various home remedies to prevent stiff, crunchy clothes from coming off my clothes line.  Here’s what I found.

  • Use half of the recommended amount of detergent.  Laundry detergent leaves a residue on fabric that leads to stiff clothing.  When you use less, you have less residue.  Set aside those pods, since you can’t use just half of a pod.  Trust me, your clothes will still get clean.  Some detergent + water + agitation = clean clothes.
  • Use vinegar instead of fabric softener.  I used to load my washing machine up with fabric softener trying to soften my clothes before they went up on the line.  I would use the machine’s dispenser and a Downy ball, each maxed out with softener.  And it didn’t really help.  So I tried regular old white vinegar.  I filled the fabric softener dispenser on my washer with white vinegar and let the load go.  It worked a little better than fabric softener and cost a TON less.  And if you’re worried about smelling like a pickle, the vinegar smell is quickly replaced by the outdoor, sunshiny goodness.
  • Make a power duo: solar and wind power.  The more movement in the clothing as it dries, the softer it will be.  That’s a big reason why machine dried clothing is so much softer; it tumbles as it dries.  The wind breaks up the stiffness formed by residue and water minerals.
  • Air fluff before you air dry.  Especially when you have a load that retains a lot of water (like a towel load), 10 minutes in the dryer makes a huge difference.  I know, I know.  I said I didn’t want to use the dryer.  But I only run it for about 10 minutes, and I run it on air fluff (air dry or low).  The tumbling breaks up the residue, and it takes out some of the heaviness that prevents the clothes from moving in the breeze.

So let’s say you skipped all of that and now you realize your stuff is stiff.  Well Rounded Mom can fix that!

  • Chuck them in the dryer before they’re done.  Let’s say the wind died out on you and now your towels are getting stiff.  Before they’re completely dry, pull them off the line and finish them in the dryer.  Once again, you can use the air fluff setting.  It saves you the cost of running a full cycle and the heat of drying them hot enough to get it done in one cycle.
  • Dry and stiff?  Use their little buddy, the washcloth.  Throw your stiff towels in the dryer with a damp, clean washcloth.  Here, you’ll need to use a heated cycle.  The heat causes the washcloth to steam.  The steam, combined with the motion, will soften up the towels.
  • They’ll soften after one use anyway.  You don’t need to use a new towel after each shower.  Assuming you ball them up on the floor to get all mildewy, you can reuse your towels.  The moisture that comes off your body when you use it will soften up the crunchy towel for the next shower.

If all else fails, just think about all the good things that come with that crunchy towel.  Think about the benefits for the environment.  Think about the money saved.  That crunchy towel is kind of like a salad.  Yeah, it’s not your favorite, but it’s so much better for you than the alternative.  Mmm… a fresh, crunchy towel salad.

prevent stiff line dried laundry