British laundry: my fight with the washer dryer

Just a note: I’m moving to twice weekly posts – Mondays and Thursdays – for a while. I have a project I’m working on and we’re in a rough patch with Henry for sleep. Will be on this schedule until one or both of these items are sorted.

People keep asking us if how we’re adjusting and there is a lot of talk about how difficult this move must be for us. We particularly get the difficult sentiment from locals we meet.

I don’t want to downplay it, and I’m sure there are still challenges ahead for us in adjusting to life in the UK, but it’s really been quite smooth. We’re settled in our home, know where the parks and grocery stores are, and are already making new friends.

The two biggest adjustments to life in the UK for us have been accents and appliances.

I’m using my smile and nod technique with the accents.

The appliances haven’t been so easy.

First, there is the smoking oven. Every time I turn the oven on in our new flat smoke billows out of it. Closer inspection shows thick grease all over the back side and top element. It appears someone cleaned it and skipped these areas.

The stove needs some elbow grease and should be fine. Our laundry issues, however, are here to stay.

Line drying is big over here. While seen as a fun exercise for quaint hippies in North America, hanging your washing outside to dry is how it’s done here. I’ve heard people turn their noses up at having an electric clothes dryer. After seeing utility costs here, I have to agree.

To keep to code with sanitary laws here, all flats have to have laundry washing capabilities. Small space and frugal landlords mean that most of them have what’s called a washer dryer: an all in one machine that will wash and dry your clothes. Sounds brilliant, right?

Wrong.

Every local or person that has lived here for a significant amount of time refers to these machines as rubbish. They will wash up to 6kg and supposedly dry up to 4kg in around 3 hours. Strange math for a machine manufacturer but as I understood it, I just needed to put small loads in.

Except, even with small loads our stuff came out wet. What was I doing wrong?

I asked for help in the comments here and got some answers. We also enlisted a local friend for help – she’d used one of these machines before. She gave me a run through and I tried again. Still wet. This friend also knew the old tenant of our place and found out the washer dryer had never worked for him either.

An email to our landlord was returned with: read the manual.

This whole minimalist wardrobe thing was starting to bite me in the ass. I was doing a lot of spot cleaning and down to my last pair of underwear.

Solution? We’ve gone native.

Henry's "English" laundry

I’m now hanging all our stuff to dry.

Yes, it’s work.

Yes, our towels are crunchy.

Yes, I would take a North American dryer in a heartbeat.

But, really, it’s not that bad. I just have to be on my game with getting a load in most mornings and hanging it as soon as it’s done. So far it takes up to 36 hours to get everything dry.

What will we do in winter when the temperature drops and clothes take a really long time to dry? I’m not sure.

At least I can feel good about our new laundry system. Katy over at the NonConsumer Advocate wrote about the benefits to line drying. Better for your clothes, the environment and your utility bills. There are also some useful tips in the comments section if you have issues hanging outdoors (dust, pollen).

Okay, reveal yourselves: who line dries clothing? Anyone strictly line dry indoors, in a small home, and have tips for me?

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Comments

  1. Steph says

    I hang up some clothes in the house, blue jeans, delicates & some stuff that I’m concerned about shrinkage. My husband likes me to do his shirts in the dryer, otherwise they seem to stretch to two sizes to big.

    • theminimalistmom says

      Shhh… I send my husband’s shirts out. I HATE ironing. He tries to get at least 2-3 wears out of his shirts before we send them in. I’ve told him he can iron them himself but he wasn’t into it.

  2. lynn says

    I have a washer dryer and I think it’s a pain in the ass too!
    But it does sound like yours could be broken. Mine takes about 90mins to dry a normal sized (5kg) load. I don’t use the dryer function a lot because of the expense & the noise!

    Are the clothes coming out hot and wet or just wet? The heating bit could be broken. Or it might not be spinning enough… does it spin round so much that it looks/sounds like it’s going to take off? genuinely a good description, hehe!

    I’d recommend one of these for drying. I can get a whole load on it and it doesn’t take up much space.
    http://www.wilkinsonplus.com/indoor-airers/sabichi-concertina-airer/invt/1292440/?htxt=PsAGyAqy%2FDSGVBgOHPBfATKVETOKIWHcwqoICuDrG%2FxTcDPfxIrYzUvEu76RzzM6wutKTeo9AOCBtDs76aYYKg%3D%3D

    and this if you have the radiators on in winter.
    http://www.wilkinsonplus.com/indoor-airers/4-bar-radiator-airer/invt/0056804/?htxt=PsAGyAqy%2FDSGVBgOHPBfATKVETOKIWHcwqoICuDrG%2FxTcDPfxIrYzUvEu76RzzM6wutKTeo9AOCBtDs76aYYKg%3D%3D

    • theminimalistmom says

      Thanks for this info, Lynn. Yes, everything comes out hot and wet. Not sopping wet but not just damp either. It all needs to hang at least overnight. The landlord thinks we just haven’t read the instruction manual. But I’ve read it a couple of times now and watched the machine cycle through.

      Those are great links – many thanks.

  3. Sharon says

    I hang dry my clothes outside in summer, and beside our woodstove in winter…unless I’m feeling lazy – then I use the dryer. Setting up a fan really helps speed up the drying of our clothes inside. Or if you have a ceiling fan – setting up the drying rack beneath that helps.

    • theminimalistmom says

      Thanks for the fan tip. We don’t have one here but now I’m thinking a cross breeze could help speed it up. Will try it – thank you =)

  4. Heidi says

    I line dry almost everything. I just started doing this a few months ago and at first, I hated the crunchy towels. (I mean, one of my biggest luxuries in life was a big fluffy towel!) But, honestly, I’ve gotten used to the crunch and now I don’t think twice about it. I haven’t devised a plan yet for what to do when winter gets here, but I’m thinking I’ll continue to line dry in the house. Using the electric dryer seems like such a waste now!

    BTW, love your blog. I’m a relatively new reader and have had fun reading through the archives! :)

    • theminimalistmom says

      Thanks, Heidi. Getting over the crunchy towels too. I guess if/when we next stay at a hotel it will feel very luxurious to have soft towels.

  5. Claire says

    I have to dry indoors!! I live in a flat with a balcony but our lease states that you are not allowed to put washing on your balcony, nor are you allowed to hang it from your curtain rail!!! So all my washing gets hung either over my airer or on coat hangers from my display cabinets!!! As it’s only a one bed flat it is normally a comfortable temperature and I have a decent spin cycle on my washing machine so it doesn’t normally take too long to get a load dry.

    • theminimalistmom says

      We have a small balcony but I’m not sure we’re allowed to hang laundry outside. I’ve looked up and down our street and no one else is. Hmmm… maybe I should just try it.
      Not even over your curtain rail? Harsh. Luckily this place has a good amount of room. We set up 2 racks in Henry’s room and can get about two loads drying on them.

    • theminimalistmom says

      I was just lurking your blog the other day and read about the Shieling Dryer you got for your wool. Also read your biscuit recipe and really want to try it.

      Not practical for an apartment but might work if we move to something with a small yard. Like that it protects your clothes (or in your case wool) and you don’t have to worry about bird droppings, etc.

  6. Lauren says

    Drying washing indoors was the biggest adjustment I had to make when moving here as well – I grew up in a hot, sunny climate so line dried outdoors where it would be dry quicker than you could tumble dry them. I live in London with no outdoor space, so everything is dried indoors even in the height of summer.

    It doesn’t take that much longer in winter to dry, radiators are pretty effective at keeping the house at a constant temperature. But on really chilly/wet days, I also put on the dehumidifier. Mine has a clothes drying mode and it’s brilliant – on high, clothes are dry in a few hours AND there’s no issues with damp rooms which can be pretty common in older properties.

    I have a few airers, but this is my most used one and it’s brilliant: http://www.argos.co.uk/static/Product/partNumber/8500368/Trail/searchtext%3EAIRER.htm You can fold the rails down to create a longer drying area for sheets, etc. And because it’s tall, it takes up barely any floor space. I dry two HUGE loads of washing every week (I have an 8kg machine which I fill to the maximum) with room to spare on this thing.

    • theminimalistmom says

      That one looks great. So many awesome links here for drying racks.
      Thanks for your tips. Gas heat here, a first for me, so I’m interested to see how well it heats this winter. I’ve always had electric heat which isn’t that effective.

  7. AnnDenee says

    I line-dry outdoors April – November. And this is the winter I either continue with the outdoor drying or come up with something inside. My grandma put a 2nd shower curtain rod up, centered over the tub to hang clothes. She turns on the fan to help keep the air moving. It seems to work well for her.
    Good luck on your endeavors. I am inspired by your minimalized lifestyle and am cutting back myself.

    Ann

    • theminimalistmom says

      Thanks, Ann. That’s a good idea for the tub. We only use the bath tub here for Henry’s baths – no showers – so we could easily use that space for drying.

  8. Mama Minou says

    I line dry in the summer! Anything and everything. I just try to think of the crunchy towels (etc) as a natural and free exfoliant. Like a giant loofah!

    I live in the Pacific NW and we don’t heat our home much in the winter, so the indoor drying is a challenge. We already struggle with moisture build-up inside with a very airtight home that uses radiant floor heating. So I must admit that I don’t line-dry in winter months.

    My husband’s family lives in southern France and everyone line (or rack) dries there, with exactly the kind of apparatus you show. Often on the balcony if there is one. It’s really, really unusual to have a dryer. It’s hot in the summer, sure, but not through the year.

    I think & hope that this will get easier with time. You’re developing a new habit. Once it is one, it will seem normal. And think of all the money you’re saving…

    Now that I’ve said that, I need to find a way to do this in the winter where I live, too, without creating mold in the house or on the clothes!

    • theminimalistmom says

      The climate here is very similar to the PNW, quite rainy and can be damp. So winter should be interesting. But, from all the comments here, lots of other people get by just fine drying indoors.

    • deb from ps bohemian says

      we in the PNW as well and i’m wanting to try this out as it appears we’ll be moving to a rental soon and finding affordable rentals w/ laundry inside is proving challenging – the idea of being able to dry inside our apt holds the key to making such a possibility a reality :)

  9. Josie says

    I’m so in the habit of using a dryer that I sometimes forget that if we line dried, we’d save more $ each week. We’re in a 2 bedroom apartment in the Midwest in the states, and there’s no outside clothesline for tenants. There’s a washer and dryer (separate) for each set of 4 apartments in an 8 unit building. It’s $1.00 here to wash, and .75 to dry. It stinks you’re having trouble already and your landlord isn’t being very helpful. :(

    • theminimalistmom says

      Walked by a laundromat here today and checked their prices: 20 p for 2 mins of drying. That is a lot of $. If a load took at least 30 mins that would be 3 pounds – almost 5 dollars!!

      We’re happy that we only have a 3 month lease here. We like it, will be fine to stay, but we’re not tied to it.

  10. Karen (Scotland) says

    Ahem, drum roll. I am, officially, an expert in drying laundry. I don’t actually have certificates or a university degree in the subject but… four kids aged six and under, cloth nappies in the house for six years, live in one of the dampest climates know to civilisation… oh, yes, I’m qualified to talk on the subject.

    I line dry, rack dry, pulley dry, whatever. I had a tumble for a year or two but the electricity bill made me faint and I became “green” about the same time so the tumble now sits in the garage (I’m planning to freecycle it before this winter as I’ve never used it for three winters. Including a tummy bug for the whole family. There has never been that laundry emergency that required a tumble…)

    Just to be clear, I live a couple hundred miles north of you so we’re a bit colder. And it rains here. A lot.

    First of all, you need a drying rack that works. The one in the picture is guff. Everything is folded double and touches the items on the line below. I would recommend the IKEA cheap ones (less than £4). They fold out like an old-fashioned tea table and have about 8 or 10 lines parallel to each other, about 2.5 feet long. You can lift and move them around without them collapsing and they fit through a door, even with clothes on them. (So you can move them from kitchen to bathroom to hall or wherever suits you that day. Mine have even been known to move into the garden for a few hours if the winter sunshine appears.)

    Hang the stuff with pegs – don’t just fold it over – it’ll dry faster and be less creased. Give things a good whip-crack and shake before you hang them – separates the material and lets the air circulate better.

    How high are your ceilings? If they are a decent height, the higher the laundry, the faster it dries. I have a pulley above my stairs and things dry overnight. As a tenant’s solution, you could get peggy-things (IKEA or poundland – a plastic circle with about 16 pegs) and hang the peggy-things from hooks on the ceiling in corners of each room?

    In the winter, things will dry better than they probably do now as you will have your heating on. Yes, you will have to karate chop clothes to fold them but you just have to deal with that…

    Similarly, crunchy towels? Looking on the bright side, they dry you faster. And you won’t need to exfoliate…
    :-)

    Sheets get hung over doors or kitchen chairs. I’m lucky – I use the stair bannister or pulley – but I have friends who have to use the chairs etc. Have to admit – that would bug me.

    Hope some of this helps you.

    Does your flat not have a communal drying green or outdoor line? Not a flat roof on the building, even? Outdoors is just so much better than in – fresher, less crunchy, sunshine sterilising.

    (Oh, yeah, completely disrespectful of me to laugh but, seriously, pollen and dust concerns? Eh, no. Has never even occurred to me. What’s the population of your town again? Does the air feel bad to breathe? No? Then drying your laundry outdoors will probably be fine.)

    Last tip? don’t cook garlic or onions while your clothes are drying indoors. ;-)
    Karen

  11. Betts says

    Having spent most of the last 10 years in British rentals, I line dry indoors a lot. In the winter, it can take 3 days to dry a load (depending on sun coming through windows/cross breeze/how warm your house is/if you live in a damp evil basement flat from hell…) so my top tip is find a laundry set up you can live with.

    If you’ve got an airing cupboard or a room with a boiler in, that’s a good place to put your laundry racks. My current houseshare has a utility room with the boiler in, and enough garden for a line, so I’m in heaven!

    Have never had any complaints about visible laundry in the UK, so I’d give it a go if I were you.

    I’ve got something like this:
    http://www.ikea.com/gb/en/catalog/products/50095091
    which is great for small things as (on mine at least) the rails go all the way down, so I can fit a full load of underwear on there plus a few more things

    and two like this
    http://www.ikea.com/gb/en/catalog/products/30176088
    only the old model, without the wings, which work better for bigger things like towels/tshirts/shirts

    Sheets I hang over a door :)

    • theminimalistmom says

      Thanks for these tips. We’re on the fourth floor and get good afternoon sun. I might put the rack in the dining room for an afternoon to see if it speeds things up.

  12. Tanja from Minimalist Packrat says

    36 hours? That sounds like a long time for drying Rachel! Those clothes must be coming out really wet.

    I’m in the states and I typically go to a laundromat. But sometimes when I’m busy I’ll wash at home. Cora has a washer and an out door clothes line. Even with the Florida humidity it’s often only 3 or 4 hours before everything is dry (and a little crunchy). She’s one of those quaint hippies you mentioned!

    Do they have laundromats in the U.K.? It might be less hassle to go once a week, spend an hour and a half and have all your wash done!

    • theminimalistmom says

      They have laundromats but I walked by one today: would cost me the equivalent of 5 dollars to dry one load. Eek. That’s a lot of money to me.
      If I can’t get my washer/dryer to do a “fluff” cycle I might consider taking some of my line dried stuff over for a quick tumble.

  13. Tanja from Minimalist Packrat says

    p.s. We haven’t had a problem with bird dropping or pollen like you brought up…. but in the spring I won’t hang anything on the line! There’s a big mulberry tree over it that drops wine colored berries all over everything. Yikes!

  14. B-Man says

    How quickly one forgets about crunchy towels. Truly the bane of my existence. I always wondered if there was a fabric softener out there to counteract that force of nature. I hope you find your answers.

    • theminimalistmom says

      Okay, all the links are making me realize the airer that came with this place is less than ideal. Will poke around the shops here and see what they have. If there isn’t anything good I will buy online.

  15. Apple says

    I heard from American friends, that they use a fresh towel every day after their bath/shower. I’d say you definitely would need a dryer for that.
    I, as well as my friends and family use a bath towel for a week normally before putting it into the wash.

    • Nancy from Mass says

      My In-Laws are like that. Drives me crazy! they do 3x the loads per week that I do. I am so glad that hubby doesn’t even think of doing that. Each of us use a towel for almost a week also. Then a good hot wash and out on the line to dry!

      • theminimalistmom says

        We re-use towels for at least a week. Even before the new laundry situation we would hang them flat after use so they would be dry the next day. We cloth diaper so I already have a load of laundry every other day that has to be done. Don’t want to create more work for myself.

        • Apple says

          Heard that in Britain, there’s a service which picks up dirty cloth nappies, and drops them back nice and clean. …wonder if there’s a service which picks up kids and drops them back potty-trained. :)

          • theminimalistmom says

            Sign me up!!! A few of Henry’s contemporaries here are semi-potty trained. I’m really impressed. And feeling the heat to get started.

        • Jannie says

          We try to use our towels for a week, also. Our best tip is having a wooden pants hanger with sturdy clips hanging on the shower curtain rod for each of us. The hangers help the towels to hang and dry before the next use. I just tied a small piece of ribbon (using a different color for each family member) onto the hangers to make it easy to distinguish which towel each of us should grab to dry off with. We love our two big wooden dryer racks for non-towel laundry, also! So great to read all the great laundry tips! :)

  16. maria says

    I also line dry evertyhing, its the way we do it in Sweden as well, and I agree with above statement, het the one from IKEA, its great and takes no spaces what so ever when not in use http://www.ikea.com/se/sv/catalog/products/30176088 (69 kronor is about 6 euros I think). I just make sure the clothes are properly centrifugated (think that is the english word) so they are not sooking wet when they come out from the washer and then they usually dry up during night without doing anythin special.

    And for the towels, I hate when they are dryed in the machine, you never get dry after shower, I prefer line dried towels any day of the week.

    • theminimalistmom says

      Have to agree, lined dried towels are very absorbent.

      So funny that I find line drying shocking – most of the world does their laundry this way. This move has been a nice wake-up call that my North American ways are not the norm.

      • Alex says

        I grew up in Australia and then moved to Germany – both big line-drying countries. Now I live in China with a lot of American expats and I was really shocked that they use the dryer! I would occasionally (like a 3 or 4 times a year) use the dryer to dry towels and sheets but I discovered that most people were drying most things in the dryer! That was a shock to me! I’m too nervous about putting things in the dryer and shrinking them – that’s why I have only ever done towels and sheets :-) But more to the point – it is so costly – $$ and for the planet – and so unnecessary! The only annoying thing about line drying is the clutter. I don’t really have a dedicated space for drying laundry so our house always seems a bit messy, but it’s better now my kids are out of nappies at least!

        Anyway, that’s one of the most interesting things about traveling/living around the world – you soon learn that there is no such thing as ‘normal’!!

  17. jilly moulton says

    Line dry when the weather’s good. Tumble when wet weather Or radiators for a few items in winter.Re: Crunchy towels & Facecloths, line dry but 10 minutes or so in the drier fluffs them up!

  18. Rachel says

    I line dry everything. Outside once spring warms up/dries up and inside in the winter. We have a great rack from Ikea that I can get a whole load on. If you are heated with forced air, put your rack nearby, or under a ceiling fan to speed it up. Otherwise it just takes a bit of planning and some open windows in the summer. And you then you can feel good about all the energy and money you’re saving with each thing you hang up.

    • theminimalistmom says

      I am happy that the appliance situation is forcing me to do this. Utilities are so expensive here. At home I used our drier for all the laundry, ran a dishwasher, etc and our electric bill was $30 in summer and $60 in winter. They will be roughly 3-4 times that amount here.

  19. Kim says

    Hi. I’ve been dryer free for 5 years now and I love it!

    I use drying racks and place them by windows where the sun shines and the breezes blow in on them. I also keep a fan nearby to circulate the air around them. My husband installed a cotton line in each bedroom. I use those for sheets, blankets, etc. In the winter we put the racks by the wood stove (or radiator).

    I have lines outside too for those glorious days of summer. But most of the time, my laundry is drying all around me.

  20. Jane Reitsma Broome says

    Congrats on the move. So jealous. And so glad I found your blog.

    It sounds like your spin cycle is not working properly. Did you try doing an extra spin? Or maybe you are putting too much in at once? Same happens with my front loader her in Vancouver.

    My granny and grandpa lived in England. Their washer got everything spun almost dry. It took 30 minutes on an outside line (okay on a sunny day) to finish drying. Mind you my 2 years in Japan without a dryer (they line dry too) left me desperate for a decent dryer!

  21. Jenny @ exconsumer says

    We aren’t *allowed* to line dry clothes outside according to our home owners association (I know, lame).

    I’ve always hung our sweaters inside to dry, but it’s never occurred to me to try hanging all of our clothes to dry inside. But I don’t know, with two little boys, there is a lot of laundry happening around here. Especially in the winter. Our entire house would be cluttered with hanging laundry!

    It sounds like you got some great advice here from people! Sorry I couldn’t be more helpful. Just know that I sympathize with you! ;)

  22. Sara says

    I grew up on a farm and my mom line dries nearly everything. For most items, that is not a problem, but stiff jeans and stiff bath towels, I do not miss!

  23. Brandi says

    I never dried my clothes in the states so moving here didn’t really even register. :)

    I use airers similiar to this: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Minky-Concertina-Tubular-Clothes-Silver/dp/B0001A967M/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1308591379&sr=8-1

    I recommend 1 per person.. so 3 total for you :) I only have 2 but am about to order a third because my best friend will be with us off and on this summer and I want to make sure she has space!

    Also see what speed your spin cycle is.. I use 800 and that seems good to get the water out but not spin it so much the clothes start wearing down too quickly. I DO hate washer/dryer units.. they suck.

    Also anytime you have a heater on in a room bring the clothes there.. they dry much quicker. And if you know where your boiler is and there is space near it you can dry stuff quicker there too :)

    • Ruth says

      I second using a high spin. My front loader machine has an 800r/min spin and it is still pretty gentle on the clothes. I hang mine on a rack in winter and they dry withing the day or at least by morning. We have ducted heating which works really well since it is warm fan air so you don’t get the crunchyness. If hanging outside, pick a windy day for towels and that will help. I would try hanging hem on a rack on your balcony for this benefit.
      You can hang things over those gas heaters I see in the picture. That dries them well and faster (my friend has this type). With this type of heater it does take a while to get them dry so a fan as other’s have suggested might be a good idea..all the best!

      • theminimalistmom says

        Thanks for all these suggestions. The spin speed can be set to 500 or 1000r/ min spin. I have it on 1000 but… I’m not sure it is working very well. The clothes are fairly damp when they come out still. Going to try tweaking with getting a breeze going and air circulating.

  24. Rachel says

    Ha ha ha! YES! That drove me crazy when I moved to London. You think, “oh, great a washer-dryer!” But really it just makes the clothes really HOT. Also, god forbid that a black sock falls into your lights load. I ruined so many clothes before I figured out to just buy a drying rack already. Good luck!

  25. sharron says

    Ha, was laughing at the accents thing, wait till you hear mine, i have the scousest scouse accent ever!!

    Rachel, could you not find a laundrette? And maybe stick to one day a week going down there?

    I wash daily, my dryer and washer are seperate, i loathe washer-dryers. I line dry in the nice weather and use the dryer in winter along with it draped over upstairs radiators and on hangers on my picture rail. Hope that helps!!

    Sharron x

  26. Socal says

    I’ve tried a wonderwasher hand powered washing machiene, it’s ok, it does function, but it’s more work than I was interested in. I have an electric washer now, but if something comes out damp, I spin the excess water out of it using a: spin dryer http://www.laundry-alternative.com/products/Mini_Countertop_Spin_Dryer.html
    I luv that thing, even towels and jeans come out barely damp. Hang those up to dry on a drying rack with a programable oscillating fan or open window with cross ventillation. I dry indoors due to allergies. I do keep my drying rack near a sunny window. I dry sheets and bed blankets this way and have never had a problem! The programable oscillating fan can be programed for 2, 4, 6 hours so it shuts off if I’m not home. By the time I come home or am done with other chores my laundry is dry b/c it was just barely damp when I hung it up. I also look for fibers or types of clothing that dry quickly! Clothing that dries quickly also packs easily!

    • theminimalistmom says

      Great product. I’m torn about investing in anything right now beyond a new drying rack. We might move at the end of our 3 month lease. But filing that one away – thanks!

  27. Nancy from Mass says

    I line dry as soon as it’s warm enough to hang the laundry without having to wear gloves and stop when it’s so cold, nothing dries in the hot sun. I also use an indoor drying rack – which also helps during the winter to put mittens, hats, etc on to dry.
    As far as the towels are concerned….dry using a little vinegar for the softener cycle. vinegar not only takes out the static and extra detergent, it also softens your towels a bit. also, you’ll probably notice that your line-dried towels absorb water better that they ever had!

  28. Lisa @ Granola Catholic says

    I much prefer line drying to clothes dryer. As for crunchy towels just less detergent and some vinegar in your wash. It is the detergent residue that leaves your towels stiff. Vinegar will help rinse it out. Spin dry your clothes an extra time and it will help get more water out of them.

  29. Marilyn @ A Lot of Loves says

    We have a lot of family in the UK and they all dry their clothes in the kitchen. They have racks hanging from the ceilings there as it’s the warmest part of the house. I distinctly remember sitting around their tables at dinner amidst pant legs and shirts.

    • Karen (Scotland) says

      Lol! That’s where my Gran had her pulley hanging and it was SO bizarre. My husband is Dutch and, when he first saw it, he was like “What the…?”
      We hang ours at the top of the stairs – much more sensible and dinner is more enjoyable without knickers hanging above you head, I’m sure you’ll agree…
      Karen (Scotland)

  30. Karen says

    I line dry in the “American South.” I am not a quaint hippie, though. LOL! We love the smell and the feel of the line dried clothes and line drying has helped us milk several more years out or our 21 year old clothes dryer. I do use it in the winter but I am going to try to avoid using it so much this year!

    Karen, the blogless minimalist and apparently one who is older than “the norm” :0

    • theminimalistmom says

      Got me =) In the PNW it is for quaint hippies – it’s a lot of work with the kind of weather we get.

  31. Sarah says

    I currently live in Brisbane, Australia and line dry our clothes outdoors almost all year (in the high, high humidity of summer, even though it’s hot sometimes the clothes won’t dry… but generally this is an excellent clothes-drying climate!). Because I’ve only lived here for 19 months, and am from Vancouver, I was not a line-drying expert. However, like in the UK, electricity is very expensive here, and line-drying is the norm. Every house has a clothes-tree of some form in the backyard. It took me a while to get over crunchy towels, but now I don’t even notice – after a couple of uses they soften up, I find.

    My biggest tip would be to spin your laundry on as high a setting as you can to remove as much water as possible before hanging the clothes to dry. Makes a huge difference. Someone else mentioned it already, but pegging the clothes works better than hanging them folded over on themselves. I also only peg on edge of each item down, so there is greater air circulation (eg: one side of a shirt gets pegged, the other is left flapping).

    Happy drying!

  32. Kirsten says

    Ok, admittedly, I only read half the comments.

    I hang all my clothes and only dry my sheets (only have one set of flannel- got to get them dry!). I have a great rack from Costco that has much more space than yours. If you put it by a window, even a little airflow helps.

    I generally “uncrunchify” in the dryer for ten mins just befoe they’re dry, or throw a wet face cloth in to help steam them. (just a dumb question- is there a varied setting for spin speed? Mine has three and is sopping unless you use high)

    I don’t find many clothes I like, so it’s important to me that they last. Also- like tall folks, it’s hard for me to find the right length for my stumpy legs. Petite is barely long enough and so I have to take care!!

  33. carolyn says

    I’m in australia, so most of us line dry everything. Even if it rains (which is rare in perth, even in winter) we just leave it there until the next day to let it dry, or hang it on a hanging rack under cover. To avoid those crisp towels, just add 2 tablespoons of bi-carb to your washing powder and 1 cup of vinegar to your rinse water.

  34. Kris says

    I live in a 1 bedroom apt in Brooklyn NY and hate going to the laundromat because it’s always so crowded. I bought a washing machine 5yr ago and i line dry everything including comforters and sheets indoors in my bedroom. I use window cleats like these http://www.amazon.co.uk/Brass-Cleat-Curtain-Blind-Cord/dp/B004P9TDAU/ref=sr_1_2?s=kitchen&ie=UTF8&qid=1308636258&sr=1-2 and regular cotton laundry line. Just attach the cleats on opposite sides of the room and run laundry lines by making a figure 8 around the cleats. Hang them high enough for large items like blankets and you can always take the the lines down when not in use. I always use a fan, and in the winter the heating in the apt with the fan works fine.

  35. Ellen says

    In the winter your clothes will take LESS time to dry. Summer is wet and since you don’t heat the house this time of year is the worst, exept when it’s really dry/sunny and you can hang the landry outside.

    A few tips from a local (well, dutch but it’s also european): buy a few of these: http://t0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcR9iBR9ZHhd63INJNFlNDmdq_qX1cLnQXTBCyXniXuLYCzysDiz or this one (I can hang two loads of laundry – full loads – on one of these: http://t3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQpz1fxfNnPOMJ2elzJsYH3UZgyChZ4CmuqLmdNQHaOcZaDxn_Y

  36. audrey says

    Funny the things that are so normal in one country, that are so different in others. I’ve owned a tumble dryer once in my adult life, and I’ve been doing without one for years. I see them as a luxury! You will get used to it, I promise, but like others said, I would check your spin cycle, so the clothes don’t come out too wet. I hung up some tops etc last night, and they’re almost dry this morning – and thats just in a normal flat, without any heating on. You get used to it in winter too, but I would get a fancier thing to put your clothes on, esp if you have family amounts of clothes to dry. I manage with the one you have, but there are only two of us, and even then I use door’s and chairs to hang my towels on!

  37. Jo@simplybeingmum says

    Hi Rachel! Yes we are line dryers! and if the weather does not allow outside due to rain of which we have a lot we dry inside! Very rarely do I use the dryer from wet – it just to finish off. I posted my simplified laundry routine in the Winter which very much consists of drying on airers indoors. The key for me is to keep on top of it. It does mean you have an airer full of washing all the time which isn’t ideal, but with kids what can you do? So glad you are settling in, do drop me a line… jo

  38. Kathy says

    I was looking to purchase a washer/dryer unit like yours at the first of this year, and decided the cost of the unit wasn’t worth the space savings and quaintness of having the unit. I am so glad I went with the standard washer and dryer now. Although I still want the AGA cooker in my US kitchen.

    I do air dry quite a bit, as I have the space, and somethings come out better that way. A couple of things that have worked for me:

    1. If you can do an extra spin on your clothes, you will remove a lot of water.

    2. A fan for air movement is a must. Things dry much quicker with air flow.

    3. A dehumidifier works wonders. My laundry is in my basement, so in the summer I open the windows and let the breeze blow to dry the clothes, but in the winter, I have to use the dehumidifier to get the clothes to dry in a reasonable amount of time.

    Love your blog, and I envy your travel/living arrangement.

  39. Patricia says

    I used to live in England and now live back in the US and line dry regularly. It was a novelty when I first moved to England, but since being back I wouldn’t go back to the dryer for anything (except for the wettest or coldest of days.) I feel almost zen when I hang clothes. I make sure to smooth wrinkles while hanging, and fold when I take off the line, rather then just throwing everything into the basket. In the UK everyone has a basket filled with stuff to iron- as an American I don’t iron! So I take care when I hang/take off the line. I’ve convinced myself that stiff towels actually soak up water better then soft towels. ;) You can purchase wracks that hang over the flat radiators in the UK for winter drying- I had them all over my house. Once you get used to it, I can guarantee you’ll find it difficult to go back to using a dryer. Good luck! BTW, I’m very envious of your move- my English husband and I hope to move back to the UK in about 5- 6 years.

  40. Georgene says

    Yes, I line dry and even on good days in the winter. I pop ‘crunchy’ clothes in the dryer on ‘fluff’ for a few minutes to help relieve that problem. I dried clothes in our garage during the winter.

    We make wooden ‘Amish Dryers’. Baically it’s a wooden circular clothes line dryer with a ton of clothes pins hanging down from a wooden spoke that you can hang in your shower, garage or on a line. I personally saved 3 of them for myself and can hang a multitude of small items in a small space.

  41. Jessica Montalino says

    I guess I fit into the North American hippy type? I line dry most of my clothes here in new england as well as my son’s cloth diapers. In the winter I get away with drying them in the basement or our enclosed side porch. I just do smaller loads of laundry to fit on the line. And when I’m feeling lazy or freezing cold in the winter(or want fluffy easy to use cloth diapers) I put them in the dryer. My advise is just getting in a routine. Good luck!

  42. Dawn says

    We pretty much only line-dry our clothing in our apartment (I honestly don’t remember the last time we used a dryer!). To avoid stiff clothing, add some vinegar to the wash. In the winter, the added humidity sometimes helps with the dry air. And oh, with the heat on in the winter, clothes can dry a lot quicker too!

  43. Christine says

    I love your account of your fight with the washer/dryer. If either of mine break down – I cry. Good for you for sticking it out. You may be cursing your minimalist wardrobe now but be thankful you don’t have a laundry room full of clothing that needs to be washed. I’m so sick of the piles that I’m whittling the whole family’s wardrobe down slowly but surely…

  44. Robert Wall says

    The dryer in our apartment building sometimes doesn’t get clothes dry in one pass through – so rather than feeding it another dollar, sometimes we hang clothes that are damp (not sopping wet!) over the top rails of our poster bed to dry.

    We can get 8-10 pairs of jeans up there, and they seem to dry out okay!

  45. Carmen says

    Hi there:-)

    Just found your blog. I live in the UK and line dry. I have a washer dryer. Experience has taught me that the washer (washing machine) part works fine, but the dryer part is not very efficient when compared to a separate machine.

    I highly recommend putting your load on to ‘spin’ when it is finished, even though this would have been part of the overall wash cycle. So I basically mean a second spin. I have two options and choose the longer spin; it takes about 10 minutes but ensures clothes dry in less than half the time of me not doing it. This is particularly effective for full or heavy loads of laundry, towels for instance. Give it a go! Most of our clothing items dry overnight using this little tip.

    Can’t wait to read more of your posts. Welcome to the UK and great job with your debt reduction!

    • theminimalistmom says

      Thanks, Carmen. I just figured out how to put it on an extra spin cycle. You’re right – it really helps.

      So close to being out of debt… I think we could actually make it happen right now but we have some money set aside for a car. Still debating if we need a car here right now.

  46. Erin says

    I did it in Scotland for 3 years, in a small flat, and that included cloth diapers. Like you, I just got used to it! I don’t remember the routine being that different in the colder months.

  47. Kristy says

    Ah see I’m from the other side of the laundry… we don’t own a dryer and have lined dried ever since I can remember…

    Yes we live in Australia but there are parts of Au that are freezing cold and wet or humid humid and wet but either way, I refuse to use a dryer. Even if I have to dry stuff inside in winter. Even washing nappies I won’t use a dryer. Figure out the warmest spot in your house and mount your racks there. Use a room that already has a heater/fan. Hang your curtains wet (so long as they’re spun right out) and then they dry nice and straight and ‘uncrinkled’ lol

    Good luck ;)

  48. Kristy says

    (eta nappies are ‘diapers’). But yep we hang washing outside all year round including winter here. All our outside line is undercover so it gets the wind/breeze and reflective heat from the roof but no direct sun (which means elastics etc last longer) and I never have to dash home to get the washing off if it’s raining. Stuff just takes longer in winter and I have to allow for that.

  49. Gerda says

    I live in a tiny apartment in Holland, so the climate is the same. I have never had a real dryer, but 2 years ago I purchased a second hand washer dryer. I was very happy with it, until I tried to dry a load of laundry for the first time. After many attempts I just gave up. They just suck.

    I line-dry as well; when the weather allows it I put my laundry on laundry-racks outside on my balcony (dry in one afternoon) and otherwise I use the same racks which I then put on my (indoor) doors. (dry in 12-24 hours).

    Just take care that your washing machine has a decent spinning cycle (the faster, the better, mine has 1400 rpm). If not, let it spin twice. When you hang the laundry, take care to shake the laundry out when you hang it. Hardly any ironing!
    T-shirts etc I hang on a coat hanger so I don’t have to iron them. One rack fits about 20 t-shirts, but the more laundry, the longer it takes. I have 3 hanging racks.

    We have different laundry racks than you show in the picture. Check this link and look for the “kwikkie 6 meter hangend” or the “droogtoren tomado faro 27 meter) to see what I mean: http://www.marskramer.nl/droogrekken?gclid=CIy16PXk06kCFQiIDgodYhNIOA

    Good luck!

  50. Amber says

    I line dry – but only outdoors in nice weather. And when the clothes are dry, I run them through the dryer on air fluff for a couple of minutes, to work out the crunchiness.

    So I’m no help at all, I’m afraid. But if everyone there line dries, it must be possible, right?

  51. Paul says

    Fun to read so many comments about line-drying!

    Our old gas dryer finally died, and I picked up a used replacement on Craigslist that turned out to be rubbish…

    So we are line drying in Wisconsin, and did all winter. It helps increase the humidity in the house whilst running the furnace too. Cheers!

  52. Claire says

    Others may have already suggested this, but to keep your clothes from being stiff you can run a fan. I actually line dry outside (when applicable since, as you know, Utah weather isn’t always good for wet things outdoors) and when it’s windy my clothes are substantially less crunchy. You can also smack them on something to get some of the stiffness out (I generally wack them on a table as I’m folding).

  53. Iota says

    I can’t tell you how many blog posts I’ve read on laundry, from expat Brits in North America, and expat North Americans in the UK! It’s a real divide.

    Those washer-driers never work. I don’t know how they manage to continue to market them. They’re hopeless, by universal acclaim.

    I still line dry and rack dry, though I hide the rack if I have visitors. I don’t want to be the English weirdo who has underwear on display in her home. I do use my drier, but only occasionally, as I used to do in the UK. The only difference is that now I’m more tempted to machine dry the towels, as I have grown to love that soft towel feeling. Crunchy towels are ok when you’re used to them, but soft towels… you can’t beat them.

  54. HomefrontSix says

    Just found your site this week and have been pouring through the archives. We just moved to the midwest and have had to downsize our budget even though we increased our living space compared to the last place we lived. One way we are cutting back on costs is to line dry – it’s cut our electricity and gas bills significantly!

    Thankfully our location is quite arid so our clothes dry quickly. And we have not yet culled our clothing clutter so that leaves us with options should things not be dry. We have a dedicated laundry room that has a cabinet over the washer but NOT over the dryer. So I hung a shower curtain rod between the cabinet and the wall and I hang the majority of our clothing on that rod (over the dryer). Anything that is too long to hang there is hung on the shower curtain rod in our bathroom. Currently, I line dry everything but underwear, socks, jeans, and towels but once summer arrives, we will set up an outside line and EVERYTHING will be line-dried.

    Karen’s comment is a treasure-trove of information – thank you Karen!

    Love the site!

  55. Becky says

    Hiya

    I know your frustration on that one! I live in the UK and in rented accommodation with the dreaded washer-dryer. I was brought up with the mentality that you don’t use the dryer unless you have to – as thrifty Scots! But my mum always lined dried but I don’t have that luxury in the small apartments I’ve lived in for years. My trick is to do little and often, rack dry (get the biggest you can accommodate + an over the bath type too) until the clothes are just slightly damp (24hrs) and then stick them in the tumble (cos you should be able to use the dryer without putting the washer on) until dry which normally takes no more than say 30-45mins. I confess I have no children (yet!) and it’s just me and my man right now! I hope at some point in the near future we will finally buy a house, in which, a separate washing machine shall be installed – WOO HOO! I may not get a tumble dryer though as I’m now so used to rack/line-drying and it’s very environmentally and economically friendly.

    Good luck! Love your site :-)

  56. Mira says

    I grew up in a house with a jumbo American-style washer & dryer, but since moving out on my own over ten years ago, I’ve always line-dried my clothes indoors (Scottish weather is too unpredictable for nice outdoor drying!).

    Line-drying indoors can take a long time, but I tend to do a load of laundry so that hanging it up coincides with when the heating comes on (which I have on three seasons out of the year for at least two hours a day). It speeds things up a heck of a lot!

    Most line-dried items will lose that ‘crispy’ feeling as soon as they’re used/manipulated a little bit. I prefer that to having my clothes routinely shrink and bobble in the dryer.

  57. Dinah Gray says

    I live in Northern Virginia, USA. I line dry all of my and my daughter’s clothing. I have been line drying exclusively for over two years now. I do it all indoors since I have an HOA that prohibits me from drying outside. I thought that it would be more trouble than using the dryer, but I have found it to be less. I have a “Leifheit 81500 Leifheit Pegasus 100 Free Standing Laundry Clothes Drying Rack” and one accordion rack.

    Here is my laundry process from start to finish:
    I have two large tubtrugs (big flexible plastic bins with handles) that I use as dirty laundry bins, one for lights and one for darks. We generate about one load of darks and one load of lights weekly. (We both have moderate/minimalist wardrobes. I limit our wardrobes to what fits in these bins and on these racks.)
    On the weekend, I take the tubtrugs to the basement and wash two loads, (takes about a half hour each load).
    I put the wet laundry in the tubtrugs and tote them back upstairs to were my racks are.
    I hang my daughters clothing on the accordion rack by putting all shirts and dresses on little plastic hangers and hanging them on the rack. I put all the little pants and bottoms on clip hangers (the ones from the stores that come with children’s clothing). I hang socks and undies directly on the rack.
    I hang my clothing on the big rack. I hang my pants on the middle lines, along with cloth hankies, towels, odds and ends. I hand undergarments and socks on the little teeth on the front of the rack that are made to hand little items. I put all my shirts on plastic white hangers and hang them down each side of the rack.
    Then I walk away.
    I can either take all those hangers full of clothing and stick them directly in closets, put undergarments in bins/drawers, and hang up my pants or I can leave it on the rack and take it off as we use it. We happen to have a giant walk in closet and I use to put the racks in there, hang the wet clothes on them and call it done and put away. Currently, I keep the racks in the spare room. If I feel like using that room for something else, I hang it all up in closets and take down the racks. Otherwise, I just pick the clean stuff off the racks throughout the week. Notice there is no folding (well, I do fold towels before putting them in the bath linen closet, but that’s all). I also iron if the items is wrinkled (I try to avoid clothing that wrinkles easily).

    One of the tricks I now use to keep my wardrobe from accumulating is I limit my hangers. I only have hangers for about 40 items total. I keep all my clothing hung in the closet and have no dresser. Small items have bins that go on the shelf above the rack. If I get a shirt and do not purge something else, I wont have anything to hang it on.

  58. Michelle says

    Thank You so much for this post.
    I am going to be taking a travel position as an RN in the UK. I keep looking at flats on line and noticed the washing machine in the kitchens, but haven’t noticed dryers. I know it sounds silly and maybe a bit pretentious, but I was stressing over this. The appliance issue in general has me a bit stressed, but I’m very excited. I’ve always wanted to travel Europe, but also knew that a simple 2 week vacation is not the way I want to do it. I want to experience it…ALL of it. So I guess the lack of a dryer will be just one more experience for me and my family.

    • theminimalistmom says

      How exciting!!! Yes, you just adjust over time. With a newborn and cloth diapers, and the small compared to N.American standards washer, I have to run two loads of laundry a day right now. We’ve moved from our old flat – the one I was writing about here – to a new one last spring that just had a good washing machine (no drying option or dryer). It actually works far better than the washer/dryer combo. The drum is a bit bigger, it actually CLEANS the clothing and it spins them out at up to 1200 RPMs and most of our clothes dry in 24 hrs or less on racks.
      Good luck with the big move! – Rachel

  59. Angie says

    Hi, I just wanted to say I feel your pain! I too moved with my family up to scotland from vancouver three years ago and only found your blog when I googled how to do laundry in scotland in the winter, because after three years of living here I am convinced that they know something I don’t. It’s been an adjustment for me here, ( I have three kids and no dishwasher, give me a break). But after getting into the scottish groove we are really enjoying ourselves and the slower way of life. I have learned to do dishes… By hand and that owning fewer dishes means doing fewer dishes, I can dry my clothes outside something I admit I had never done before and that when the neighbour takes her clothes in I need to get off my butt and do the same because that little old lady can smell rain! Our children are now 3,5,7 and they have had some great adventures here. I still hate that my condenser dryer causes mold if I over use it, or the fact that there are so many doors in our house it feels as though all we do all day is open and close doors but we are getting there. I am not sure how long we’ ll stay here for but it’s nice to know I am not the only Vancouverite dum founded by a washing system, angie

  60. Kate says

    This was one of the hardest things for me to adjust to when I moved to the UK. I’ve sort of gotten used to it at this point, but I still really hate the crispy towels (so does my sensitive skin) and I hate that the spare bedroom is pretty much the “laundry hanging up everywhere all the time” room. I hate the cluttered look of full laundry racks, and they are always full because it’s impossible to get all of the laundry done in one day without a dryer. My British husband isn’t bothered by it at all (obviously) but I have sworn that if we end up buying a house here I will find a way to have a big American style (top loading!) washer and dryer.

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