Fight for Your Right to Line Dry

My mom likes to show my friends an embarrassing picture of me. I’m 3 years old, hanging on to my favorite blanket as it’s drying on the line.

Laundry hanging on the line, drying in the breeze, was a frequent part of my childhood, and probably yours too. I didn’t even think about it. It was just something that everyone did.

But when I hung a laundry line in my own backyard this summer, I realized that hanging laundry outside has become a hot button issue, not just in my neighborhood, but all over the country. Two hours after I hung my first load, there was a knock on my door. A neighbor I had only met once was on the porch, arms waving, furious. He was disgusted that we had hung a laundry line. He said we were bringing down property values and that only “poor white trash” would resort to hanging their socks and T-shirts outside in the breeze.

I was flabbergasted. But also confused. I might have believed that I was junking up the neighborhood, except that the line was in my back yard, not visible to the street, and visible to this one neighbor from only one room in his house.

After some research, I realized that many people share his sentiment. Homeowners associations all over the country have banned laundry lines, saying they disturb neighbors and bring down property values. Considering almost 57 million Americans live in a subdivision governed by a homeowners association, it is tantamount to an all-out attack on a staple of frugal living– the laundry line.

It seems the simple laundry line has fallen out of favor, now that more than 80 percent of all Americans think a clothes dryer is a necessity. How far we’ve come from summer afternoons hanging laundry in my grandmother’s backyard. And, from the days when an iron clothesline secured in a concrete foundation was a staple in most backyards.

Simply put, homeowners associations and municipalities that have clothesline restrictions associate laundry lines with poor people. After all, the thinking goes, only the poorest Americans don’t have access to a dryer and if you have a dryer, why wouldn’t you want to use it?

I guess I’m old fashioned. I thought line drying just made my clothes smell nice. Why pay Tide or some other company for dryer sheets that try to mimic the smell of outdoors when you can get the real thing for free?

Plus, in an era when households are loaded with consumer debt and are watching their energy bills spiral upwards, line drying is an eco-friendly, simple way to save money.

If you are like me and love your laundry line, take heart: you aren’t the only one left. Some are taking up the mantle of line drying. The states of Vermont, Connecticut, and New Hampshire have proposed legislation protecting residents’ rights to have and use laundry lines. A nonprofit,, has sprouted up to fight for those whose right to line dry are under attack.

Even if you live in an homeowners association, you can lobby to have the rules changed. But you have to convince your neighbors that your socks swaying in the breeze won’t bring down their property value, which can be a hard argument to make in a shaky housing market.

I’m lucky that I don’t live in a neighborhood governed by a homeowners association. I just have a neighbor with some very particular ideas about what I should or shouldn’t do on my property. I refused to take down the line and eventually he gave up.

That fight has saved me about $100 a year in energy costs and makes my clothes last longer. Dryers are really hard on fabrics. Where do you think all of that lint comes from?

I am convinced that everyone needs to fight for their and their neighbors’ right to hang their laundry out to dry. Why should you fight for your right to line dry? Because you are also fighting for your right to lead a simpler life, and in most cases, a more frugal and earth-friendly life. How can you afford not to?

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14 Responses to Fight for Your Right to Line Dry

  1. Megan says:

    Hi Denise,

    It seems strange to us in Australia that you have to fight for the right to line dry your clothes. Line drying is so much part of our culture and not associated with poverty. We do still, however, use the dryer alot. I challenged myself not to use the dyer all winter and found it not to be too hard!



  2. Annie Jones says:

    Our next door neighbor line dries her clothes frequently, as do we. As far as I can tell, we are the only ones on our street who do. :(

    I do use my dryer, too. It really just depends on the weather and how much I have to do on a given day. But I would never move to a neighborhood that wouldn’t allow me to line dry. Rather than depicting poverty, I think clothes on a line are a picture of wholesomeness and simpler times.

  3. Debra says:

    We’ve been using a line all summer and it has been wonderful. It makes your clothes much brighter and uses less energy. Yes, it takes longer and when it’s hot outside (I live in Texas), that’s hard. We have a HOA but haven’t gotten a notice yet. I don’t think it’s covered but now I’ll be dreading that envelope.

  4. justme says:

    I find that if I say I am doing something to save the earth and not say I am doing it to save money every one is okay with it even snobby people 😉

    I do not hang out all my laundry as I work long hours and if left up too long the clothes fade and the birds poop on them 😉 but I hang out my sheets on sunny weekends so nice and fresh

  5. Joan says:

    I don’t have to fight for anything. My neighborhood is full of clothesline poles put up decades ago, but many now lack the strings on which to hang clothes. In other words, they are not used. But I do not feel any ire from neighbors for using mine. I use mine for every wash. There are two blankets and a rag rug hanging now.

  6. It is none of my business what other people think of me. Therefore, I hang my laundry every time I wash. It smells fresher and saves on electric bill.

  7. Christina says:

    The reason I never hang laundry out is because it always ends up stiff and some things never seems to dry completely, like thick towels and jeans. Is there some secret I’m missing?

  8. Pingback: Carnival of the Green #148 : Sustainablog

  9. Gail says:

    I love hanging laundry although since we moved I don’t have a line, but I do use a wooden laundry rack for hanging delicates that never go through the dryer, jeans that take forever in the dryer, and things like throw rugs that get ruined in the dryer.

    I have found that hanging laundry and folding it (especially back in the days that I hung diapers on the line) give me something that I rarely see mentioned in threads about hanging laundry. Hanging up laundry is a very soothing thing for me to do. I’m out in the fresh air, getting a bit of exercise, and doing a milding repititious task. All combined I end up feeling calmer and more relaxed after hanging out laundry. It sounds like those HOA that forbid laundry lines all need to hang up diapers or towels for awhile and they will be able to save on visits to the shrink for anxiety.

  10. acc says:

    I live in a homeowner association and like it for the most part. However, they have tagged us for some really stupid stuff like parking partially on the driveway and a little on the side rocks (narrow driveway). They also tried to ban portable basketball hoops too. All the while you drive around and see homes with knee high weeds.

  11. Charlotte says:

    In Denmark, where i live, its considered really bad for the enviroment (CO2) to use the dryer. We are all the time being encouraged to hang our laundry outside to dry to save electricity and CO2.
    So to me its sounds really silly that so many americans choose their dryer all the time instead the sun/breeze.

  12. Gail says:

    I love hanging laundry when I am able to, but as strange as it sounds, some American neighbors make it illegal to hang laundry outside! Truly stupid as far as I’m concerned and it makes me glad that I can’t AFFORD to live in that kind of neighborhood.

    What I’m getting frustrated about is we have been having a much cooler summer than normal and have also been trying hard to conserve electricity. So what does the electric company do. They have estimated our last three bills. I checked the meter myself. We are almost 1000 Kw behind what they are charging us for.

    I thought our electric bills were bad until I read in Money magazine the other day that a guy had managed to get his over $500 monthly electric bill done into the $400’s! He is paying almost as much for electric as we do for our mortgage. I wonder where it is going as we have a large house with the usual appliances. He must be living in some kind of all electric mansion.

  13. Breton Wench says:

    I too love the flap and snap of sheets drying in the breeze. Here in France it s considered essential to have a line.
    Another interesting point is that constant heat drying ruins the fabrics strength and causes the clothes to age faster. I also feel sun drying , especially on bedding, rids the linen of all the bugs, mites and other stuff that lurks in the weave.

    Christina, if you have heavy stuff like jeans and towels, they really benefit from being flipped or reversed so that both sides get the sun and wind. You need a draught to lift the damp from the clothes so make sure there is a current of air running over them; on damp days, I hang mine in the garage and open both doors,
    that way the laundry is dry but has a draught flowing over it.

    Now, I must dash as i have a basket of clothes and a sunny day waiting…..

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