How to Avoid Crunchy Clothes When Hang Drying

One of the benefits to going zero waste is the experience of trying out old school methods.


Hang drying your clothes is a great experience. It’s eco-friendly and budget friendly! Plus your clothes will smell great. It may be slightly faster to dry your clothes in a dryer (and I do mean slightly) since you don’t have to take your clothes outside and take the time to hang them on the line, but believe me when I say the pros of line drying greatly outweigh the cons.


The first house I ever lived in when I lived on my own was a house I’ll never forget. Our dryer broke on day 2 of moving in. It didn’t take long for life to throw a costly challenge in our way. But on the contrary, our dryer breaking was really a blessing in disguise.


We thankfully had a clothes line hook-up in our backyard. All we needed to do was string the clothes lines up. Once they were in place, we spent the summer drying clothes via mother nature.


Without discussing too deeply the pros and cons of line drying (that’s another post), one of the pros I am grateful for is the amount of space I save in my laundry area from not having a dryer. A dryer is a large heavy machine that costs hundreds of dollars and all it does is heat up the air- something we all get for free outside!


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Dryers are convenient because they make your clothes feel warm, soft, and fluffy. Who doesn’t love the feeling of slipping into freshly dried clothing? Love it!



But I have to admit: the feeling of knowing that I used free, fresh surrounding resources around me at no cost whatsoever makes me feel good. Almost warm and fluffy inside. In fact, I feel relief recognizing that I didn’t rely on one more machine to do the work for me.


It can be frustrating, however, when your clothes don’t dry like they would if they were in a dryer.


Crunchy clothes are the last thing you want to experience in the morning when you’re half dead to the world. It took me a couple years to crack the code to avoiding crunchy clothes when hang drying. The secret? Totally simple. It’s more common sense than anything. Avoiding the crunch is about the process of how you wash your clothes.


1. Vinegar

I absolutely believe in the power of vinegar! First time I used vinegar in my wash cycle I was sold. My clothes have never been softer. Granted, I do make my own soap, but if you’re drying your clothes on a clothes line then vinegar is a must. What is so amazing is that your clothes don’t smell like vinegar.


My boyfriend had no idea I was using vinegar in the wash until I mentioned it to him just the other day– and I’ve been using it for the past year.


The downside to using store bought vinegar is that it’s difficult to find it package free (if there even is such a thing). But the bright side? You can learn how to make it! Learning how to make vinegar will eliminate the grocery store run and the plastic packaging it comes in! Until then, vinegar still rests as a glorified alternative to softeners.


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2. Brand of Soap

As previously stated, I do make my own soap. One of the many reasons I make my own soap is that my soap isn’t as harsh on my clothes. Commercial detergents are known for using chemicals that are bad for our water and skin.


I’ve been thankful to not have skin irritations caused by commercial detergents. It didn’t take me long, however, to switch over to homemade laundry soap for a few good reasons:


  • Less chemicals added to our fresh water
  • Less packaging used to contain the soap
  • Better knowledge of homemade house products
  • Awareness of the environment outside the home


3. Excess Water

When people tell me their clothes are crunchy, my first question is “how much water is in the clothes when they’re done washing?”


When our washing machine finally died, we (and by we, I mean me, myself, and I) had the opportunity to dive even further into off grid laundry- washing our clothes by hand. I didn’t want to go too primitive with the experiment. No wash boards and beating laundry against rocks. I just wanted a cheaper, more affordable option. I decided on the Wonder Wash as my “new” washing machine.


From my previous post “An Enlightening Review of the Wonder Wash”:

If you do not wring out your clothes properly, your clothes will take much longer to dry and will possibly become hard. This may not be an issue for you if you have a dryer (or a spinner dryer to remove the excess water); however, this was not the case for us. We had nothing. Excess water became the enemy.


Excess water in clothing can cause clothes to be too crunchy.



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They don’t dry very fast and retain the shape of their drying position. For example, if your shirt is hanging from the line and is dripping water, then it will dry stiff and will stay stiff causing there to be a line where the clothing was hanging from.





This was a big problem for us when we had not washer or dryer AND it was winter! Soft clothes were not what we had. It felt like we were wearing tortilla chips.


Okay, they weren’t that bad. Regardless, they were not what we were used to.


Our clothes were still dripping wet when I was hanging them to dry. You might think “well there’s your problem!”, but you have to consider how difficult it is to wring your clothes out all the time when washing by hand. It gets to you.


Another thing to check would be the spin cycle (if you have one). Your spin cycle removes excess water that may have some soap still in it. Soapy water will also contribute to your clothes being stiff and can also cause skin irritation if you have sensitive skin.


4. Ironing


I don’t always iron my clothes. It’s more of a winter chore when I’m drying clothes inside (especially towels). This is mostly due to the fact that my clothes are not receiving any heat or proper air circulation to dry soft and fluffy.


It’s so old school but ironing can be relaxing like washing the dishes or folding the laundry (just me?).


The good thing about ironing is that it doesn’t take a lot of time if you don’t have many clothes. I can’t see someone wanting to put up with ironing if you have a very large wardrobe. The best lesson I learned from off grid laundry was that a minimalist’s wardrobe really is the best option when it comes to chores. 


Ironing my clothes does help when they are semi-damp. It really helps on days when I need to do laundry and it’s not exactly 90 degrees outside. Some steam from the iron and a few good shakes and my clothes are good to go!



5. Friction, Friction, Friction

People have the hardest time with jeans and towels when hang drying and for good reason. They’re not the easiest pieces of fabrics to dry. Thick fabrics hold more water and are heavier. They can be a real pain.


This method isn’t as effective but it does show some results. It’s more of a “on the go” method. The simple trick is to rub your clothing together. I don’t mean shirt on jeans. I mean taking the same fabric and rubbing it against itself. The friction will make the material slightly softer.


I use this method on my towels when my towels are a little stiff, I don’t have time to iron, and I’ll be showering soon. I haven’t had to use this method for a while since I began adding vinegar to my wash.


6. Shake Your Clothes Out to Dry

Ah, yes. The sweet, adorable picture of the beautiful wife in an apron shaking out her clothes, top of a windy hill.


Well, at least she knows what she’s doing.


Sometimes it’s as simple as taking your shirt and fluffing it. Before you hang it on the line, shake it out. This will help eliminate any leftover lint and loosen the shirt from the wash.


It also helps to shake your clothes a few times after it’s been drying on the line for a short while. This will prevent the line from leaving a crease in your clothes. Try and find a day to dry your laundry when it’s windy. This isn’t necessary but it certainly helps. We’re spoiled children in Kansas when it comes to drying clothes outside. It’s hot, humid, and wind blowing to the point that it drys your clothes within an hour.


Shaking out your clothes is probably your best chance at having clean, comfortable clothing when hang drying.


I hope this list helps anyone looking to try new (or old) alternative methods!

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