How to Air Dry Clothes for Fresh & Flawless Results

Air-drying is nothing new, but there's still an art to it. Discover how to hang dry clothes for perfect results every time.

Updated November 17, 2023
Air drying clothes

Whether your dryer is on the fritz (been there!) or you want to save power by not using it, air-drying clothes is a solution that has been around as long as people have been washing clothes. So do like your ancestors and dry your clothes the old-fashioned way using our simple tutorial about how to air-dry clothes. 

How to Air-Dry Clothes Properly Outside

The first time I ever hung my clothes to dry, I had a nasty surprise when I took them off the line — thin, dirty zebra strips were everywhere. Oops. But you live, and you learn, and then you tell other people about your mistakes so they won't make them, too. Before you hang dry your clothes on outside clotheslines, keep the following in mind.

  • Wipe down your line to ensure it's free of rust or debris. Trust me, this is necessary. I use a damp microfiber cloth to wipe the line down and let it dry for about 10 minutes before hanging clothes. 
  • Check the weather to make sure it's not going to rain, and the pollen count is low. I live in the Pacific Northwest, and I've had my laundry sprinkled on a time or two. 
  • Give the laundry a shake before putting it on the line. This fluffs the fibers and keeps everything from becoming stiff. 
  • Add ½ cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle of the wash as a natural fabric softener to minimize the stiffness associated with air drying.
  • When removing clothing from the line, shake and fold it right away.

Hang Your Laundry in the Right Spots

You'll need a plan to air-dry your laundry correctly. Bright colors can fade in direct sunlight, but the same sunlight can whiten whites. So be strategic when you put your clothes on the line. You'll need some clothespins and hangers to get started.  

  • Start with the largest items first. This ensures that you have enough space for everything on your line.
  • Hang bright colors and delicates in a shaded area out of direct sunlight.
  • Hang whites directly in the sun to soak up all those rays.
  • Put bulky sweaters on a drying rack instead of on a line so they don't stretch. Lay them completely flat and flip every hour or so.
Clothes Drying On Clothesline

Hang the Laundry so It Dries Correctly

Every item requires a different technique to ensure it dries perfectly. Always start with the big stuff first.

  • Sheets/blankets - Fold these in half and pin the ends to the line with a clothespin. When they're about halfway dry, flip them to dry any trapped moisture.
  • Towels - Pull them taut and pin the corners to the clothesline. Flip them when the top is dry.
  • Shirts - Put shirts on hangers and hang them on the line. Use a clothespin to hold the hanger in place. You can also hang shirts upside down and pin the hem and cuffs. For t-shirts, pin the hem in place on the line.
  • Pants - Hang them upside down. Line up the seams and pin them in place. Allow the weight of the waist to remove any wrinkles.
  • Socks - Make your life easier by pinning the mates together. Pin them by the toe to the line.
  • Delicates - Pin at the hook end for bras and at the waistband for underwear.

How to Hang-Dry Clothes Indoors

Clothes on a drying rack

In the winter or if you live in an apartment, drying clothes outside may not be feasible. That doesn't mean you can't air-dry them. It just means you have to be a little bit more creative. To perfectly air dry your clothing, you'll need a few things.

If you can't get your hands on a drying rack, you can make do with hangers and curtain rods.

How to Maximize Drying Indoors

For the most part, follow the hanging rules for outdoor drying. But instead of hanging your clothing on a line, you'll be hanging it on a drying rack or hangers.

  • Put your drying rack near a vent or window, or use a fan to speed up drying time.
  • Allow enough space between clothes for air to circulate.
  • Lay sweaters and heavy clothing on a flat surface to dry, and flip them every so often.
  • Use the sun to your advantage by hanging things to dry during the day.

How Long Do Clothes Take to Air Dry?

Not all fabric is created equal, so the drying time for every fiber is different. But you can expect clothes to take about 3-6 hours to dry outdoors on a nice warm, breezy day. Your delicates and lighter fabrics might take less time, while your bulky sweaters might take a bit longer. If you are drying things indoors, expect it to take anywhere from 18-24 hours. Fans and flowing air can speed things up, but that's the average.

How to Air-Dry Clothes Fast

Air drying is not a fast process. However, you can do things to speed up the drying time if you are air-drying your clothing.

  • Maximize airflow by putting clothing in areas with a good breeze or near a window. You can also use fans to create airflow.
  • Rotate the garments to keep air flowing.
  • Spin your laundry out well in the washer to make sure all the water is removed before hanging. You might even put it on a high-spin cycle or through the spin cycle twice.
  • Lay the garment on a large absorbent towel and roll it up a few times to squeeze any excess water out.

Air Drying Your Laundry

If you are looking to save a little money during the summer or want to be efficient, you can choose to air-dry your laundry. Not only is it cheap, but it's super simple. Just remember, make sure clothing is completely dry before putting it away. You don't want musty clothes because you were impatient.

How to Air Dry Clothes for Fresh & Flawless Results