Here’s the Right Way to Hang Dry Your Laundry, According to Pros

Extend the life of your clothes and linens with these simple tips.


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We probably don’t need to be the ones to tell you that investing in quality clothing is an important way to make sure your dollar stretches far and you stay looking (and feeling!) your best. But there’s an often ignored piece to the equation when it comes to extending the life of your wardrobe, and that is laundry care.

For many of us, laundry is just a pesky chore on the to-do list, and it’s not exactly fun to think about dedicating any more time (or brain power) to it than is necessary. That being said, taking the time to launder—and dry—your clothes properly can make a huge difference in not only how they look, but how long they last. Commercial clothes dryers definitely have their time and place, but pros and garment experts agree: One of the best ways to keep your favorite jeans, sweaters, and blouses in tip-top shape is by hanging them to dry, rather than machine drying them.

“We all know that the heat from the dryer is the main culprit when it comes to shrinking items made from natural fibers like cotton,” says Jonathan Propper, founder and CEO of sustainable laundry brand Dropps. “However, the heat from the dryer also contributes to the fading of brightly colored clothing. Likewise, if you have a stain, the moment you put the stained garment in the dryer before the stain is completely removed, you’re essentially cooking the stain into your fabric and encouraging it to become permanent.”

Hang drying can be a safe-guard against these high-heat problems. Kelly Love, co-founder of Branch Basics, also credits hang drying with addressing other pesky laundry pain points, like static cling. “I always air dry any synthetic clothing or fabrics to avoid static that can develop in the dryer,” she says. “It’s also a great way to eliminate stubborn odors (rather than masking them with fragrances) and whiten whites.” Incorporating hang drying into your laundry routine can also go a long way towards lowering your electricity bill and reducing your carbon footprint, two things we can all agree are big perks.

If the idea of hang drying your laundry (and the potential learning curve it entails) feels daunting, you’re not alone. We’re here to help you develop a method geared toward maintaining the quality of your clothes and adding a sustainable—and, dare we say, enjoyable—habit to your laundry routine. “It may seem small, but any activity that gets you moving is one to embrace,” adds Propper. “Taking care of chores like hanging your clothes up to dry can be meditative, mind-clearing, and an overall relaxing experience—bonus points if you do it outdoors.” Below, find our best tips for air drying your laundry, including different ways to treat specialty fabrics and structured pieces, as well as how to address pesky scents and stains.

Tips for Hang Drying Clothes

Invest in the right gear

To give yourself the greatest chance of success when it comes to hang drying your clothes, it’s worthwhile to invest in the proper gear. If you’re looking to line dry your clothes, shop for a clothesline that is coated, which will prevent rusting and, in turn, cut down on the risk of staining clothes.

Alternately, drying racks come in all shapes and sizes, so shop for one that suits your available space, whether that means a custom drop-down rack hung in your laundry room or a collapsible version that can get tucked away out of sight in your apartment. Lastly, look for clothespins that won’t rust or deposit color on your clothes—believe it or not, the old-school wood ones are typically the best option.

Sort before you start

Before you hang anything out to dry, start by sorting your laundry by type of material—similar to how you would separate whites and colors ahead of washing. Some fabrics, like cotton or linen, can be hung to dry right away, while others (think: wool or silk) will require a bit more pampering. “In general, most clothes should be hung fresh out of the washing machine,” says Propper. “You can shake out the garments before hanging them to help work out wrinkles.” Sweaters and other stretchy items that can lose their shape are better laid flat to dry, so set those aside while you address the clothes that can be hung traditionally.

Hang by size

From there, you’ll want to hang your clothes according to size, starting with heavier or larger items (like jeans and towels) and proceeding to lighter-weight garb like t-shirts, tanks, and undergarments. “Damp clothes need room to breathe and for air to circulate,” says Propper. “Don’t overcrowd your drying rack with damp clothes, as this can delay drying and promote bacteria and mildew growth.” Working from large to small items also helps you conserve space on your line or rack, allowing you to maximize the number of clothes you can hang to dry at any given time.

If you’re drying your clothes indoors, do so in a spot that mimics an outdoor environment as much as possible. “When drying your clothes indoors, place your rack somewhere with ample ventilation,” says Love. The last thing you want is a batch of clothes that smell musty—or never get dry—because they’re enclosed in a tight laundry room all day.

Use the sun to your advantage

When it comes to hanging your clothes to dry, think of the sun as a very handy and helpful personal assistant. “The sun is a great way to freshen your clothes, speed up the drying process, and release VOCs from clothing,” says Love. “It can also be a key way of eliminating stubborn odors on your clothes, like if you spent time around smoke or wear a particularly fragrant perfume.” Choose a spot in your yard that gets consistent sunlight and hang your clothesline there, or use a foldable drying rack to “chase” the rays around your deck as you dry your clothes. If you’re worried about fading or sun bleaching, Love recommends turning clothes inside-out when drying them under bright sun.

Treat any lingering issues

For many, using a commercial dryer can be synonymous with perks like especially fluffy towels or finely scented garments—but all those things (and more) are possible with hang drying, too. For the fluffiest linens, Propper recommends utilizing a mineral-based fabric softener during your wash cycle. Wrinkles can typically be worked out with a firm shake or hand-smoothing before hanging, though more stubborn creases may need to be treated with a steamer once they’re dry. Find yourself with an especially stiff pair of jeans after hang drying? Tumble them in the dryer briefly (5 to 10 minutes) to soften up the fibers. Stuck with stubborn odors? Love recommends spritzing the garment with two parts vodka to one part water to get rid of them.

How to Hang Dry Different Clothing Items

Different clothing items will require different hanging methods. The below instructions will help you maintain the integrity and shape of your favorite pieces, from work blouses and blazers to your holy grail pair of jeans.


To properly hang jeans, chinos, or dress pants, start by matching the inner leg seams of the pants, attaching the hems of the legs to the line, with the waist towards the ground. If you have extra line space, you can hang the pants unfolded, both legs by the hems, which will allow the garment to dry faster.

Shirts and Tops

When hanging shirts and tops to dry, you can attach them by one or two methods. Using clothespins, hang the shirt by the hem, attaching the clothespins as close to the side seams as possible in case they leave a slight crease. Alternatively, you can hang the shirt on a hanger, then pin the hanger to the clothesline or hang it from a rack.

Socks and Undergarments

Smaller items, like socks and undergarments, can be hung using clothes pins, taking care to expose as much fabric surface area to the breeze/sun as possible. Before hanging, take the time to reshape anything that needs to maintain a form, like the cups of a bra or the boning in shapewear.

Linens and Towels

Drape sheets or blankets in half over the line, then pin them at the top. Towels should be hung vertically and pinned at the corners for the fastest drying time.

What Not to Hang Dry

As a general rule of thumb, anything that is considered delicate or stretchable should not be hung to dry—but that doesn’t mean that you have to (or even should) put it in the dryer. Items like wool sweaters or silk or lace blouses (which won’t stretch, but can snag on the line) should be laid flat to dry, either on a dedicated drying table or over several rungs of a drying rack. When in doubt, check the manufacturer's label sewn into your clothing—if it says anything about “laying flat” to dry, don’t hang it. The same goes for any items that already have sustained damage, such as vintage jeans that have a few holes in them. The whipping of the wind can serve to make these features more pronounced and, in some cases, damage your clothes permanently.

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