tiny tips for tiny houses: drying laundry

In our little community we go without a lot of things that the majority of folks in the western world consider standard. Running water in our kitchens. Bathrooms attached to our main living spaces. Dial-controlled, low-maintenance heating systems. Doing without these things makes our particular community possible, and I rarely miss them. But every once in a while, I’ll get a well-it-certainly-would-be-more-convenient-for-my-lazy-ass-right-now pang. The only thing I’ve never missed is having a dryer.

Line drying is awesome. In the summer you’ve got as much space as you’ve got yard, with the added bonus that the sun will bleach your whites and, allegedly, disinfect really gross, dirty travel punks’ socks. Problem with line drying when you live in a tiny house is that in the winter, you don’t have the space. Sure, you might be able to squeeze one rack (usually fits exactly one machine full) in somewhere, but you’ll spend the next couple of days tripping over it and cursing its space-hogging presence in your little abode. With massive amounts of baby laundry on the horizon (we’re cloth diapering, in case you hadn’t heard), the problem of drying space was becoming more urgent.

As we have a house on the front of our community’s property, we all can sometimes set up our drying racks in the house—but only during semester breaks when the vokü (vokü=cheap, volunteer-run, vegan or vegetarian cafe, like Food Not Bombs with less dumpster diving) isn’t running. The garage/addition area is usually up for grabs too, though it is a pretty musty area and your laundry will end up outside, rain or shine, if you forget to move it before the next scheduled concert. And since sometimes people smoke in both of those places, neither make for a good baby-wash-drying solution.

So the Beard grabbed two old sides of a wooden baby crib that I had dumpster dived years before and been planning to use as kindling, added hinges, screwed them to our ceiling right above the wood stove, and solved the problem in a matter of minutes. Wha-la:

Two loads of laundry fit on them, and the hinges allow them to swing down just far enough so that I can reach them. The best part is that their position over the wood stove means that our laundry drys in a matter of hours instead of the days it sometimes takes in the sometimes-damp, never that warm garage area. Dumpster-dived baby bed turns into tiny house laundry rack. Yes and yes.

Are you dryer free? How do you deal with line-drying during the winter months?

This post was featured on Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways 9 at Frugally Sustainable, Simple Lives Thursday at gnowfglins, DIY Thrifty Thursday at Thrifty 101, Homestead Barn Hop at The Prairie Homestead, Frugal Tuesday Tip at Learning the Frugal Life, and 2nd Time Around on A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words.

23 Comments on “tiny tips for tiny houses: drying laundry

  1. In Alaska all the old cabins have this big wire spiral thing (not the best description) with clothespins over the woodstove. More modern people hang oven racks.

  2. I was nodding throughout this post. I’ve been dryer free since I left the USA and realized that most of the rest of the world is, too! Even in the USA, I was living in a warehouse without much heat and without real walls, etc., but the trade-off was amazing living space, room for concerts, a clan of crazy cats, etc.

    I like being dryer-less for all the same reasons that you do. In the winter I usually end up leaving my windows open while I’m out if I need to dry the laundry — that only works if I’m living in a flat that’s not near ground-level — but otherwise I just have to plan ahead for two days of drying.

    I have found in the past few years that many good things require a bit more planning…but they are incredibly worth it.

    How do you wash your clothes? And how do you keep them from getting stiff? Just curious…

  3. I was really pleased to see this post – I have been having problems with drying my laundry, the conservatory is freezing in winter and it takes about 4 days to dry anything. The house is tiny (not so tiny as yours!) but I am constantly falling over drying racks.

    I won’t use the tumble drier as it’s too expensive. I have had this idea of attaching an old fashioned (English) drying rack at the top of my landing (have a gallery landing) and all heat rises to it. I’ve not bought it yet as I keep hoping to find something like you have done. As I’ve gas CH it’s only on at certain times too as I wrap myself up during the day if I’m in!!!

    That’s an excellent drying area, now I will have to see if I can find some way of doing the same. I have had this idea in my head for ages and nobody seemed to think about it – they’re all too – well you’ve got a tumble drier, what’s the problem – mentality!!!

  4. I have four kids, so six people living in the house, which pretty much means doing a washload every day. We manage without a dryer, no problem.

    What I do have is a lovely 3-tier folding rack (Leifheit Pegasus Condor 300, the tower one). It can take pretty much a whole wash load, I set it up next to the boiler and the hot water tank and most things apart from the really heavy clothes (jeans, combats, heavy hoodies) will dry overnight. In summer I put it up outdoors and things dry in a few hours. Simple. 🙂

    In the UK lots of people still have those old fashioned Victorian style laundry airers that you haul up to the ceiling on a pulley, ideally positioned above a boiler or aga or similar. You do need quite high ceilings for the stuff to be high up enough to be out of the way, so better in older houses.

  5. Tara: I am very curious what the spiral wire thing looks like. Will have to google.

    Adrienne: For washing my clothes we have a regular washing machine (between the seventeen of us). Usually we go for used ones, but with all the traffic they tend to break down every six months. Recently we decided to get a brand new one with a warranty, we’ll see how that goes. So far I really like it as it has a huge barrel and can fit what used to be two loads in one. As for the clothing stiffness, I just kind of ignore it, my clothes sometimes get stuff and of well. They are never really too stuff though, now that I think about it, wonder if that has something to do with our water or the soap/soap nuts I use to wash or what. What do you do?

    Anni: Yeah, isn’t it a bitch how long it takes to hand dry things in the winter? Especially if, like me, you aren’t great at planning things like that ahead of time. The hanging rack sounds like a good idea.

    Freya: I love the sound of the pulley racks. As our ceiling isn’t so high, things do hang down in your face sometimes while they are drying. But they are dry so quickly there when we’re heating that it’s not a big problem. Haha, does smell like a laundromat in here when things are hanging to dry though, and it is sometimes nec. to wipe the extra condescation off the windows.

  6. We live an otherwise comfortable, western existence but are without a dryer! Of course, winters in Israel aren’t so much winter as fall, but still, it does take longer to dry. We have a drying rack that we set up in our bedroom. I find fabric softener is necessary to prevent crispy clothing, but otherwise I’ve gotten pretty used to it.

  7. I didn’t realize that dryers are such a big deal until very recently. I’ve certainly never wanted one and we have a folding rack which is usually enough and sometimes we hang things to dry on other surfaces if the need rises. I happily remember when I was kid and my family spent the summers in a small log cabin in the woods. My mother had a clothes line hanging between two trees and she could look at the lake while putting clothes up on in. I used to use too much laundry detergent for a while and that made the clothes stiff, you actually need very little. I don’t use fabric softener on everything and yet they are fine nowadays.

  8. Line drying! One of my favorite subjects! We live on one floor of a 3-flat. I rigged up clothes lines along the railings on the diagnal between landings and on the horizonal on the outer edge of each porch facing south and west and on the ground level in a sheltered, shadier spot. I use the latter when rain threatens, or for heavier things that need to stay out a longer time (to avoid sun fading). I can hang up 2 loads at one time, or rotate 3 or 4 on a hot windy day.

    I read somewhere that there are no more clothes pins manufacturers in the US anymore. I’m mornful any time one of the better ones breaks or falls away forever. I use more pins on windy days of course.

    I use a line that is white cotton/polyester on the outside and plstic in the middle. Still looks new after almost 10 years of being up year round. I was timid at first putting up shorter lines on our landing at first, but became emboldened by the stupidity/immorality of wasting electricity and gas drying.

    Other residents use the dryer in the basement, I do for some things in the winter too. I do hand things up on hangers and hang off shower curtain rod in bathroom. We also dry smaller things like soaked mittens and boots in the furnace closet.

    My mother has always dried summer laundry outside on clothes lines in her yard, in the basement clotheslines in the winter. It used to drive me crazy taking thing in and out multiple times as the weather changed. Funny to see nightgowns frozen outside. I was in my twenties visiting a friend’s house when I noticed her towels weren’t stiff and crunchy. Ha ha.

  9. @clickclackgorilla, Thanks for answering my question. I get loads of ideas from you and a ceiling-mount drying rack is yet another. I empathize with the communal and oft-broken washing machine arrangement. As for stiffness, I have no solution (I try vinegar-as-fabric-softener every once and a while, but it never really works).

    It only affects socks and towels but sometimes to such a degree that they crack. (Depending on water source, I think — I use soap nuts.) A good massage usually does the trick, but then, I would have to sit around massaging my socks all the time…

  10. Wow… that totally reminds me of my old Neighbors house he had the exact same setup with the crib sides in the furnace room.

    I used to work on laundry equipment and there was a product maytag put out that was the most over priced dryer rack ever made. The one thing that I think I could take out of it was that in side the drying closet bit the rack actually vibrated which may help with the stiffness?

    I’m not sure what your winters are like there but here it is very dry. My neighbour used to comment that the biggest reason he hung everything to dry in his furnace room was because it pull the moisture into the furnace and pushed it around the home.

  11. When I was a kid I remember my mother hanging the washing outside on the clothesline in the winter to dry. This was in Manitoba, Canada. They usually froze as she hung them. When she brought them in them were frozen stiff but when they thawed out they were mostly dry and didn’t take too long to finish in the house. Freeze-dryed I guess.

  12. You wouldn’t believe the money you can save not using the clothes dryer. As I write this, in the living room, there is a Homesteader rack of clean laundry drying. In fact, it’s probably dry, and I should fold it. I like to throw winter-dried stuff in the dryer for 10 minutes on medium though, because I’m an idiot and can’t tell the difference between cold and clammy and I really don’t want to put damp clothes away in this damp environment in which I live.

    But what a good idea using the crib sides. Are you guys sure you’re not going to need them for the Peanut? You could always rig something with some rope. Hmmm. Makes me want to think on that.

    In addition to the Homesteader, we also have the British ceiling rack I bought a few years ago. Between that and the rack outside in the summer, we’re all set!

  13. Pingback: Drying Laundry | EcoWhore

  14. Not that many years ago, in England at least, just about everybody had a clothes drying rack suspended from the ceiling on a pulley and rope system to let down / pull up. Just like your arrangement, above the fire / range or whatever heat scource.
    Sadly a lot of these old-fashioned ways have been forgotten with modern central heating, no fire, and tumble dryers.
    Our living room currently has 2 loads of washing hanging about on hangers and a fold-away rack in the middle of the room. Why waste the heat?

  15. I clicked off of Frugally, read your post, and said to myself, this girl fricken rocks. And then I realized that you had commented on my home birth/sailor experience!

    If you listen closely, off in the distance, you’ll hear the sound of a blog being bookmarked.

  16. I saw a neat idea that I wanted to share with you a few days ago. I could not figure out how to post it. Tried several times. Anyway, this idea was used in a type of wash room that isn’t connected to the main house. The owner installed a reel type pulley system inside of the building. The other end of the pulley system was installed outside of the building. She said that she takes the clothes directly out of the washing machine and hangs it up as she goes along. How neat is that? I would love to do this if I had an outside wash room.

  17. Katherine: You know, the more I read people’s thoughts on clothing crispiness in the comments here, the more I realize that my clothes don’t really get crispy when I hang them to dry. I mean, the towels aren’t soft anf fluffy, but otherwise not so much. Am going to have to do some reasearch into the whys of that.

    Sara: Yeah there do seem to be a lot of folks who wouldn’t want to go without. I grew up with a dryer in the house, but I developed an adversial relationship to it early on (though I did continue to use it) as I kept accidentally putting things in it that didn’t belong, rendering them doll-sized.

    Tess: No more clothes pins manufacturers really? Daaaamn! I have no idea if they are still making them here, but I have a pretty large collection that I found in the trash. (And if they aren’t being made much of anywhere anymore, why the hell are people throwing them away?! Oh the shame!) Thinking about that is giving me a bit of a hoarding twitch.

    Adrienne: Def need to research the clothing crispness thing. Yours crack?! Damn. Never had that happen. Intense.

    Eyecon: Crib sides do make a dandy laundry hanger. Good point on the moisture. Though in our tiny space, it tends to be a bit too much. Don’t want anything to start molding.

    Anita: I’ve always wondered if clothes that froze would be dry(ish) when you took them in. Now I know.

    Paula: Rope would have been fine too, but we didn’t have any rope at the moment, and we had the crib sides on the kindling pile. That and the crib sides lent themselves to the hinging, which allows me to actually reach them when I’m hanging stuff up. Some friends of mine have a really high ceilinged apartment, and they rigged up a pulley system that sends the whole drying rack up and out of the way. Nice set up, that is.

    And we def won’t be needing any crib sides for Peanut–she’ll be sleeping in bed with us at least until she’s old enough to handle her own bed in her kiddie Wagen.

    Tara: Thanks! Almost exactly like what I was picturing. Though I was picturing more spiral, like tornado-shaped. Neat.

    Cumbrian: Exactly!

    Carolyn: Sweet! Loved your birth story!

    Andrea: Also sweet! Thanks for stopping by.

    Carla: That does sound really awesome. Incredibly convenient. Except for the part where you probably would have to heat an outdoor wash room so that the pipes didn’t freeze. We’ve had freezing pipe problems a lot, as we used to keep our washing machine in our bathroom Wagen, which is basically a seperate outdoor building. Has heat, but not enough for the really cold days. Love it!

    Since you managed to post this now, I guess the problem stopped with you not being able to comment. But what exactly was the issue? Would love to make sure it doesn’t happen again to anyone else if its a possible reoccurring issue.

  18. On the crispy clothes issue. It’s mostly to do with the hardness of the water. Soft water, you might not notice much. Very hard water, like most of us in Germany have, you’ll notice it. But as with all things it becomes a matter of what you’re used to. I can’t stand stuff with fabric conditioner in it anymore. Apart from the smell (find it hard to believe there ever was a time I liked it) these days fabric conditionered stuff doesn’t feel soft to me, it just sort of feels a bit greasy, nearly slimy.

    Vinegar does work really well actually but I couldn’t figure out why it didn’t work quite as well here as it had in Ireland. And then I realised that because the water is so much harder here, it’s more important to pay attention to the timing of it. It really does have to go in with the final rinse. If you have it in the machine before there’s a good chance that most of it will have already been washed in and washed out of the clothes before the end – I think because it’s more liquid than fabric conditioner, it tends to run out of the dispenser far easier.

    Just to complete my little laundry tale, I use soapnuts from the fair trade shop for everything except whites. I never had a problem in Ireland but here I started having a problem I’d heard others having where brown/yellow stains would appear on white stuff washed using soapnuts. So now I have some eco washing powder or other to use for white (I don’t wear a lot of white though so that’s only once every couple of months). I also put some washing soda in the drum with every wash – helps soften the water, which makes it more efficient at cleaning and also helps stop the machine getting too clogged up with the limey hard water. The vinegar helps in that regard a bit too.

  19. Ah, and also, if anyone complains about having to use ‘hard’ towels, I just remind them that it helps to exfoliate without having to buy any expensive products to do so. 🙂

  20. I loved when the clothes “froze” in the wintertimes, back when almost everything we wore was organic. They are perfectly prepped for ironing! In fact, in the summers, I will moisten clothes and put them on the lower refridge shelf to get beautifully ironed clothes. My mother would have her laundry on the line by 7:00am and in the house by 10:00am almost every time. Rarely had clothes on the line past noon. I’m a little more relaxed, but 2:00pm is my latest time. The clothes smell so fresh. During the years, I lived in many developments that simply wouldn’t let you hang your clothes outside, so it isn’t always a choice you can make. The home I’m in now actually had a full-length heavy duty clothesline with six ropes and I found the clothespins at an old-timey grocery store! Solar cooking has reduced my electric bill so much that I treat myself to using the dryer when it’s miserable outside — but, don’t prefer solar drying. Love the smell! Come visit when you can.

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