2 Reasons Line-Dried Clothes Are Stiff (+ How To Soften It)

2 Reasons Line-Dried Clothes Are Stiff (+ How To Soften It)

Do washing lines turn your clothing into cardboard? Okay, maybe it’s not that bad but we explain why laundry gets stiff when line-dried and how to avoid it.

Line-dried laundry can get stiff when detergent residues remain behind after the washing process. Some fabric softeners, ironically, can also stiffen clothing in this manner.

There is nothing like fluffy towels and soft clothing. If you are faced instead with scratchy and stiff laundry, then we have all the information you need to solve the problem.

The 2 Reasons Why Line-Dried Clothes Tend To Become Stiff

The good news is that the problem is not huge. It simply boils down to the two things we use the most to clean our laundry – detergent and fabric softener. When used correctly, they can leave clothes feeling refreshed, soft, and comfortable. But when do they turn laundry stiff, especially when the clothing is being air-dried?

  1. When the fabric is not properly rinsed and too much of the detergent’s residue stays behind. 
  2. You used the wrong brand of fabric softener. 

How To Deal With Detergent Residue

The golden rule is to rinse until the garment is free of any detergent. Very often, that is easier said than done. Especially when you are handwashing an item and the detergent is very soapy. Here are a few tips to get the most residue from your laundry.

  • Do not use too much detergent. Ideally, one should follow the product’s instructions for the best results. But if you still experience problems, reduce the detergent by increments until it hits a sweet spot where it both cleans your clothes and does not leave residues. 
  • Switch detergents if you keep running into this problem. There are products available that are specifically designed not to leave residues. Just keep your eyes peeled for them!
  • Ensure that the clothing is well-rinsed before you hang them up to dry. 

Are you irritated by the high price of laundry powders and liquids? We explain the top 5 reasons why laundry detergent is so expensive.

How To Deal With Fabric Softener

A good fabric softener is a thing of wonder. It leaves laundry smelling delightful and feeling soft, fluffy, and luxurious. A bad softener will, ironically, sometimes harden fabrics – especially when they air-dry. The solution is to buy a quality product or keep trying new fabric softeners until you find one that actually works. Remember to do a final rinse after you have soaked the clothing in a fabric softener. 

You might want to invest in a fabric softener. As it turns out, this handy liquid or powder is more versatile than you think. Here are other uses for fabric softener other than using it for laundry.

What Can I Do To Soften Air-Dried Clothes?

2 Reasons Line-Dried Clothes Are Stiff (+ How To Soften It)

There are several wonderful tips and tricks to try. They can either help to avoid the stiffening altogether or reduce the hardness of the fabric after you remove the clothing from the line. 

Try A Vinegar Rinse

Vinegar is a superstar. Its uses in the home extend far beyond being a chips condiment. Indeed, the zingy liquid is a powerful way to fight this problem. How so? Vinegar does two things. First, vinegar is excellent at removing detergent residues from the laundry. Secondly, it also behaves like a fabric softener. So, if you love doing things the natural way then vinegar is a great option. 

Simply add half a cup to the rinse water and, well, rinse! Most people find that they get the best results using white vinegar. 

Did we pique your interest in vinegar’s DIY benefits around the home? Here are a ton of tips to use vinegar around the house.

Pro tip: When using vinegar for any purpose, it’s usually best to purchase the real deal. Do not buy imitation or diluted vinegar. 

Do Not Leave Clothes Outside For Too Long

Depending on the weather and your location, this tip may or may not work. But it is worth a try. Some people find that if they bring the laundry inside the moment the clothing is dry, then nothing pretends to be a piece of cardboard. But the longer they leave them outside, the stiffer the fabrics become. 

After hanging your laundry on the washing line, return a few times to test for dryness. When something feels dry, it is ready to be removed. Be careful not to take down any damp items, which can cause them to stagnate and smell bad inside the closet or towel rack. Worse, mould or mildew might even develop on the fabric.

Are you a first-timer or feel like you might be hanging your laundry the wrong way? Here are great tips to hang laundry on a washing line.

Try Air-Drying And Tumble-Drying 

This method involves both air-drying and tumble-drying your laundry. The idea is to find the right balance between the two. In other words, after you put your clothes through the washer, hang them on the washing line for a few minutes to air-dry. Afterwards, put them through a cycle in the tumble dryer. Over time, you will know how long to leave the clothing on the line before throwing them in the tumble dryer. But overall, this technique is effective in keeping laundry soft and fluffy.

You can also reverse things. Tumble dry your laundry first for roughly 10 minutes. Then take them out and hang them on the washing line to dry.

Shake Out The Laundry Before Hanging

This simply involves giving each shirt and skirt a good shake before leaving them on the line to dry. Shaking them gets rid of the wrinkles and also loosens the fabric’s fibres, which also helps to keep the item soft. 

Once they are on the line, also pull apart anything that is sticking together like the back and front of a shirt or sleeve. This will also reduce the number of wrinkles by the time you need to iron the clothing. 

Catch A Windy Day For Quick And Fluffy Drying

2 Reasons Line-Dried Clothes Are Stiff (+ How To Soften It)

A really windy day can help to prevent stiff laundry. How so? First, it dries the item quicker and secondly, the wind keeps the laundry moving. That makes it more difficult for the fabric to just hang and stiffen. Watch the weather report and when it shows that the wind will blow nicely and for quite some time, then you can plan to do a load of laundry on that day.

A Quick Overview On Why Air-Drying Makes Laundry Stiff

  • Air-drying has many benefits, including saving electricity and water.
  • One of the most common complaints with air-drying is that some items of clothing can stiffen during the process.
  • Towels are particularly vulnerable to stiffening during air-drying.
  • There are several methods to avoid or treat laundry that feels stiff after drying on the washing line.
  • These methods include reducing the amount of detergent that you use and buying quality fabric softener. 
  • More tips include using a windy day, shaking laundry before hanging, also using the tumble dryer as a part of the drying process, not leaving the laundry on the line for too long, and rinsing clothes with vinegar after a wash.

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About the Author Harry Thompson

Involved in home renovations throughout his life, Harry is an expert in everything to do with home and garden DIY. In his spare time, he enjoys cooking and tending to his garden.