How Long Do Clothes Take to Air Dry?
Author: Anne Cowart | Editor: Omar Alonso
Review & Research: Jen Worst & Chris Miller
Are you waiting for the washer's spin cycle to finish? How are you going to dry your clothes? If you always dump them in the dryer, think twice and consider hanging them out on the clothesline. How long do clothes take to air dry, and what are the benefits of this practice?
Is it worth foregoing that dryer session? Hanging your clothes to air dry could change the way you do laundry and save you a bunch of cash during the year. Do some clothes take longer than others to air dry? What fabrics have a longer drying time than others, and should you air dry clothing outdoors or indoors?
What Are the Advantages of Drying Clothes Outdoors?
Let’s give you everything you need to know about hanging your clothes out to dry instead of using the dryer.
It's the Energy-Efficient Choice
Using the dryer is convenient. You toss the clothes in the drum, close the door, hit the dial, and return later to clean clothing. The issue is that the dryer is an expensive appliance to run. The air heater in the unit uses an extraordinary amount of energy to dry your clothes.
According to estimates, running a load in the dryer can cost an average of between 24 to 72 cents. Think about that for a second while we do the math. If you run the dryer once a week for a year, that's 52 weeks x 30 cents, giving you a total annual cost of $15,60. If you run a load twice a week, that's a total cost of $31.20 for using the appliance.
That means you could get a free month or two of Netflix for the same price as running the dryer. While we're not talking life-changing money here, add that up over a decade, and it's $150 to $300; over a lifetime, it's a couple thousand dollars to use the appliance that could go to your retirement if you air-dry your laundry instead.
Save Time & Effort
Using a dryer is simple. You toss the clothes in the drum, close the door, and forget about it till later. However, the issue with using the dryer is that clothes almost always come out wrinkled, and you need to iron them.
Using a clothesline to air dry your t-shirts, jeans, skirts, and blouses usually means you don't have to worry about ironing them afterward. Air drying doesn't produce as many wrinkles as using the dryer, saving you plenty of ironing time. And the best part is you can dry lights and darks together.
Leave the Laundry Smelling Fresh
Hanging your clothes out to dry in the sun leaves them exposed to the air. The result is fresher-smelling laundry. The sunlight removes any odors, and you don't get any musty smell as you do with leaving your clothes in the dryer for a few hours after finishing the cycle. No slightly burnt smell from a squeaky dryer, either.
UV Disinfection for Your Clothing
The UV rays from the sun kill germs like bacteria and viruses, disinfecting your clothes. The dryer is a warm, dry space; bacteria and viruses love those conditions. You might think that the heat from the dryer is strong enough to kill pathogens – but it isn't.
Several species of bacteria and viruses can endure blistering hot temperatures beyond the boiling point of water. However, they don't like the UV rays in sunlight, perishing before you pack the laundry away in your closet.
What are the Disadvantages of Drying Clothes Outdoors?
Not everything is all sunshine and rainbows when drying your clothes outdoors. Let’s look at some of the downsides, like needing to use a clothes wringer or clothes wringer alternative first to squeeze as much water out as you can so you aren't trying to air dry dripping clothes (and definitely not putting sopping wet clothes in your dryer).
UV Damage to Clothing
While the sun's UV rays have a powerful disinfecting property, they also fade the color of your clothing. Fortunately, you can beat the bleaching effect by turning your clothing inside-out before hanging it on the line.
Birds Make a Mess
There's always a chance that birds flying overhead might decide to drop a load on your load of laundry. You'll have no other choice but to wash the clothes again. That's not great news if you have that job interview coming up tomorrow.
Rusted Clothes Pegs
Many standard clothes pegs come with a spring in the center of the jaws. Leave the clothes pegs on the line, and these jaws rust. Use them to hang your white t-shirts; the rust can permeate the fabrics, leaving an orange stain. Fortunately, you can mitigate this risk by using all-plastic pegs.
Factors Affecting How Your Clothes Dry Outdoors
You won’t always get the same experience when air drying clothes. How long does it take for clothes to dry outside? Well, it depends on the following factors…
Whether it's sunny or cloudy outdoors can dramatically change the drying time for your clothes. It's the main factor in the answer to the question of how long does air drying take. If you live in a warm, sunny region, your clothes could dry in as little as a few hours.
If you have overcast conditions, it might take the whole day, and they still aren't dry properly – worse yet, it could start raining. If it rains on your clothes, you'll need to wash them again.
Time of Day
Leave the laundry out to dry on the line after 10 AM. The sun peaks between 10 AM and 2 PM, and you'll dry everything faster. Air temperatures peak two to four hours after the peak sunlight conditions of the day, usually between 2 PM and 6 PM.
Arranging the Clothes on the Line
How you arrange the clothes on the line also plays a role in how fast they dry. The more space you give between the clothes, the better. You can even tie your shoes off to the line, meaning no more shoes in the dryer, shrinking up or melting the glues.
Hand Wash Vs. Machine Wash
Handwashing your clothes leaves behind more moisture in the fabrics than using the spin cycle in the washer. Machine-washed clothes will generally dry faster, even if you wring out the clothing before putting it on the line.
How Long Do Clothes Take to Air Dry by Fabric Type?
So how long do clothes take to air dry? If you ask how long does air drying take, you can’t and won’t get a single answer because another factor that affects the dry time is the fabric of the clothing.
Cotton is the fastest-drying fabric, and most T-shirts dry in around 2 to 4 hours tops in sunny conditions. Ensure your clothes are well wrung if you wash them by hand before putting them on the line to dry. Stretch the material lightly on the line and smooth it out to reduce ironing. Remember to turn the garments inside out to stop fading, and hang them in the direct sunlight for the fastest drying time.
Wool is heavy, dense fabric and takes much longer to dry than cotton. Typically, it can take anywhere from 12 to 24 hours for wool garments to dry completely on the line. Once again, it depends on sunlight conditions and air temperature. Remember to wring the wool clothes properly; they'll hold way more moisture than cotton, especially after hand washing. Hang them out in the direct sunlight and spread them tight on the line.
Silk dries even faster than cotton because it's an incredibly thin but delicate material. While you can hang silk clothes in direct sunlight, we recommend against it. The light composition of the material makes it more prone to fading. It's better to hang them in the shade. While drying them in the shade, the material still dries fast, and you'll get the same drying time as cotton if the air is warm.
Denim fabrics have the longest drying time. The dense, tough material makes it hard to wring jeans after handwashing, so machine wash them if possible. In most cases, it takes demin around 6 hours to dry in direct sunlight – remember to turn them inside out before hanging them on the line. If it's overcast, you can expect a drying time of up to 24 hours.
FAQs Regarding How Long Clothes Take to Air Dry
Let’s look at a few other common questions that arise when we ask how long does it take clothes to air dry. It’s not that simple of a discussion, after all.
Is Air-Drying Clothes Effective?
Air-drying your clothing beats sticking it in the dryer. Your clothing lasts longer, dries faster, and experiences less wear and tear. However, remember to turn your garments inside out to stop the sun from fading the colored fabrics.
Does Clothing Dry Faster Indoors or Outdoors?
Leaving your clothing outdoors in the sun will dry your clothes four to five times faster than indoors. However, if it's overcast or raining outdoors, you might have no choice but to bring the clothesline indoors. Of course, running the clothes through a dryer will be faster than either of the previous options.
Will My Clothes Dry Outdoors in the Cold Air During Winter?
Yes. Your clothes will dry outdoors in the winter. However, if the temperatures are below 50 °F, they might take the whole day to dry, and you might even need a second day to dry them. In that case, it's better to dry them indoors.
Will My Clothes Dry if I Leave Them on the Washing Line at Night?
Yes. You can leave your laundry out on the line to dry overnight. However, it depends on the weather conditions in your area. Some regions might experience dew overnight that wets your clothes, or it might rain unexpectedly. It might also become increasingly cold in the small hours of the night.
Why Do Clothes Take Longer to Dry Near the Coastline?
If you live in a beach house, the humidity coming off the ocean in the summertime will increase the dew point in the air, slowing the drying time of your clothing.
Key Takeaways Regarding Outdoor Clothes Drying Times
- Air-drying times for your laundry can vary depending on the air temperature, sunlight conditions, and the type of clothing.
- Cotton and silk have the fastest drying times, and denim and wool have the slowest drying times.
- Typically, it takes anywhere from four to 24 hours for clothes to air-dry outdoors.
- Remember to turn your garments inside out before hanging them on the line in direct sunlight; this strategy avoids fading the colors in the fabrics.
So, How Long Do Clothes Take to Air Dry?
In ideal conditions on a sunny summer day with no rain and no high humidity, you could expect your clothes to dry somewhere in the 4 hour to 8 hour range, dependent on the fabric material and the thickness of the fabric. But the true answer to how long do clothes take to air dry is that it depends on a lot of factors. If you don’t have optimal conditions outdoors then you can hang dry them indoors.