Hanging washing outside to dry is always the best option if it’s available. Not only is it free, it’s eco-friendly and better for your home too.
Of course, it can be difficult to know if you can hang your washing out if the weather is unpredictable.
So, if you find yourself asking, “should I hang my washing out today?”, read on for some useful tips.
It might seem like a pretty easy question to answer but there are numerous factors to consider.
Should You Hang the Washing Out Today?
Run through this list to determine whether today is good clothes-drying weather.
1. Check the weather forecast
A good place to start is by checking your weather forecast. If there’s a high chance of rain and you’re not going to be around, it probably isn’t a good day for drying clothes outdoors.
Of course, if you have a covered outdoor space (such as a balcony), you should be able to go ahead and hang your clothes out.
Similarly, if you’re at home, you can always run out and take the washing down if it starts to rain.
2. Know the best conditions
The best weather for drying washing outside is a warm, sunny day with a light breeze.
However, you can still dry washing on overcast days. It’ll just take a bit longer. There are three main factors to consider when determining drying weather:
Wind is the most important factor when it comes to drying clothes outside. The best wind speed is 8-12 mph because this is enough airflow to dry your clothes without risking them creasing or blowing off the line.
Airflow helps separate water molecules from clothes, which speeds up the drying process. Importantly, too, it reduces the relative humidity around the clothes by moving the water vapour away more quickly.
It doesn’t matter as much if it’s an overcast day if there’s still a breeze. But if it’s overcast and still, you won’t have much luck drying your clothes outdoors.
Sunlight is the next most important factor because it dictates temperature and, to an extent, relative humidity.
Sunlight is UV light, which helps evaporate water. Combined with a light breeze, these will help dry your clothes pretty quickly.
Finally, we have temperature. As you might remember from science class, temperature helps speed up evaporation. Specifically, warm air can hold more moisture, meaning water can evaporate off your clothes more efficiently.
Sunlight and temperature work together to dry your clothes quickly. However, you could still dry your clothes outdoors in winter, provided it’s not around freezing. It’ll take longer than a sunny day in summer, but they’ll still end up dry.
Humidity isn’t one of the three main factors because it’s determined by temperature, wind speed, and sunlight.
Provided the relative humidity level is below 70%, your clothes should dry in a few hours. You can dry your clothes at higher humidity levels; it’ll just take longer.
You can find all this information in the weather forecast. Check the likelihood of rain and the day’s wind speed to decide if you should hang your washing out today.
3. How early can you hang it out?
In summer, you can easily dry a load of washing in two hours or so. But in winter, it could take all day. Therefore, it’s worth figuring out how early you’ll be able to hang out your washing to improve its chances of drying.
On a winter’s day when sunlight hours are fairly low, you’ll want to have it on the line by 9am if possible. The sun can set by 4pm in the depths of winter, so you’ll want to maximise your clothes’ drying time.
In summer, it doesn’t matter as much because we get well over 12 hours of daylight. However, you could use this to your advantage and dry several loads of washing in the same day!
4. Know how long clothes take to dry
It’s not necessary to know the specific drying times for every type of fabric you might be washing, but have a rough idea of how thickness and material can affect it. For example:
- Thin, lightweight fabrics such as cotton can be dry in a few hours.
- Denser fabrics such as denim will take far longer to dry.
- Synthetic materials come out of the washing machine almost dry, so they’ll need next to no time on the line.
- Bedsheets, even thick ones, dry relatively quickly because they catch the breeze more easily.
Use this information to properly time hanging your clothes outside. As a rule of thumb, thick materials should go out as early as possible, so you might want to get them washed overnight so they’re ready in the morning.
On the other hand, you could hang out polyester clothes near the end of the day and still have them dried.
Also, always aim to wash your clothes on the highest spin speed. This’ll reduce the amount of water in them when they go on the line, meaning they should dry faster. It’s particularly important for thicker items like sweatshirts and jeans.
Provided the weather is dry and it doesn’t look like it’s going to rain, you should be fine to hang your washing out.
Laundry will dry in pretty much any weather unless there’s something actively falling from the sky. Even cold days have a high chance of getting your washing dry.
So, if you want to save some money on your drying bill, or prevent damp in your home, think about chucking your washing on the line. Run through the list above and weigh up all the factors. If the weather seems in your favour, you’ve got nothing to lose.
Why Hang Your Washing Out?
If you have an outdoor space where you can hang washing – even if it’s just a balcony – it’s a great option. Compared to hanging your washing indoors or using a tumble dryer, air-drying is:
- Aside from the cost of a drying rack or washing line, hanging your washing outside doesn’t cost anything.
- Low-effort. Air-drying outdoors doesn’t really take any more effort than hanging your washing indoors.
- Better for your home. Unless you’re running a dehumidifier indoors, drying washing inside always comes with the risk of creating damp and mould. After all, the moisture has to go somewhere.
- Environmentally friendly. The sun and wind are free, renewable resources, so you might as well take advantage of them to dry your washing!
Although running a tumble dryer can cost anywhere between £0.50 and £1.35 per cycle, you can avoid this cost completely by hanging your washing outside.
A tumble dryer doesn’t seem super expensive per cycle, but if you’re a large family that does several loads of washing a week, the cost starts adding up.
Hopefully, this list will help you make an informed decision about whether it’s worth drying your washing outside.
Those with covered outdoor spaces have the best odds because they can even hang washing out when it’s raining!
Provided it’s not raining or freezing cold, hanging your clothes outside to dry should be fine.
A full day of airing on the line, even in winter, will be enough to get them dry. But if they’re still a bit wet, you can always hang them on an airer indoors to finish them off.
Jacob is a freelance writer based in Wales, where he lives with his partner and two dogs. All his work is fuelled by extensive research and buckets of coffee.