How to Air Dry Clothes Indoors

Drying laundry indoors has different challenges than drying outdoors. This article will provide the information you need to successfully air dry your clothes indoors. Let's get started...

Guide to Indoor Laundry Drying

indoor rack loaded with variety of laundry

Will laundry dry better indoors or outdoors?

The conditions for optimal air drying of clothes are:

  • Low humidity
  • Warm temperature
  • Moving air (ventilation)

Sometimes the outdoors has a good combination of these conditions (a warm, dry, breezy day), and other times the conditions outside are poor (a muggy, cool, still day). If you can only do laundry on the weekends, and it rains all weekend, then you won't be able to dry outdoors.

But indoor conditions are usually more consistent, and often adjustable. For drying clothes indoors, it helps to analyze each room in the house, and consider easy tricks to enhance the drying conditions.

  1. Bedrooms
    • Normally warm and dry. Open door and run a small fan for air movement.
    • Space is available in these rooms during the work day.
    • Drying only that occupant's clothes in their room allows easy putting away.
  2. Living Room / Dining Room
    • Normally warm and dry, and open for some air movement.
    • Problems can include traffic and crowded space.
    • Overnight drying with a ceiling fan running is an option.
  3. Kitchen
    • Not common, but a small wall rack for towels and washcloths possible.
  4. Bathroom
    • Can be too humid right after a shower or bath. Keep the door open.
    • When hand washing clothes, drying in the tub allows soggy items to safely drip.
  5. Basement
    • Problem if the basement is damp, cool, or poorly ventilated.
    • But those that are also living spaces are OK, and often have ample space.
  6. Garage
    • During warm seasons, the garage can work very well.
    • Leave the garage door open, at least part way, for ventilation. Fans always help.
    • Plenty of space, and possibility for clotheslines attached to the walls.

How long will it take to air dry clothes?

The honest answer is “It depends”. So many factors come into play, that the items from the same load of laundry will become dry at different times. How long it takes to air dry clothes depends on:

  • Wringing/Spinning: Items that start out soggy will take much longer to dry.
  • Fabric type: synthetics dry faster than natural fabrics.
  • Thickness: A thick cotton towel will take longer that a thin cotton tee shirt.
  • Folds/Layers: Layers (pant legs, folded towels) take longer due to less air movement.
  • Room's drying conditions: (see above)

For a load of laundry that was spun in a washing machine, and hung indoors in average conditions, the "easy" items will be dry in about 5 hours, and the "difficult" items will finish in about 9 hours.   Also see our How to Hang Dry Laundry article for tips on each different clothing type.

What type of indoor drying rack is best?

The types of indoor drying racks and clotheslines include:

  • Floor-standing Racks
  • Wall-mounted Racks
  • Retractable Clotheslines
  • Ceiling-mounted Racks

Floor-standing Racks:

Pros:
portable – can be moved to the room with best conditions
compact – fit into small unused spaces
affordable – multiple units can be used to best use available spaces
foldable – easy to close and store
Cons:
tippy – can be knocked over accidentally, or by a breeze if put outdoors
fragile – the cheap units are often weak, and not repairable
layering – having one rod above another can lead to layered fabric that drys slowly
Floor-standing Drying Racks, an assortment Floor-standing Drying Racks, an assortment Floor-standing Drying Racks, an assortment

Wall-mounted Racks:

Pros:
convenient – uses space that is plentiful and readily available
affordable – multiple units can be used, and are often needed with this type
foldable – easy to close and get out of the way
Cons:
permanent – requires being firmly fastened to the wall
overload danger – large heavy loads, or misuse, can pull it from the wall
appearance – finding a design that matches your décor may be difficult
Wall-mounted Drying Racks, multiple types Wall-mounted Drying Racks, multiple types Wall-mounted Drying Racks, multiple types

Retractable Clotheslines:

Pros:
convenient – uses overhead space available at different times of day
affordable – multiple single-line units can be used to best use available spaces
storage – easy to close and store and large amount of rope space
Cons:
permanent – requires being firmly fastened to the wall
overload danger – large heavy loads, or misuse, can pull it from the wall
line looseness – cheaper brands are prone to rope sagging and looseness
appearance – housings for large parallel line models often not attractive
variety of indoor retractable clotheslines variety of indoor retractable clotheslines variety of indoor retractable clotheslines

Ceiling-mounted Racks:

Pros:
convenient – uses un-used overhead space
efficient – drying on these racks avoids layering and captures warmer conditions
storage – stores overhead and out of the way
Cons:
permanent – requires being firmly fastened to the ceiling
overload danger – large heavy loads, or misuse, can pull it from the ceiling
appearance – finding a design that matches your décor may be difficult
complexity – managing the cords used to lift the unit is difficult for some
assorted Ceiling-mounted Drying Racks assorted Ceiling-mounted Drying Racks assorted Ceiling-mounted Drying Racks

Benefits of Air Drying your Clothes

Your clothes will last longer.

When you use a clothes dryer, all that tumbling rubs and wears away the fibers of your clothes. All that lint that you pull out of your lint trap at the end of every load is actually part of the clothes you just dried. If you want that favorite outfit to last forever, the first step to keeping your clothes like new is to NOT tumble dry, but to hang dry.

Wool sweaters and other natural fibers also last much longer when they are air dried. After washing, you can re-shape your wool fabrics and set them on a laundry drying rack to air dry so they retain their original beauty.

A fact you may not know is that the heat of a dryer RUINS elastic. If you would like to do a little experiment, go out and buy two pairs of identical socks. Mark one pair to be dried in the dryer and mark the other pair to be air dried. Wear each pair every week, launder them the same but dry them differently. I guarantee the pair that is air dried will last twice as long as the pair that you dry in the clothes dryer. If this is true for a pair of a socks consider the impact on other expensive articles of clothing like bras and fine lingerie. When you get a bra that is a great fit, air drying it will mean it lasts twice as long.

For diapers, sheets, and clothes worn by ill people, consider drying them outdoors to harness the natural disinfecting and whitening properties of the sun. The sun's UV light reacts with the water in the clothing to produce reactive forms of oxygen that kill the microorganisms. UV from the sun also interferes with the reproduction cycle of bacteria by damaging their DNA.

Save money on your utility bills.

According to the Public Utilities Service of New Hampshire, an average electric clothes dryer uses 5000 watts of power, runs 24 hours per month, and adds $218 a year to your electric bill. Ouch!

Drying your clothes on a rack indoors during the winter will also add much needed humidity into the dry air of a winter home, which allows you to turn down your thermostat by a degree or two. In fact, you can save up to 4% on your heating bills for every degree you lower your thermostat. So instead of spending the money to run a humidifier simply hang dry your laundry in your home and you will add much needed moisture into your home to help lower your heating bill.

Adding this moisture in the winter also has health benefits. Increasing the humidity in your winter home can reduce the chance of upper respiratory problems and save you even more money on doctor's visits and missed time from work and school. The added humidity will also help to keep your skin from drying out, which will make you feel more comfortable.

Protect your home and family.

This next statistic is very sobering. US fire departments respond to an estimated 15,900 home fires involving clothes dryers or washing machines EACH YEAR. These fires resulted in ANNUAL losses estimated at 13 civilian deaths, 440 civilian injuries, and $238 million in direct property damage. Clothes dryers accounted for 92% of these fires. See the NFPA's report Home Fires Involving Clothes Dryers and Washing Machines. We know that we can not put a monetary value on our lives and health. Using a laundry drying rack removes a large fire risk from your home.