How to dry clothes without a dryer

Learn how to dry clothes without a dryer and enjoy lower bills and longer-lasting clothes

Woman hanging clean laundry on drying rack in bathroom
(Image credit: Liudmila Chernetska/ Getty)

Learning how to dry clothes without a dryer can come in handy, and not just for when your tumble dryer is broken. Air drying clothes is better for your wallet, the environment – and for your clothes. Even the gentlest cycle on your tumble dryer is not as gentle as air, and some fabrics just shouldn't be tumble dried, ever. 

So, knowing how to dry clothes without a dryer is an important part of learning how to do laundry correctly. Laundry experts with many years of experience agree – and give their advice on how to do this correctly.

How to dry clothes without a dryer: understanding humidity

Hanging laundry on balcony on the drying rack opposite sea and palm trees view at sunset sunshine

(Image credit: FTiare/ Getty)

It may seem obvious: you just take your clothes out of the washer and hang them up, right? Well, basically, yes. Wayne Edelman, CEO of Meurice Garment Care and expert in all things dry cleaning, at-home cleaning, and taking care of clothes with over 50 years of experience, points out that 'clothes, like any other item, will dry naturally without a dryer, but the rate of drying is affected by temperature, humidity, and air movement.'

Why is this important? Wayne cautions that while 'clothes can be hung to dry inside or outside, it's important to remember that if you live in a very humid climate you can only remove as much moisture as related to the relative humidity.'

If you live somewhere where outdoor humidity is, say, at a constant 80 percent, your clothes will take a good while to dry and may smell musty. 

Indoors, high humidity is even more of a problem. Of course, as Wayne says, 'drying clothes indoors will aid a very dry living space by transferring the moisture to the ambient air in the living space.' 

However, if your indoor space 'is poorly ventilated, and is humid to begin with, you may find that 'continual indoor drying in these conditions may lead to moisture/mold problems.' 

Not only are you likely to experience mold on surfaces inside the room, but (ghastly but true) mold can even begin growing on your clothes.

Washed shirts hanging to dry on a clothesline in the bathroom

(Image credit: Bihlmayer Fotografie/ Getty)

What are the solutions for drying clothes without a dryer in humid environments? Wayne's point is that simplest one is by increasing ambient airflow in the room, 'for example by introducing airflow by using a fan.'

You're aiming for increased ventilation, so opening a window is always a good idea in the room you're drying your clothes in. Cathy Abraham, home blogger and cleaning and organization specialist at Everything Better, also says that using a portable heater to help dry your clothes 'can be incredibly helpful: 'the heater should be kept 2-3 feet away from the clothes.'

'Run the heater for 3-4 hours with the door closed. Then switch it off and put on the ceiling fan at a low speed in the reverse direction to circulate the warm air.'

drying cabinet by asko in a modern utility room with a washer and dryer

(Image credit: ASKO)

Another great aid for drying clothes without a dryer is a dehumidifier. The best dehumidifiers have settings specifically for air-drying clothes. You may find it necessary to run the dehumidifier in the room with the laundry for many hours, or even overnight, so choose a low-energy device to keep your bills in check.

You may also consider investing in an electric clothes dryer, or even a freestanding clothes drying cabinet that can slot into your bedroom wardrobe. 

The electric dryers can be bought relatively cheaply, while the drying cabinets can run into the thousands. You'll also need to consider the running costs. It may make more sense to just invest in the best tumble dryer for that kind of money. 

How to dry clothes without a dryer: line drying

Clothes drying outside on a drying line

(Image credit: manonallard/ Getty)

Line drying is common in many parts of the world, although it obviously works best in climates with plenty of sunshine and no excess humidity. In fact, even a dry day without any sun is good for line-drying your clothes. And if you are drying dark clothes, keeping them out of direct sunlight is preferable anyway, to prevent the colors from fading.

To prevent your clothes from getting blown away, you'll need to peg them to the drying line. Always peg pants by the hems not waistbands, and shirts and sweaters upside-down – otherwise, the pegs will leave marks on the shoulders. Towels and sheets should be pegged at the corners, for the same reason.

Never line dry delicate items made from silk or wool/cashmere: these should be dried flat, indoors.

What is the fastest way to dry clothes?

There's a simple answer to this question: clothes will dry faster in a warm environment with low humidity. As Wayne explains, 'air temperature and humidity have a direct effect on drying rates. Warm dry air will dry items faster than cool humid air.' 

This rationale will affect how you dry your clothes depending on the season. It makes much more sense to line-dry your clothes in your backyard on a dry, warm day in the summer than it does in the fall or winter. A nicely heated indoor room in the winter is your best bet for drying clothes fast.

Don't bother with using a hairdryer to dry your clothes: this will take ages and will use too much energy (and your effort) than is worth it. 

Do clothes dry in cold air?

But what about the situation where it's cold outside, and you're air-drying your clothes indoors? If you open the window in this case, will your clothes dry in the cold air that comes in, or is it best to keep the window shut? 

Lisa Daniels, Managing Editor of Own The Winter, advises that 'clothes can dry in cold air, but warm air dries them faster. If it's raining or snowing outside and you need to dry your clothing indoors, hang them near a window or a vent.' Air circulation, even if it is cold air, will still help your clothes dry faster.

Anna is Consumer Editor across Future's home brands. She moved to the world of interiors from academic research in the field of English Literature and photography. She is the author of London Writing of the 1930s and has a passion for contemporary home decor and gardening.

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