6 Reasons Not to Dry Your Clothes Outside

Drying clothes outside in the fresh air and sunlight seems idyllic. But there are actually several downsides to this traditional practice that you may not have considered. Here are 6 reasons why you may want to rethink hanging your laundry out to dry outdoors.

Longer Drying Times

One of the biggest downsides to drying clothes outside is that it often takes much longer than drying them in a machine. Clothes dried outdoors are at the mercy of the weather and environmental conditions.

On cloudy or humid days, clothes may take hours longer to dry than on a sunny day. And if a rainstorm hits mid-drying, you’ll have to bring everything inside to dry, meaning the whole process starts over. Drying indoors with a machine ensures more consistent and predictable dry times.

Exposure to UV Rays Fades and Damages Fabrics

Exposure to the sun’s UV rays gradually fades and weakens fabric over time. You may start to notice your dark-colored clothes fading after repeat drying sessions outside. And for delicate fabrics like silk, the UV rays can be downright damaging, causing them to become brittle and discolored.

While line-dried clothes may smell sun-fresh, the UV exposure slowly breaks down fibers and shortens the usable lifespan of your garments. Drying indoors prevents UV damage.

Increased Risk of Shrinkage and Warping

The combination of sun exposure and wind can cause cotton and other natural fabrics to shrink or become misshapen when line-dried outdoors.

Undergarments and shirts are especially prone to shrinkage when dried outside. And the gusting winds can warp lighter fabrics, resulting in a strange stretched or twisted shape. Drying laundry indoors eliminates this risk.

Lint and Debris Clings to Fabrics

When you dry your clean laundry outside, it’s exposed to all sorts of pollutants and debris that can cling to fabric. Lint and pet hair circling in the air outside can settle on your clothes. And pollen, dust and other particulate matter also ends up on your laundry.

Bringing clothing in from the clothesline means also bringing in outdoor allergens and dirt. A lint filter in the dryer prevents this.

Clothes Can Be Stolen or Damaged

Leaving laundry outside unattended makes it vulnerable to theft or damage. Shirts left outside overnight can be blown away by winds or dampened by dew. And if you live in a populated area, thieves may walk by and steal clothing off the line.

Even clipping clothes tightly to the line is no guarantee items will be secure. Drying indoors is much more secure and protects your investment in your wardrobe.

Increased Bird Dropping Stains and Discoloration

Birds often congregate and perch near homes, including around clotheslines. And you may end up with white- or green-splattered clothes if they leave their droppings on your laundry while it dries. Bird droppings can leave stains that require vigorous scrubbing to remove.

Drying indoors prevents birds from treating your clean clothes like a bathroom stop and guards against staining.

Convenience and Predictability Make Drying Indoors Worth It

While the idyllic image of laundry drying outdoors on the line invokes nostalgia, the convenience and predictability of drying indoors has clear advantages. Modern dryers provide faster, safer drying unaffected by weather. They protect your clothes from UV damage, shrinkage, dirt and theft.

If the aim is efficiently drying fresh, clean and undamaged clothes, then hanging them outside to dry for longer periods simply introduces more variables and risks. Rather than hope the weather cooperates, save time and hassle by drying inside. Your clothes will thank you.

Frequently Asked Questions About Drying Clothes Outside

Drying clothes outdoors is a time-honored tradition, but one that comes with some downsides. Here are answers to common questions about the risks of skipping the dryer and opting for the clothesline instead.

Does drying clothes outside really damage them?

Yes, it can. The sun’s UV rays do gradually break down and fade fabric over time. Clothes dried outside may experience more shrinkage, and lighter fabrics can become misshapen and warped. The wind and sun combination can damage clothes in ways tumbling in the dryer does not.

How much longer does it take for clothes to dry outside?

Drying times outdoors are wildly variable based on weather conditions. Clothes may dry in a couple hours on a sunny, breezy day. But cool, humid days can push drying times past 6 hours or longer. Drying indoors is much more predictable, usually under an hour.

Is drying clothes outside sanitary?

Hanging laundry outdoors exposes your clean clothes to contaminants floating in the air, like pollen and pollution. Lint and pet hair can cling to fabrics. And bird droppings may end up on clothes left outside unattended. Drying indoors avoids introducing these outdoor allergens and irritants into your laundry.

Why is drying clothes inside better for the environment?

While using an electric dryer consumes energy, it’s a much more efficient process than drying clothes outside. The indoor drying cycle completes quickly, while clothes dried outdoors require much longer drying times. And due to weather delays, clothes may need multiple attempts before fully drying.

Doesn’t the sun naturally sanitize and freshen clothes?

The sun’s UV rays and heat do have a sanitizing effect on laundry, killing some bacteria. And sun-dried clothes smell fresh. But these marginal benefits are outweighed by the fabric damage, long drying times, and dirt/contaminants that come with drying outside.

What are the risks of clothes being stolen off the line?

Leaving laundry outside unattended makes it vulnerable to theft, especially in populated areas. Lightweight fabrics like undergarments can easily be snatched by passersby. While clipping clothes tightly may deter some theft, it’s not a guarantee they’ll remain secure outside overnight.

How can you prevent bird droppings from staining line-dried clothes?

Avoid leaving clothes drying outside for prolonged periods of time. Check on the laundry frequently and remove items as soon as they are dry. Hang clothes under an overhang or porch to make it harder for birds to perch above. But there’s no foolproof way to protect clothes from bird stains outside.

Does line-drying clothes save money?

Factoring in the costs of replacing damaged and discolored clothes that result from sun exposure, line-drying outdoors doesn’t always save money long-term. The upfront cost of running a dryer is generally outweighed by the investment put into clothes that will now wear and fade faster.


While hanging laundry on the line is nostalgic, it comes with an array of risks and disadvantages compared to drying clothes indoors. Modern dryers are a faster, more convenient, and controlled drying environment.

Drying laundry outside leaves your clothes vulnerable to UV and weather damage, dirt and theft. And the process takes significantly longer. For anyone looking to efficiently dry clean, undamaged clothes, skipping the clothesline in favor of the dryer makes the most sense for all the reasons covered here.

Some traditions fade for good reasons. And when it comes to protecting your clothes and saving time, embracing the benefits of indoor drying is your best bet.