In winters, especially the wet British winters, drying clothes outside can be a challenge. As temperatures drop and the weather turns damp, it takes longer for clothes to dry, and on some days, they stubbornly stay wet.
Drying your clothes outside has many advantages. You save on electricity, it’s more environmentally friendly and the sun is a natural disinfectant and deodorant. More importantly, the sun will not shrink your clothes.
But the conditions required for outdoor drying are not present all year round. In summer, there’s plenty of sun to evaporate moisture from clothes, dry air to absorb that moisture and enough wind to speed up evaporation.
In winter, not all these conditions are present. There isn’t much sunshine and rain or snow can keep closes wet for days.
If you are thinking about using your tumble dryer less and drying most of your clothes outside, you may be wondering which is the lowest temperature that clothes can dry outside.
The short answer, and this may surprise you, is there’s no minimum temperature for drying clothes outside. Yes, clothes can still get dry in freezing temperatures.
We explain more below.
What Clothes Need to Dry
When you dry clothes outdoors, you are at the mercy of Mother Nature. Three weather aspects are essential for clothes to get dry.
- Low humidity
In short, warm, fast-moving air dries clothes quickly.
Drying Clothes Outside in Winter
During winter, the biggest challenge is rain or snow, not low temperatures.
Just keep in mind that drying clothes inside can be a health problem if you let the humidity build up. Keep a few windows open to let out the moisture.
However, if it’s cold but not wet, you can dry clothes outside no matter the temperature.
As long as the outdoor air is relatively dry and there’s some wind, the air will absorb moisture from your clothes. Yes, it’ll take longer for your clothes to dry, but they eventually will.
What if it’s cold enough that your clothes freeze? Can they still dry?
Yes, clothes can dry in freezing weather. Don’t worry if you find that your clothes have been frozen stiff in interesting shapes. Leave them outside and the ice will sublimate. This is a process where ice turns directly into vapour without melting into water first.
Some of your freeze-dried clothes will feel completely dry when you bring them inside while others may be slightly damp and will need a little time in the dryer or on an airer.
Tips for Drying Clothes Outside When It’s Cold
1. Expose a wide surface area
Open zippers and hang items like towels and bedsheets by their edge instead of folding them in half. Exposing as much surface as possible to the air will dry clothes faster. Rotary washing lines are best suited for this.
2. Shelter the hanging lines
If there’s a high chance of rain, consider hanging the clothes under a shelter. You can construct one from a tarp, corrugated metal sheets or use a garden umbrella. The shelter will keep the rain out while allowing air to flow from the sides.
3. Give them time
Hang your clothes as early as possible to give them plenty of time to dry. Remember that it’ll take longer for clothes to dry when it’s cold.
4. Use the spin cycle
You washing machine’s spin cycle extracts moisture from your clothes by spinning them at a high speed. Selecting the spin cycle after a wash will shorten drying time.
5. Use a drying rack
If it is cold and wet outside and you don’t want to use a dryer, the best option is to dry clothes inside on a drying rack or clothes airer. You can also use a drying rack to make it easy to move the clothes indoors quickly if it starts raining.
Now that you know clothes can dry in any temperature, you can go ahead and dry clothes outside even when temperatures drop. Just give them a little more time and use the above tips to quicken drying.
The only thing you need to be on the lookout for is rain. If it rains often, either shelter your clothes when they are drying outside or dry them inside.