We all know that if we don't dry our clothes in the dryer we save on electricity, but many of us don't think about how the dryer reduces the life of our clothes. For a long time I couldn't understand why so many people were buying scads of socks and underwear for their families every few months.

When my children were growing up, they almost never wore out their underwear and socks and we owned only about a quarter as many pair as most people. No I didn't buy some name brand known for its childproof quality. I usually bought the least expensive ones I could find.

Fast forward a couple decades. One day after folding my grandson's new underwear, I noticed that the waistband was terribly rippled. After doing some research, I discovered the answer: The dryer was destroying the rubber elastic in the socks and underwear. I rarely dried my family's clothes in the dryer, so the elastic never broke down. It doesn't just happen with underwear - Have you ever noticed pilling (those little fabric balls) on your clothes and linens and the resulting lint in the dryer? That is the result of the fibers being rubbed thin. The dryer also shrinks clothes and sets in stains.

The two reasons I think most people don't line dry their clothes are that they think it is inconvenient or they're just not sure how to do it. Here are some of the best tips I have found to air-dry clothes without a clothesline.

Though I don't use the dryer to dry my clothes, I do use it for five minutes or so with some loads (just long enough to fluff the clothes). I put one load in the dryer and only leave it there as long as it takes me to load the washer with the next load.

If you have no clothesline, you live in an apartment or your homeowners association won't allow clotheslines, here are a few ways to dry without a clothesline.

You need at least one drying rack and some type of clothes rod. You can buy drying racks at most discount stores or hardware stores. You might locate a clothes rod in your laundry room above the dryer, use a sturdy shower curtain rod in the bathroom or get a metal clothes racks that hooks over the back of a door. You don't need much. I can hang two loads of laundry on one drying rack and 2 feet of clothes rod.

Hanging on a Clothes Rod

Hang as many items as you can on clothes hangers, beginning with the obvious things like dresses, dress shirts and blouses and hang the hangers on a clothes rod to dry. Be sure not to put the hangers too close together or the clothes will not dry. You can also hang things like pajama tops, t-shirts, small kids shirts and one-piece outfits. Lightweight pants, pajama bottoms, skirts and sweats can be pinned on clothes hangers and even sheets can be folded and hung on them. If you are really short of drying rack space, you can hang socks, underwear, wash rags, hand towels and towels on hangers and add them to your clothes rod, too.

Hanging on a Clothes Rack

When hanging clothes on a drying rack, I start at the bottom with socks and underwear, wash rags and baby clothes. Young children's clothes and hand towels go on the middle layer and the top rack is for towels, jeans, pillowcases, sweaters, sweats, pajama bottoms and t-shirts. I try to use every inch of space, so if I put a pillowcase on the rack and there are a couple of inches left next to it I put a sock there. I even hook bras on the corners of the rack.

Drying racks are handy because they can be moved to speed up the drying process. Place them outside on a sunny (but not windy) day. Inside the house, try putting them over a vent and the heat or air conditioner will dry them faster. If you don't have central heat or air then you can place them in front of your heater or a fan. Don't place clothes close enough to heaters to be a fire hazard.