Saturday, July 24, 2010

Clothesline Options

A while back I mentioned that I was thinking about trying a clothesline (see Memory Of A Clothesline). It's been years since my family had one. So when I started researching line drying, I had no idea there were so many options on the market now! I was only familiar with what I had seen growing up; an umbrella clothesline and the traditional T poles with line stretched between them. Of course I knew that the Europeans were famous for their urban alley lines that went from building to building, but since I live in a rural area, I never really considered it much.

Photo Credit: romkey

If space is tight, your yard small, or you’re lacking a few buildings, the umbrella version (also known as a rotary clothesline) is a great choice. I’m seriously thinking of using this one at my own homestead because I live where there are tight restrictions for clotheslines. Even though I have nearly 5 acres of land, it can’t be visible to neighbors. An umbrella line would be easier to conceal behind a couple of trees as opposed to a long line stretching across a broad area.

The T-pole type is my favorite because it just looks nostalgic. This option would be ideal for those with long narrow lots, or if you wanted to conceal it on the side of your house or behind a building. It does require a bit more walking around, whereas the umbrella pole can mostly turn where you stand.

Another newcomer to the clothesline market is the bracket system with removable lines.  Similar to retractable lines, they are nice if you only use a clothesline on occasion or if you live somewhere that requires you to use the space for multiple uses where you don’t want a line up all the time, such as a back patio, balcony, or garage. The retractable line would also be ideal for basements in winter or in front of a wood stove.  Check out this video to see how easy it is to put up and remove.

Photo Credit: Dan

The European pulley version still works best when you are working above ground level and you have some kind of structures around you to utilize for both ends. As romantic as these seem in photos along cobblestone streets and stucco buildings with tile roofs, I don’t know if it would look as good on my own homestead. You'd really have to love a clothesline 24/7.

The wall mounted clotheslines were totally new to me. These attach to the wall of your home, either inside or out, and can be raised up when needed and lowered when not in use. The only requirement is a large blank wall and space in front of it when hanging laundry out to dry. If you live in an area that restricts clotheslines, this would be an option for a garage or basement. And I’m thinking it would be easy to conceal on the backside of my house. (See

You'll also want to consider the type of line you use, because they are not all the same. According to The Old Farmer's Almanac:

Plastic clotheslines are waterproof and allow you to clean or wipe them, but they are typically thin and harder to grip. The clothespin isn't going to hold as tightly as on a thicker line.

Multifilament polypropylene or nylon lines are lightweight, water and mildew resistant and of course, strong. But... clothespins don't grip well if the line is slippery and this is often the case with nylon.

Basic, old fashioned cotton clotheslines are hard to beat because they grip the pin well, but they won't be as strong and definitely attract dirt and dust as well as mildew.

Before purchasing, be sure the clothesline will work in your area and be suitable for your family. Consider how many clothes you wash in a day and make sure you have enough drying space on your lines (the average load of wash uses about 35 feet of line). And be sure to leave a tail of extra line because it will stretch! All that water weight in the clothes will eventually cause it to sag and you'll want to cinch it up a bit. 

Photo Credit: peppergrass

Clotheslines run anywhere from $20 - $250, so shop around before purchasing.If you’re new to clothesline drying, try an inexpensive model until you’re sure you like it enough to make a larger investment. Consider how long it will take you to recover your costs. Most likely, it will be about two months of no-dryer use to break even, so be sure you’re willing to commit at least that long.

One more consideration... If you have a homeowners association that restricts clothesline use, find out if they actually prohibit the use of the clothesline or do they just want it to not be visible, in which case you just will need to be creative. Some homeowners associations are open to what the majority want, and with the economy on the down side, they might be willing to make a change. Talk to your neighbors and see how they feel about it.

Photo Credit: rhonda023

There are so many more choices out there, it's really amazing. And there are plenty of other great laundry line websites as well (although I do not endorse everything on each site). Here are a few:

Urban Clothesline

I hope to post tips on using a clothesline next week for all of us who need a refresher and those who are new to hanging the clothes out to dry!


  1. I have been hanging clothes out on a line for years. When I was a child we had the traditional t-posts and in our family of 6 we hung out a lot of clothes. What memories of playing the sheets and quilts and they were drying on the line! My kids better not do that! In college as a married couple my husband and I lived in an apartment on campus. We had community clothes lines that were the umbrella kind. I didn't care for them as much even though you didn't have to walk around. They didn't seem to have a much space for air flow and someone STOLE my newly washed Adidas tennis shoes right off the line. In seminary in Texas we had the t-posts again. It took about 8 years after seminary for us to get our own clothesline. This time we used the HEAVY t-posts that were my grandmothers. Last year I had my children sand the posts and spraypaint them a shiny silver. They are beautiful. I love hanging the laundry out. It gives me a few moments of quiet peace and gets me outside where I can hear the birds. I have also used a drying rack for many years and often hang clothing on hangars from doorsills to dry. Visiting my brother in Spain, I used his pulley line to dry clothes. It was a little scary to me, leaning out the window and looking four floors down into a small square. I wonder about how many items wound up being dropped. I think I dropped something and my brother had to retrieve it!

  2. I live in a subdivision and have a retractable clothesline. It is attached to my privacy fence. My HOA prohibits visible clothesline, but my neighbors on either side have never complained. I have to replace the unit every year as the plastic piece that houses the cord seems to break after being out in the weather.

  3. I love the urban options. It makes me want to live in a big European city.

  4. I need to jump in here.
    My mother has the "mother" or clotheslines. The supports are welded steel pipe that are similar to inverted goal posts...imagine a staple into the ground. From that are steel cables extending for yards and connected to the other post with hardware (eye bolts ?)that allows you to tighten the line whenever it may start to sag. The system is about 60 years old and I don't know that the lines have ever needed tightening.

    What is wrong with people thinking a clothesline is unsightly? I can understand that thinking if people don't know how to hang a proper line. I do hope that this way of laundering becomes more popular and people that were never taught clothesline etiquette will find a way to overcome.

    One final tip (and there are many, many more)...wipe the line off before hanging and never leave you pins out on an empty line.

  5. I can't believe that with the "green" movement there hasn't been a change in the ordinances that ban clotheslines. They save so much electricity. Because I live within the city limits, even though I'm on 4 acres of land, I'm not allowed to have a clothesline. I break the law weekly by hanging up my laundry on a retractable line. I figure if the city isn't going to fine the neighbor down the road for having a fridge on his front porch (for the past 15 years!), then they probably won't fine me for my clothes line.

  6. I do like line drying myself, I do not have any poles or lines in the yard, but I have two lines running on my porch, I have our swim clotes on it, and some things I do not want to dry in my dryer, I would like to get the T poles too, they are very good, and last for years. Hugs

  7. Mine is the T poles that hubby put in right after we built our home. He used treated lumber with hooks on the ends to tighten the lines when necessary. He also built me some clothes poles....long wooden, heavy duty sticks (for the life of me, I don't know quite how to describe these!!!) with a "V" notch in the end to hold up sagging lines from wet clothes. Many, many years ago, when I was about 7 or so, my mother lived in an apartment where there was a clothesline. Her dad, my grandpa, made her some clothes poles and the landlord insisted she leave them there when she was moving. HA! They were wrestling out in the yard over those dang clothes poles!!! Mom won;)

  8. That's too funny, Farmgirl Cyn. Just shows you that it's all a matter of perspective (and a lot of appreciation for the simple things in life).

  9. It would be fun to have a week of clothesline info and people could post links, with a Mr. Linky to their clothesline pictures!
    My hubby just built ours a couple weeks ago and I'm loving it! All it took was some lumber we had lying around anyway plus the purchase of the clothesline rope! Super cheap!

  10. We live near a lot of Amish and Mennonites, and we smile at their clotheslines. They are typically pulleys that stretch all across the yard and attach to a barn.

  11. We have a very large deck so I hang our clothes out on the deck railing. The house we used to live in had a long dog run (we didn't need it) so I would hang laundry on that. It was very sturdy and with the classic wooden clothespins, it worked great!
    One of my favorite things is to climb into bed with fresh sheets that have been hung out to dry. The smell of sunshine is the best!

  12. I've been using an inexpensive umbrella clothesline for 10 years or so. It's great because the base for the clothesline's main support pole is buried in the back yard... if your husband is mowing or friends come over for a cookout or you plan a doggie playdate in the back yard, simply take the whole clothesline out of the buried base, fold it up, and store it until needed.

    I LOVE the sight of clothes waving in the breeze nd the scent of fresh washed and sun dried items!

  13. I don't use a clothesline and probably never will for 2 reasons. The first being that I spend less than $5 a month in electricity and gas using my energy efficient dryer but the hugest reason of all is that we have horrible allergies and no indoor space that could dry everything for my family of 7 quickly enough. Any thoughts? I've seen pollen in a microscope and I know just how good those little suckers are at attaching themselves to things. Am I wrong?

  14. Jacquelyn, I think you're probably right that some of the more efficient dryers don't use as much electricity as most have in the past, but at this point, I'm trying to trim even the little stuff dollar wise. Also, I just feel this strong need in the last year or so to know HOW to do some of these things in a way that is not just "getting by" but in a way that is pleasant. I confess that my attachment to appliances and electricity is strong and I want to know that I can live without them if necessary. I won't be selling my dryer anytime soon, but I do hope to use it less.

    As far as the pollen on clothes... again, you're probably right. And if your family has such strong allergies, the dryer would be a necessity unless you had a large basement (never saw one in CA) or plenty of garage space. If your garage is like mine, I'd rather face the pollen and hang my clothes outdoors than hang my clothes in the garage. Let me just say - we seriously need a barn!

    When it comes to homesteading, the beauty of it is that we can pick and choose what is really important for each of our families. If line drying isn't for you, that's okay! I probably won't ever be a huge canner of produce because I like the fresh stuff too much! I'd rather figure out how to garden year round.
    Blessings to you and your family!

  15. My husband does the laundry in our house, and he's frugal, so he does hangs them on the line, cloth diapers and all. We have really enjoyed the experience. Line dried towels absorb better, line dried sheets smell like a fresh Spring/Summer day, the clothes last longer, the diapers are sun bleached and seem to hold odors less. We still have a dryer, but after we install the woodstove for this winter, we may never need it again.

  16. My husband built me a custom clothesline last year that suits our yard really well.The clothes line is 2 triangle arms with the line strung between them.The triangles are attached to our fence poles.There are two tension lines that give the triangles the tension they need,they go from the outter corner of the triangles to the fence pole.The bast part of the clothesline is when I am not using it I can unhook the tension lines and the triangle arms fold flat against the fence.
    I wrote a blog posting last summer about it if anyone would like to see the photos.

  17. I actually decided on this clothes drying rack rather than a clothes line. I love it. It is much more flexible than a line I can air dry even if it is not nice outside. Plus some days I do not get laundry done until the evening. Then it is easy to hang the clothes over night on the racks and simply fold and put away in the morning.

  18. Mary, I'm so glad you shared this drying rack with us. It looks like it would be perfect for small loads, a family of two or three, or if you do one person's laundry each day. And it would be great for indoors in the winter. I may have to get me one of these!

  19. i have an umbrella clothesline but wondered if anyone ever used one of those that have *wind catchers* which cause the clothesline to spin? they're expensive in comparison to my $20, but it sounds like a good idea!

  20. If your looking for a sturdy clothesline umbrella check out they supply rotary and parallel style clotheslines.


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