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!


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