redress

Hanging Around the Clothesline

Ah, the home crush. I’m so happy to have a washer and dryer in my dwelling for the first time since moving out of my folks’ house. As a bonus–loving you more every day new home–there was already an umbrella clothesline set up in the back yard.

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When I was a kid my neighbor had one of these sweethearts and I’ve always wanted one for my very own. What a funny kid I was. Well, now I do! It was in extreme tangled disrepair. So last week I woke up early one morning and snip, snip, snip it was all off. Well shoot, how in the world do I restring this thing? It turned out to be very simple and intuitive. Just tie from one hole to the next and you are great.

Tip 1: If you are restringing one of these babies, remember you can always tighten it up later. I left long tails each time I tied it off so I could go back and cinch it up like shoe laces when I had it all strung up.

Tip 2:
Start at the top and work your way towards the center, then adjust all the tensions working from the inside out.

Going Analog in a Good Way

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While some friends commented that the umbrella clothes line would be the first thing to go (vs. the dead trees or crazy beat up garage door). I’m so delighted to have it in my backyard. In fact, I beamed with pride as I told them how I restrung it myself and was excited to use it for the first time and got their “you’re so crazy” looks.

Why am I so excited about this backyard old school drying method?
Saving money – Doing about 3-5 loads a week costs about $200 over a course of a year at $.08/kWh. Iowa has extremely low electricity rates. Calculate your usage cost with this neat calculator.

Saving my clothes – You know all that lint that’s collected in the lint trap each load? Yeah, well, that’s your clothing! With each load you are wearing them down, line drying prevents that. Which means I have to buy (or make) less clothing which means saving even more.

Saving my dryer – Less use = longer life span. And hooray, more savings. Or at least, fewer big purchases. I would be happy to keep this dryer working for the next 15 years or so.

Start up cost

Depending on what you have already on hand you can spend relatively little to a whole lot. I was lucky and had the umbrella clothsline holder in the backyard when I moved in.

::You need::

A clothes line – The simplest is 4 eye screws + 1 clothes line. Just string it between your house and garage. That will cost you under $10.
Clothes pins – $2 for 10oish
Clothes pin holder – On Friday I’ll show you how I made mine for free (pictured below), but you can also pick up a plain one for under $5 at Target or some such place.

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You can spend a bit more and purchase clothesline polls ($40ish), an umbrella clothesline ($40ish), or a retractable clothesline ($20ish). But that could be a later upgrade. You can always recycle the clothesline you get initially and use it with your new system. I found the best selection of clothesline was at the hardware store (Lowes) next to the rope in the “chain” aisle.

What kind of clothesline holder is the best?

Well, that’s really up to you.

I like this particular Umbrella-Style Clothes Dryer for a few reasons:
:: I can hide my undies in the center.
:: I can fold it up and not “clothesline” myself while mowing. Seriously, where do you think that phrase came from? Yeah. no thanks!
:: I can take the whole thing out of the ground and store it in the garage for the winter
:: It’s freaking cute and fulfills a childhood desire. :)

There are a lot of other choices.
:: Portable Umbrella Clothing Dryer – great if you can’t dig holes in your yard
:: Clothes line between two eye screws (This is what we used when I was growing up.)
:: Retractable Clothesline
::Clothesline T-Post Pole

Haven’t used a clothes line before? Here are a few tips to keep your clothes shiny.

To avoid weird drape – dry shirts and socks upside down. Dry jeans, shorts, undies from their waist band.
To hang big things – drape towels, blankets, and sheets over 2 strings of clothes lines.

To save clothes pins – double up by hanging clothes that are next to each other with one pin by overlapping each item slightly.

To have less wrinkles – Give your clothes a good shake and  snap before hanging them up.

To avoid damage to delicate items (lacy, silky, fancy pants shirts and such) – Hang them on a hanger and pin the hanger to the line.

To avoid sun bleaching – Hang your brights inside out to preserve their fun bright colors.

To let the sun do it’s awesome natural bleaching – Hang whites right sides out.

To save time -If you hang all your clothes up in your closet, hang them on hangers on the clothesline OR take them down and put them on hangers right away. Coming off the line they are easy and quick to hang vs. being wrinkled and tangled up in a basket.

To keep it clean – Wipe down your clothesline at least once a month. I’ve actually added it to my weekly routine. It’s outside and gets dirty – and that dirt will transfer to your clothes if you don’t wipe it up.

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Do you use a clothesline?

What made you choose the sun vs. the dryer?

Have you always dried your clothes by hanging them?

Any tips for clothesline newbies?

Happy homemaking! Seriously, I’m having a good time being all domestic. :) Never thought the day would come.

Kristin Roach

27 thoughts on “Hanging Around the Clothesline

  1. Oh Kristin, this entry has made me INTENSELY want to buy a portable washer and enormous drying rack for my apartment. Laundromats suck!

    Watching your progress on your new home is so enjoyable.

  2. Thank you for this super-awesome post! We are moving in August and I was equally as excited as you to find that there are poles in our new yard for hanging a clothesline! The folks who put it in were even thinking straight and put the poles in out-of-the-way places, so they don't interrupt the flow of the yard! Your post just reminded me to add the line to my shopping list; thanks for the tip on the hardware store. Oh, and thank you for mentioning wiping it down. I guess I'm still growing up since it's never occurred to me to wipe down a clothesline, but it totally makes sense!

  3. There are loads of great Indoor retractable clothesline options too, just so you know :) Yeah, wow, I'm so excited to not have to do the laundry mat thing anymore!

    I'm glad you are enjoy the home bliss, crafting coming on friday – though it is a clothespin bag, so home related as well, haha.

  4. I think I'm still working on growing up too since I had to read about it before I realized it should be wiped down. I read about 20 articles and posts on clotheslines before I wrote mine :)

    Yeah, our placement is a little weird – the only place in the backyard where the neighbors can see it. Ah well.

    Happy moving! I hope you enjoy your new home as much as I am!

  5. This is so awesome, Kristin! It makes me want to line dry my clothes! My grandparents (on both sides) had big clotheslines in their backyards. One set had the standard parallel lines and the other had the umbrella kind. I used to love seeing them all “dressed” with clothes.

    Such great tips here! It's so much fun watching you get “all domestic.” :)

  6. Yay for keeping the clothesline! I have an umbrella one as well, however it is on one of the stands so I can put it away between uses. My HOA (which is something I still don’t get, why have one???!!) bans clotheslines as well as hanging any clothes to dry off your deck. Since I live on one of only two flag lots in my neighborhood the only one who can see it is my neighbor. I put the stand on my deck, so it’s mostly hidden by my house, and I do it because I like how smells from damp clothes are decreased and that I save money by sun-drying (It’s actually the breeze that dries clothes faster than the sun where I live, although the sun helps!) I have wanted a clothesline ever since I had my own house, but have not had one until this year because of working away from home and trying to convince my husband it wouldn’t be in the way. Now he loves that I’m saving him money! Thanks for the tip about cleaning it off!

  7. I get a lot of pleasure from line drying. Before we moved house, we used airers inside but they don’t result in the same fresh-softness as an outside line. Dryers are by no means unusual in the UK but everyone I know line dries when they can because our electricity isn’t as cheap as it is in the US.

    One tip I have is leave plenty of space between clothes – I use alternate lines on the dryer. This lets the clothes have more “breathing space” and the sun can get between the staggered layers better. Or at least alternate big things and smaller things – for example, a line of shirts, a line of socks – so you get a similar spaced out effect.

    Another, related, tip is to get a socks dryer (not sure what the correct name is for them but this type of thing – https://www.choiceful.com/disprod.php?pId=261) in addition to your main umbrella one. Firstly, it saves valuable line space for bigger things and secondly, if it starts to rain, it’s a lot quicker to grab the whole socks dryer than unpeg each sock individually.

  8. looks great Kristin! We don't even have a dryer, and I love our clothesline (it's 5 long lines held up by T shaped bars at either end). And you know, I haven't had any problems with the sun fading my clothes (which seems to be one reason people tell me they simply couldn't hang their clothes)–hello, we wear our clothes, seemingly outside, for hours at a time and that's what they are meant for! Plus, now I don't have to even pay attention to what can and can't be dried. And it gets me outside, talking to my neighbors, etc. Yay. I know I'm preaching to the choir, but congrats on your new home and your clothesline!

  9. :D Your mama and I did our share of Solar Drying! And I so remember fondly Evelyn's Folding Clothesline! You kids would run in and out of my laundry most days! I STILL use a clothesline! Why put all that wonderful sun and breeze to waste? Plus, having an excuse to get outside and get distracted from the mundane, is crazy good! I believe you covered all my tips! Recently, I did snag a snazzy very vintage peg bag! It goes well my linen laundry holder on wheels that I'm so fond of! Do you remember that?

  10. Ooo, I just have to de-lurk and comment, as I am a huge clothesline lover also!

    Now, I am on my second retractable line. My husband is tall, so he necessitated a retractable one. The cheap one from Lowe's lasted one season, but I replaced it with a Belgian one I ordered through Ace Hardware…can't recall the name, but the plastic housing is light blue. It fits on a bracket so you can slide it off during the winter.

    I dry towels and the dog's blankies in the winter in the dryer, but the dryer broke in early April, conveniently in time for “solar dryer” season. Now we can put off the expense of its repair until late fall. Buuuut, I also have lines in our basement and use them as much as possible when the sun isn't cooperating.

  11. I do remember you complaining about the stiff towels. Do you have any suggestions for soft feeling towels and other clothes?

  12. I'd like to use a clothesline…no space right now. Maybe in the future. I still like towels in the dryer though because they come out much more fluffy. How do you keep the line-dried clothes from getting all crunchy? They never seem as soft as out of the dryer.

  13. i'm in rainy portland, so i don't have a large window for line-drying, but i've been doing a lot of it lately in this warm spell.

    usually i throw them in the dryer for 5 minutes or so after they're off the line. this helps soften them up (i hate stiff towels!) and gets rid of lint (cat hair and dust really accumulates on your clothes when your house is carpet-free).

  14. One suggestion was to toss them in the drier for just 5 minutes when you take them down to fluff them up. Sounds good to me. Definitely less energy cost than running the whole load for 60 minutes :)

  15. Yeah! I met my neighbor this morning while taking clothes off the line. We chatted about the deer/garden problem.

    You know I don't remember it, but it sounds great – you forget that over half my childhood disappeared when I was 15 on that fateful rainy day. My mind is like an old woman's :)

  16. Per the stiff towels concerns: I grew up used to stiff towels, and when my brother was recently in town, he came out of the bathroom saying, “Ah…..stiff towels…just like home!”
    I throw in some vinegar to the wash, which is supposed to help, but I can't tell. I like my towels washboard-like :)

  17. I love my clothesline. I just restrung mine with covered steel cable instead of rope and it works like a charm. In the winter, I use a two clothes drying racks I picked up at IKEA since it's too cold here in Connecticut. I use it to hang the bird feeders in the winter.

  18. we are big fans of the clothesline at our new house too! it's just a line, but with the most ingenious tightening screws at each end so it can be tightened up as it seems to slowly stretch out over time. we want to get rid of our dryer completely, but i am worried there will be situations occasionally where i might regret it. and in the winter we'll be using drying racks next to our woodstove!

  19. Hi, My husband just installed a clothesline for me after years of pleading…finally! I like the feel and smell of the clothes when they are taken off of the line compared to out of the dryer. You have hit on all the tips that I have previously used and added a new one (the last one). Thanks so much for the tut! I love your curtain fabric–it's exactly what I would choose! Very cheerful!

  20. Hi, My husband just installed a clothesline for me after years of pleading…finally! I like the feel and smell of the clothes when they are taken off of the line compared to out of the dryer. You have hit on all the tips that I have previously used and added a new one (the last one). Thanks so much for the tut! I love your curtain fabric–it's exactly what I would choose! Very cheerful!

  21. I grew up without a dryer so I have had to hang-dry my clothes almost my whole life. One thing my mom showed me was that if you hang your pants from the bottoms the weight of the waistband takes out all the wrinkles so you don’t really have to iron anything, which I hate to do…. =)

  22. I grew up using a clothes line and every house since has had one
    . I hand dug and used sack-crete to anchor an umbrella style at one home in the city where yard space was limited. I still prefer long parallel lines and watching the clothes flap in the breeze. And speaking of breeze-a good windy day will dry your clothes “dryer” soft:)

  23. Came across this article while looking up how to restring a clothesline. I’m finding absolutely hilarious that there are people who don’t or never use a clothesline.
    Really? Ever?! :)
    It’s nice to see you are happy about your clothesline. I’d be appalled if I moved in somewhere to find that there wasn’t a clothesline. Every house I’ve ever lived in has one. All new houses are built with one, here in Australia. It’s just how it’s done!

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