Monday, March 9, 2009

How to build a clothesline, Part 1

I googled "how to build a clothesline" and immediately didn't like the responses.  

Some went in a completely unexpected direction.

This clothesline is about laundry.  Something large families know something about.

Does your dryer churn endlessly, seeming to never quite catch up to the washing machine?  Is there always a load waiting to be tossed in?

Do a few special wash items (quilts and comforters, new fabric, "fragile" garments, Skippy's sleeping bag from a Scout weekend) throw the whole delicate balance into a Twilight Zone-like sense of futility?

Let's dial it back a generation or two.  Grandma had as many kids as you do (statistically, probably more) and a whole lot fewer appliances.  Especially not a dryer.  She probably didn't have as many clothes, but she definitely had a great system to get them dry.

The clothesline.

Let me convince you to make one and use it.


After the initial setup, a clothesline is a lot faster than the dryer.  I set up 3lines, each 32 feet long, with an extra support in the center.  I can hang up 4 loads at a time, and they will all be dry in an hour.  Suddenly, I can dry laundry faster than the washing machine can keep up.

Many items like fleece and other lightweight fabrics dry in minutes with a breeze.  Heavy items like jeans may take a little longer.

Four loads used to take most of the day to cycle through the dryer.  Pop a load in, run for an hour, check it, clean the trap, run again to finish the load.  If I ran smaller loads, it didn't really save me time since I had to run more loads.  Laundry backed up.  Last load often sat overnight, and sometimes required rewashing if it began to sour.

My overall laundry time has dropped by almost half, from the initial sorting to folding and delivery.


The cost of electricity for me has increased sharply this year, and we aren't using any more than before.  Based on other reading, I'm estimating that each load cost me almost $1 to run through the dryer.  For my big family, that might be $15-20 per week.  Over a year, that is too much to spend on drying clothes.  For our family, that is over half of the clothing budget for the year.

A hidden way that a clothesline is cheaper is wear-and-tear on your clothing.  All of that lint in the dryer filter each and every time you run a load?  Money.  Clothes hung from the line don't generate lint.  Even if you have an industrious Boy Scout consuming all that lint, it is costing you money.

I did have one money saving surprise:  stains.  When I hung a pair of my daughter's leggings, I noticed a big ol' grass stain on the knee.  Since they had not come from the dryer, I was able to treat and rerun.  No grass stain.  Garment saved.


Clotheslines are green.  Any way you look at them, clotheslines save a ton of energy, extend the life of your clothes and make use of nature in a positive way.  Oh, and they feel great!


Starting--I ran three 32' sections of clothesline, 20 inches apart.  The wood, hardware, bag of cement and clothesline were all purchased new from Lowes.  Hammers, hand saw, and post hole diggers were already in the workshop.  Total cost:  $42.00.  This will pay for itself in under a month.

Neighbors--I just popped mine in, and added color to the neighborhood.  Your neighbors might raise their eyebrows.  Of course, I have 8 kids, so raising eyebrows is a common thing around here!  Check and see if you have any local ordinances, but odds are good that you are OK.  

Underwear--we all wear them, but apparently no one wants to see the neighbor's.  I guess I could hang them at night, but that wasn't a popular suggestion with my wife and daughters.  Of course, the boys don't mind if their Spiderman "fun-to-wears" flap in the breeze.  We were outvoted. Underwear goes in the dryer.

Shortly, a new post will cover the simple mechanics of building a clothesline.

What do you think?  Is this worth the trouble?  Do you line dry?

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