Using a Clothesline

July 26, 2011

Self Sufficiency

Electric clothes dryers are wonderful things.  As a “mom of many,” I assure you that I am grateful not to have to hand-wash and hang-dry all of our clothes all the time right now.  I do at least 3 loads of laundry most days (not Sundays) and I can only imagine how much more time hang drying everything would make the task take.

I have, however, practiced this skill from time to time.  I especially use it for drying cloth diapers.  The first diapers I used I had made myself with layers of toweling in the middle as a “soaker” layer and they took 2 cycles in the dryer to get dry.  Also, they tended to come out all connected together in crazy twisted shapes since I had used “hook and loop tape” as fasteners.

We have the green coated wire type of clothesline and it has held up well.  The same line has been up for 3 years, I think.  I’ve never used the rope kind, but it seems to me that it wouldn’t last as long and may be prone to mildewing and stretching.

Lessons From The Clothesline

This may seem like something too obvious to bother writing a post about, but in the course of using our clothesline, I have learned a few things that you may find useful:

  1. Place your clothesline in close proximity where you will wash clothes.  Wet clothes are heavy.
  2. In order to have enough distance to the ground to hang pants and sheets without them touching the dirt, hang the line at about eye level.
  3. Consider the arrangement of your lines before you put them up.Putting some in the sun and some in the shade can be a good idea.  The sun will fade colors but also stains.  Hang your whites on the sunny one and colors in the shade if possible.If you are not using the T posts intended for parallel lines, consider trees.  We made a square of lines around trees and poles which allowed me to put the baskets all in the center and work from the inside.  Then I didn’t have to lug heavy baskets quite as far and could just push them along with my foot as I went.Also, lesson learned- don’t use power poles (assuming non-EMP use of line).
    Once, when the electric company was doing maintenance, they cut our clothesline.  Apparently, despite the fact that we pay for the electricity and the pole is on our property, we are not allowed to touch the pole.
  4.  Consider how long the line should be.More is usually better since even one washer load of laundry will take up 50 feet or so, depending on what it is.  If you want to do multiple loads in a day and each takes 4-5 hours to dry, you will need lots of space.  Clothesline is not very expensive and well worth it in my mind.
  5. Wipe a damp cloth down the length of your lines before hanging anything.  Pollen, dust, etc will stick to the line in dew and leave a dirty line on your formerly clean clothes.
  6. Err on the side of too many clothespins rather than too few.
  7. Hanging clothing upside down helps prevent “wings” on your shirt and damp places on the thick waistband of jeans (where the pins were).
  8. A clothespin apron and hanging bags are a real help.
  9. Get the “good” clothespins.Poorly made clothespins (ones with soft wood or only a turn or two in the spring mechanism) aren’t worth bothering with.  They pop apart easily and may let your clothes slip out onto the ground.
  10. Take the clothespins off the line each time.They will deteriorate rapidly in the weather and may even mildew, leaving stains on the clothes.
  11. Be prepared to dash out and rescue your laundry by keeping an eye on the sky.I’ve lost count of how many times we let nearly dry laundry get soaked in a rain.  Once, it rained 3 times before we could get the clothes dry and take them down again.
  12. A quick tumble in the dryer (or a few good snaps) will help take the stiffness out.
  13. Children CAN be trained to hang and take down laundry.Don’t let them fool you.  A folding plastic stepstool will allow them to reach too.
  14.  Hanging matching socks and outfit pieces together can save time in folding if you fold as you take it down.Each person in our family has a basket with their name on it where clean clothes are folded and placed to be put away.  Alternately, you can throw it all in the basket as is and fold inside.  We’ve used both methods depending on the weather.
  15. On humid days, it takes a long time for clothes to dry.
  16. If you use trees to support the lines, check the them each year and be sure you aren’t strangling them.  Adjust if necessary.

If we ever have a grid-down situation, many everyday tasks will become much more time-consuming and require skills and materials that would be better acquired now.  I can’t say that I “enjoy” hang-drying laundry, but I’m glad I have what I need and a little experience at it.

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12 Comments on “Using a Clothesline”

  1. Beck Says:

    Not only does the sun help fade stains, the clothes smell so fresh when they have been dried outside.


  2. Arsenius the Hermit Says:

    Geez. I wrote my comment, then when I tried to post it, the computer said I had not entered a valid email address, but I’m sure it was right. The comment is gone so I will try again. If both get through just delete this one.

    What I said was that we put up a clothes line recently, because our dryer is propane and propane is very expensive now. My last load was 150 gallons and it was $485.00.

    The line works fine.


    • Laura Says:

      I have “sign-in” issues sometimes too. Don’t know why. No duplicate, so I don’t know what happened before.

      We have talked about getting more propane appliances so we aren’t dependent on electricity (in case of ice, storm, etc). but the cost and availability of propane is another issue, as you’ve mentioned. Then, there’s the outrageous estimate we got for running the line a few more feet to our laundry room so we could attach the water heater and dryer. Not one of those do-it-yourself beginner projects, so we’ve put it off.

      My only real issue with the line is that dust and pollen can blow onto clean clothes when they are damp and then you can’t really just shake them out to remove it. I’m glad to have it, though.


  3. ak-ren Says:

    I have hung clothes outside to dry, and do when I’ve more than a load to hang. But clothes dry INSIDE as well. Some clothes never go in the dryer (unmentionables, nylons). Others dry quickly flipped over an inside clothesline or rack–the synthetic stuff. I only need clothes pins when drying inside if I need to scrunch the clothes together to save space or for a few oddly shaped things. Things like bras and panties I just hook over the knobs in my laundry room cupboards (no company there*smile*). In a pinch, particularly when temps are below freezing or when it’s raining, I have clothes hung over doors, from door knobs (short stuff only unless you flip it over a hangar) and in places where the heat from the radiators helps to dry it (this would be useless when the grid is down). If you hang things over the tops of doors, make sure you wipe the top edge of the door off well. It collects dust horribly and few people dust there….ask how I know this.

    Two caveats: Jeans tend to be quite stiff when hung to dry; the dryer tip from the OP is a good one. Woven-fabric dress shirts/dresses either need to be dried in the dryer or ironed, otherwise it looks like you slept in them…but then, if SHTF, your need of dressy clothes will decrease significantly ;D.

    Final comment: our humidity here tends to be quite low. Not only does this help the clothes dry, but when clothes are dried inside, it raises the indoor humidity (a good thing.)


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