The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Advanced clothesline drying

Drying clothes on the line

ClotheslineBefore Errol made my first T-structure clothesline, at the Farm (like yours), I had strung heavy wire going up the ditch behind the house, some of it tied to branches, I guess, that hung over the electric fence on the other side of the ditch.  When I had heavy things, like Errol's jeans, or maybe big towels or even quilts or blankets, the line would sag --- as it does in your first photo.

I had already learned, from Mrs. Vespa and Onie, to
use tall props, which is one reason I still keep my eye out for fairly straight branches over 8' long!  My props were sometimes 10' long, and the best had a fork at the end, for the line to rest in. These were essential, for raising up the heavy load (the worst part of hanging out is if any drops in the mud!!)  Clothes dry so much faster if higher off the ground!  (Which is why I drape the socks and underwear on the high bars of my reel.) 

When Errol made the T-frame, I went down to Onie and said, "He is trying to domesticate me!" I loved my rambling line!!

In winter, especially, it is easier to dry sheets if you do NOT hang over the line (for they can freeze to the line)!  And if you fold the wet sheet in half, then in Carrying laundryquarters, it is easier to unfold and hang, out in the cold.  One of the ways I was taught to hang out was to organize the clothes before going out, as one takes them out of the washing machine (or, in your case, as you rinse and wring) --- so you have a pile of underwear that you already know where you will hang, and have the better clothes sort of shaken out and folded conveniently ready to hang.

You really need to be particular, on damp days, or if you have alot to hang out and hope to be re-using your line the same day!  Not bothering to make sure the clothes are completely right-side out, even, for example if you wash them wrong-side out; and not shaking them out so they don't clump, but are flat.  Those two rules, plus the awareness of drying high, if possible, and not draping over the line, in the winter, unless you plan to turn the article for the underside to be dried.  These are my life-tested rules!

Learn the basics of hanging your clothes out to dry in my 99 cent ebook.

This post is part of our Tips from the Urban Homestead lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Any natural materials or herbs (??) that make good soap for clothes-washing?
Comment by J Fri Oct 21 12:45:57 2011
My wife was so happy that our house has a T structure clothesline. She uses it a lot. But the lines droop like you say. To fix this, I picked up 3 2x2x8 pressure treated boards. I drilled a big hole near one end and used a hand saw to cut that end off, making sure the cut went through the center of that hole. Works great and now the point where the line is on the board is about 8' up.
Comment by Fritz Fri Oct 21 13:09:18 2011

J --- Soap-making is one of the techniques I've never felt inclined to try --- we just use so little of it. :-) (Hmm, maybe I shouldn't let the world know how bad my housekeeping skills are...) I seem to recall that urine and wood ashes can be used to make soap, but I think most modern homesteaders just buy lye and the other chemicals in the store. Herbs are generally just for scent. But that's all from my very vague knowledge from skimming blog posts here and there, so take it with a grain of salt!!

Fritz --- If I'm visualizing this right, you basically made three simple props, right? I'd love it if you took a picture and shared!

Comment by anna Fri Oct 21 13:30:02 2011

Anna - yep, that's all it is, a stick to prop up the line. The hole that I drilled acts like the fork in the branch. The line sits in that.

I'll see if I can get a pic taken and shared.

Comment by Fritz Fri Oct 21 14:10:42 2011
Unless you are drying your clothes on a clothesline in the shade, I would suggest keeping any colored clothing inside out. The sun will noticeably fade your clothing, which may or may not be of concern. I like it when the sheets and towels are sunbleached to a brighter white, but not so much when garments lose their color, particularly only on the side that faces the sunshine!
Comment by alison Fri Oct 21 15:54:41 2011

Being pictured in this wonderful entry is my favorite way of being online that has ever occurred to me. It is not my most glamorous picture (me in pajamas) - but this lined up next to Mom's elegant depictions of "woman's work" touches a deep place in me.

It is a blessing to occur on the internet totally absent of my knowledge or opproval, out of my control, yet so eternal like landing in the canon of the world.

Or something...

Thanks Anna and Mom!

Comment by Maggie Fri Oct 21 16:32:10 2011

Fritz --- Feel free to email me photos at I could actually use some prop photos in the revised edition of the ebook if you don't mind sharing.

Alison --- Good point about fading colors! I'll have to add that to the revision of the ebook too. :-) Gotta love the hive mind!

Maggie --- And speaking of the revised ebook, I'm going to put you in there too --- hope you don't mind. :-) I actually thought the photos of you were extremely nice, especially the one of you walking with the basket.

Comment by anna Fri Oct 21 17:38:18 2011
Incoming e-mail. Feel free to use them in your e-book.
Comment by Fritz Fri Oct 21 18:53:50 2011

Thanks so much, Fritz! In case anyone wants to see Fritz's elegant clothesline prop in action, here's a closeup: Clothesline prop

Comment by anna Fri Oct 21 19:44:30 2011
This entry brings back fond memories of growing up in the "old neighborhood" in Chicago. All the housewives would compete to be the first to hang their clothes out on Monday mornings. I would always get a good laugh from everyone as I'd get under my long underwear hanging by by its ankles on the line, stick my head up thru the waist band, munch on my imaginary carrot and go "What's up, Doc?" Ma used support poles made of 6ft long 1x3 with a 3 inch notch cut in one end for the line. The line never popped out, even on the windiest days. Laundry hung & dried al fresco had that clean, crispy feeling unmatched by the machine dried variety.
Comment by doc Fri Oct 21 21:31:45 2011

Soap is made from fat or oil and lye.

Stale urine can be used for bleaching because of it's ammonia content (converted from urea).

Comment by Roland_Smith Sat Oct 22 17:57:30 2011

Doc --- It's funny how drying clothes on the line brings up such pleasant memories for so many people, and yet so few people still do it! I can't think of a better work environment than hanging clothes on the line.

Roland --- Thanks for adding the information I was too lazy to look up. :-) Now that you refreshed my memory --- it's wood ashes you use to make lye, I believe.

Comment by anna Sat Oct 22 18:25:36 2011
i have different clothes line that i use indoor and outdoor. this helps me from getting my clothes too much faded because of the sun. you can look for different types of clothes line here -
Comment by Kenneth Lawrence Wed Nov 13 21:49:51 2013

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