How to Choose a Clothesline

Dry Your Clothes in the Fresh Air!

May 24, 2016
Photo by Pixabay

Use a clothesline instead of a dryer to dry your clothes in warm, dry weather. You save money, energy, and the clothes smell great after drying in the fresh air! One reader says, “You get a little exercise, too!” Here are tips on how to choose an outdoor clothesline:

  • The average load of wash uses about 35 feet of line; your clothesline should accommodate at least that. Unless the height of a pulley-style line is significant, the clothesline shouldn’t be a lot longer than that, as the sag factor increases with length.
  • A load of wet wash weighs about 15 to 18 pounds (assuming it is spin-dried). It will shed about a third of that weight as it dries. This may not seem like much weight, but it won’t take long for your new clothesline to get stretched out a bit. By leaving a little “tail” when you tie your knot for either style of clothesline, you’ll be able to undo it, pull the line tight, and retie it as often as you need to.

Three Common Clothesline Types

  1. Basic plastic clothesline has the advantage of being waterproof and cleanable (you can wipe off the inevitable mildew). With wire and fiber reinforcement, it is stretch-resistant—and it’s cheap. You can find a 100-foot roll for less than $4. However, it is thin, which means that it will be harder for you to grip, and the clothespin is not going to hold as tightly as on a thicker line.
  2. Multifilament polypropylene (nylon) is tempting because it is lightweight, water- and mildew-resistant, and strong (our sample was 640-pound test). However, its slippery texture deters a firm clothespin grip, and it doesn’t tie well.
  3. Our top choice is basic cotton clothesline. It’s about the same price as nylon, which is about $7 to $8 per 100 feet. In theory, it is weaker (only 280-pound test in our sample), but unless you’re hanging out pots and pans to dry, it should hold up fine.

Reader Comments

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How to choose an outdoor clothes line

Bought a circular clothes line the "Brabantia"brand also bought a spike that goes in the ground.
It doesn't have to be cemented in,all though you could.Have used several years with good effect.When finished take laundry off line and put clothes pins in bag then fold clothes line up.
The pole part pulls out of the spike driven into ground and store it away till ready to use again.
Clothes smell good and last much longer and I enjoy using it over the dryer.

clothesline drying

I have been using a clothesline all my life, 80+ years, and am not about to change. It's good for the clothes and environment, and smells SO good, to say nothing of saving money!!! In winter I hang the clothes in the basement. I have a dryer, but it's only used in emergencies, or for guests who don't have the time to wait for air drying.

Staunch clothesline user to this day!

Been clothesline drying washables for the better part of 40 years now, and having raised 6 children in old-fashioned cloth diapers, my clothesline was a blessing! Cloth diapers and rubber pants hung on the clothesline from spring to fall at our house!

the exact correct clothesline diameter size

I had bought a paracord plastic clothesline for indoor and outdoor uses which is the exact measurement of 7/32-inch diameter with a length of 100 feet. It is the correct thickness it should be to hold clothespins without any slipping, sliding, or coming undone. But, the clothesline must be tightened really good from one end to the other end or it may sag, droop, or stretch to the ground overtime when a heavy blanket or comforter is draped over.

Clothes line rope.

I live in Houston where it is very humid. I have to replace my clothes line almost every year because it gets moldy. It's also about 125' that goes from my garage to way up in a tree. Are there any suggestions on what type of rope I can use that I don't have to change so often?

Clothes line and just to share

I am retired and moved to the Mid West with Lake Huron as my waterway. The breeze is amazing!!! I finally found 2 men that were willing to build me a metal t pole!!! Yes it is up as of last Sunday and have to say must loving all of it. The sheets and blankets after being washed smell heavenly and everything else I can find to wash. Plus I weave in a loom and spin on a spinning wheel leaving so many options to processing so many fibers in so many ways that requires that they are air dried including finished projects. Am so so happy with the t poles an old fashion way but so neutering.


I use cotton clothesline and am used to it stretching when I use it. My neighbor used to tighten it when it got that way to the point that it got so tight that it sang in a light breeze. The rope also became progressively thinner until one day it broke. If you leave the rope alone it will tighten up on its own, at least in my own experience. Thank you!


Our clothes line is made from parachute cord and is strong and weather resistant!We have a newly adopted 15-month-old daughter whom we have in cloth diapers and rubber pants 24/7 and i hang her cloth diapers and the rubber pants on the clothesline and they dry quickly and smell fresh like the outdoors!

old clothesline question

Hi, I grew up in a 3 decker in the 60's that had a rotary clothesline off the back porch. It was mounted to the railing, swung in and out with a attached pole that was secured to the porch with a hook and eye. If it was raining I could leave it swung in under the porch roof. I have looked everywhere, but they don't seem to make them anymore. I guess not many new houses have back porches.


I like the sounds of your clothesline, it sounds very practical and easy to use. I think you ought to draw plans for one and get it made. You might be able to sell them to the people who do have back porches. I, unfortunately for me, do not have a porch at all. Oh, make sure you patent it! Good luck and have fun with it! Be sure to put your personal touch on it!

old style steel clothesline vs new cheaper substitute

I have used clotheslines for 80 years and recently went to the store for a new one. All my life a clothesline has been metal wire, the later ones having a vinyl coating. I was shocked when the clerk brought out cotton and plastic string that was labeled "clothesline." This stuff stretches and is gradually destroyed by the sun.

So I went to the hardware stor and asked for plastic coated guy wire. The clerk brought out what used to be called clothesline, 50 feet for $7.95.

I guess during the electric dryer era most folks forgot what real clothesline is. Now that its making a comeback the younger generation thinks it's string, which is cheaper to make.

Nothing like old-style steel (not aluminum) clothesline that stays taught, supports more weight, and doesn't degrade in the sun's UV.


I'm in the same boat. I only hang stuff on the line in sunny season, mostly to avoid shrinkage, but also to save money, AND the fresh air aspect. DH strung up a braided nylon (i think?) rope and between nearby BBQ smoke (yep, briquettes), and just whatever dirty air passes by, i COULD NOT clean it off. I want the plastic/vinyl/rubber coated WIRE, which i had before and was easy to clean when necessary. Thank heaven for the Innerwebs; it's here somewhere.

Line position

I've got all the basics for my close line. I've got three children and me and my fiance and I wash 2-5 loads a day everyday (except Sunday when I try to only do 1) Anyways my question is regarding positioning. Is there a certain way that will allow the best drying. Which as should it be east to west and as far as soon should I look for a place with all day Sunday or evening or morning?

clothesline placement.

The Editors's picture

That’s an interesting question. Perhaps consider which way the wind is coming from. So, if your wind comes out of the west, perhaps put the line north/south. Then you get the wind full-on.  But if you don’t have this option, we’d just put it in a place that gets the most sun! That’s the most important factor.

Love Hanging Laundry - It's a Mindfulness/Zen Experience

We have had clotheslines in our backyards for some decades now. We are both old enough that we remember when our moms had washing machines only, no dryers, and every house came with two of those metal "T" poles in the backyard for your clotheslines. We remember mom yelling at us to not play in and out of the clean hanging clothes. On beautiful days, we hang all our laundry loads. It is such a mindfulness/Zen experience, clipping each piece on the line, chaining them along with one clothespin holding two pieces of laundry together on the line. Taking each dry piece down and folding them, then putting them into the basket, all in the beautiful outdoors. Everyone should have a clothesline and hang laundry to dry.

Problem of Rain

I left home at 5:00 in the morning and come at 19:00 much of the time got wasted in the travelling. You explain everything but what about rain. I have put my clothes outside for drying at the balcony. When I reach home it was almost wet due to constant heavy rain throughout the day. Since I did not have inform to wear for the work in the morning next day. I have to take day off from the work. You explain everything but what about my problem. If you solution then please respond. Thanks for knowledge.

No one can control the

No one can control the weather. Is this a joke? If it's supposed to rain, then don't put your clothes out. And, duh, it could rain unexpectedly as that's life. It's probably not smart to rely on weather if you need the clothes the very next morning. Hang in a garage or inside if you don't have a garage. Or, go to a laundromat to dry them if you are desperate or call a friend. I can't believe your work doesn't fire you.

Rain on clothesline

If there is an item that you absolutely need to wear, hang on hangers in your house or apartment. Just make sure it's not dripping all over everywhere. If it's still pretty wet hang it in your shower until it's not dripping. Most places will allow you to buy an extra uniform. It is part of being an adult to think about this, do not call off work because you were lazy. Wear something similar, even if you get reprimanded. Not working is worse.

rain problem

Easy. ... In rainy seasons I rig a clothesline over the bathtub where drips don't matter. I hang only the essentials as the line (or maybe a second one) is short. In the winter I leave the heat on in the bathroom. The clothes dry nicely overnight.


These comments really have me wanting to use the two old metal poles that came with the house. Was using them for hanging wind chimes and bird feeders and such. The thing that stops me is the stinkbugs, yuck! Those gross little buggers crawl on everything (eastern Ohio) and leave little poo marks. This year also is the 17 year cicadas emergence so it's not looking like my junky whirlpool dryer gets a rest this year.

Stinkbugs Clothesline

If you have a dryish basement hang some clotheslines in it. If not get a small retractable line for your shower. Or maybe a drying rack that can be folded up and stored away when not in use.

Looking for advise . . .

Looking for advise . . . I've been hanging out my laundry for years, and I've had my lines attached to the huge maple tree in my backyard and my fence posts. Unfortunately, I've lost my tree and my fence posts are rotting away and now -- no more clothesline. So I am in need of recommendations on a new clothesline. Attaching a line to a tree and a fencepost was easy!! So I not only need recommendations on a new clothesline but also on "how to put it up." I look forward to great advise (as I sit hear and listen for my dryer to beep . . . ugh!)/ Thanks!

advise on drying clothes on a clothesline

First, get a metal clothesline encased in vinyl. Most places now sell it as "guy wire" at about $7 or $8 per foot. The cloth lines are cheap, they sag, can't be made taught enough, and degrade in the sun's UV.

Second, always run a wet washrag down the length of the line to remove any residual dust, dirt, cobwebs, or bird poop that might have accumulated since the previous washing/drying.

Third, hang shirts with two clothespins, one clipped at the outer end of each top shoulder seam where the arm joins the shoulder. The seam gives strength when things start flapping in the wind. Hang pants with two pins just below the belt seam with the legs pointing down. I always use two pins also on towels, washrags, and everything else to expose as much drying area as possible, speeding things up.

Fourth, when hanging, turn everything inside-out, with pockets also inside out for faster drying. This exposes the inside of the garment to the sun's UV and saves the outside from color fading.

Hope this helps. ( I've spent time in Scotland and know there is much wind and rain. (Also the accursed midgies)

I live on my own and

I live on my own and throughout the spring / summer / autumn, I hang clothes out. As many have already said, the smell of freshly dried clothes cannot be replicated. I hate winter when I usually have to dry clothes over my radiators. By the way, I live near Glasgow in Scotland and I use a square of four clothes poles strung with 6mm plastic/ nylon core clothesine.

These clothes are not hung

These clothes are not hung right. You never fold the top over the line. It makes a crimp in the clothes. You clip to the wire. Lol get an old timer to show you. lol

You're right. Never fold over

You're right. Never fold over the line.
Years ago an old woman who lived next door to me commented "you know, for a young person, you hang a really nice wash". One of the nicest comments in my young life at the time.

Will be buying a house and

Will be buying a house and want an outside line. I haven't looked into retractable lines but had the idea of tying each end of the line to a carabiner. Should make it easy to unhook the line when not needed and deploy when you do.

it's good that different

it's good that different companies come up with new designs for clothes to dry. i especially appreciate indoor clothes line, they never make my clothes smell dry. got it from http://www.lifestyleclotheslin..., they always come up with new designs which i love.

The rain I receive is off the

The rain I receive is off the ocean. Will my clothes get dirtier if it rains on the newly washed clothes?

It's fine if the clothes are

The Editors's picture

It's fine if the clothes are rained on; you just need to wait longer for them to dry!