Clothesline 101

What kind of clothesline?

I told my husband I wanted to hang clothes on a line to dry.  What kind of clothesline?  I decided on the “umbrella” style, shown here in an old Sears ad.

Whatever kind of clothesline you want to use is fine, because it’s very GREEN to dry your clothes in the natural air.  We wanted our clothesline to be portable and not permanently installed in the ground.  I like to deal with the bare minimum of anything, so sticking a pole in the ground one time a year and taking it out in the fall is good enough for me.  When the weather gets too cool, I take the clothesline out and collapse it just like an umbrella.

I am rewarded in many ways by hanging my clothes outside to dry.  The first way is that it’s GREEN.  I save around $50 a year by not using the dryer.  There is something very satisfying to me when I hang clothes on the line…I am not sure what that means psychologically.

The best thing about hanging my clothes outside to dry is how they smell when they are done…it’s very fulfilling.  There is nothing like climbing into bed at night and all the linens were dried in the sun.

When winter is done and spring is here, I wash all of my flannel sheets and hang them outside to dry.  In the fall and winter when I put them on the beds again, the sheets have that sweet air-dried smell!

Who should use a clothesline?

If you have sunny weather and a small plot of land that gets lots of sun, this is for you!!!

When can I start hanging my clothes out to dry?

This year Spring came to Wisconsin in March.  Spring is usually very windy which makes for some great clothesline drying.  When it’s in the low 50’s and sunny I put the clothesline up.  If it’s sunny, the clothes will get dry.  The cooler it is, the longer it takes the clothes to dry.  When it’s in the 70’s or 80’s and the wind is blowing hard, the clothes can be dry in an hour!  I hang clothes when it’s sunny and humid too.  But if it’s cloudy, I don’t hang my clothes outside.  The latest I hang my clothes out is 2pm.

The clothesline is not too heavy (weighs around 16 pounds) and opens up like an umbrella.  This year I couldn’t find the hole in the ground and I made my son find the hole, which he of course found immediately!  There was no way I was going to crawl around on the ground looking for that hole.  When you buy the clothesline you get this plastic thing called a “ground sleeve” that goes in the ground and the pole slips each time into that.  My husband installed the ground sleeve.  I wouldn’t know how…

Here is what the ground sleeve in the hole in the ground looks like:

Here is what the clothesline looks like without any clothes hanging on it:

Put your clothesline near where you wash your clothes.  Our washer is in our basement.  When I am carrying a basket of wet clothes to the clothesline, I don’t want to have to walk very far.

Five essential tools:

Other than the clothesline, there are five essential tools I use for correct clothes hanging.

Tool #1:  Clothespins:

These clothespins are made of wood. Package of 50 for $4.29.
These clothespins are made of plastic. Package of 24 for $3.19.
Essential Touch clothespins: Package of 12 for $12.99.

I make sure I have at least 80 clothespins.  I get really annoyed if I have more clothes than clothespins.  The simple wood ones are what I use.  The only disadvantage of the wood clothespins is they are not “sanded,” so if you are hanging something delicate to dry, the wood might pull the fabric.  You can use padding between the clothespin and the piece of clothing so it doesn’t pull the fabric.

The clothespins usually do leave a mark on the clothes when dry, but you can iron them out, or not.

As you take the clothespins off the clothes, put them into the bag.  Don’t leave the clothespins on the lines.

Tool #2:  Clothespin Bag and Tool #3:  Hanger:

You need a bag that holds the clothespins and a hanger to hang the bag on the clothesline.

The clothespin bag I use is a shower caddy from Target.  The hanger has a swivel loop on it.  It’s very important to have a clothespin bag hanging on the clothesline as you are hanging clothes.  If you put the clothespins on a bag on the ground, you will be doing a lot of bending over to get the clothespins (which could be great exercise but would take more time).

Here is a standard clothespin bag that would be very easy to make, but I didn’t because it would be too stressful…

Here is what the bag looks like when it’s hanging from the clothesline:

Tool #4:  A pair of sunglasses:

You don’t want the sun glaring in your eyes when you are hanging clothes.  I walk out from my basement to my clothesline and keep a pair of sunglasses used only for hanging my clothes up.

Tool #5:  A laundry basket.

And you know what that looks like.  But if not, scroll down and see “Towels.”  It should be a comfy basket to carry when you are schlepping wet clothes.

What to hang where:

If I have two loads, one load will go on each side.  I hang the clothes on every other line.

I hang fast drying clothes on the inner lines, near the pole.  Anything made of nylon or polyester, sports clothes, bathing suits.  Underwear is good to hang on the inside too so your neighbors won’t have to look at it.  I hang little things like socks and napkins at the inside of the line too.

Hanging socks:

I have to say that hanging socks is super, super boring to me and a waste of my time.  I usually wash all the socks in one load and dry them in the clothes dryer.  When you hang scarves to dry, they dry very quickly.  In the middle is a winter hat.

What to hang next:

Next I hang anything medium-sized and cotton on the middle lines, like T-shirts, dishtowels, boxers.  I hang T-shirts from the bottom.  Anything that has an elastic waist, I hang elastic side down.

What kinds of clothes can I hang on the line?

I air-dry everything except for down comforters because they would take a very long time unless it was a super hot, windy day.  I hang cashmere sweaters and they smell so wonderful and are very soft when dry.  Here you see I have hung my Lands’ End brown down vest on the line and it dries beautifully.

Do I hang everything on one side or spread it throughout the lines?

In this photo I have hung everything on one side.  One load of laundry fits on one side of the clothesline.  The reason I have hung everything on one side is because I have another load of laundry washing, and when it’s done, I will hang this load on the empty side of the clothesline.

What do I hang on the outside (peripheral) lines?

Clothes that are heavier and thicker are hung on the outside lines.  I always hang jeans on the periphery.  They are hung with the zipper side out.  The parts that are harder to dry need to face toward the sun.  Pants are pinned from the bottom and not at the top.

Detail of how to hang pants.


I usually do a whole load of towels and hang them on one side of the clothesline if I have another load of clothes washing.  Towels are usually hung on the periphery too.

Towels are very heavy when wet, so I always use three clothespins for good drying support.

When the towels are finished being baked by the sun, they are stiff and not soft.  I personally love air-dried towels.  When I am drying off with them, they work like a loofah on my skin.

Here is how the clothesline looks when one side is towels and the other is clothing:

What if I only have one load to dry?

When it’s sunny outside, I will gather up all the clothes I can find so I can hang them outside to dry.  If you only have one load, I spread it throughout the clothesline.

Cloth napkins:

Although hanging socks is boring, I love hanging my cloth napkins.  They are so pretty and dry really fast.  Here they are blowing in the wind:

The worst part:

When my laundry baskets are empty in the basement because there is nothing left to wash (which is rare), then it’s time for me to fold all the wonderful-smelling clothes and put them away.  I don’t fold my clothes fresh off the line.  See this pile?  When I’m done posting this, I will go upstairs and fold everything and put it away.  I enjoy blabbing on the phone to my mom or one of my sisters when I’m folding six loads of clothes.  Perhaps I’ll also have some wine or a martini.

Let me know if you hang your clothes out and what your tips are!

Wisconsin: Trusting

I drove to the gym and was getting out of my car when I happened to look in the car I parked next to.  On the passenger seat I saw a wallet sitting out and if that wasn’t bad enough, there was money hanging out of it too!  I didn’t check to see if the car doors were locked. I quickly shot a photo.  Later, after looking more closely at the photo, I saw a checkbook on the passenger seat.   People in Wisconsin are very trusting, and that is good and bad.  Bad when someone breaks into your car.