Hanging it all out there: installing laundry lines

Dog smelling the laundry

The Wonder Dog inspects the laundry

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My first real blog post is about my most recent project: installing laundry lines.  I have wanted a clothes line for a couple years.  It’s something I flirted with when we built our house, but I didn’t know where I wanted them, so I never put them in.  (As a side note – the location of the laundry room and the required siting of the laundry lines close to it are things I wish I’d thought more about when we designed the house.)

There are so many reasons to hang out my laundry.  It’s kind of old-fashioned, and it takes more work than just tossing a load in the dryer, but it’s so very worth it! It saves about $30 a month (on average, based on my reading) in electricity costs.  It’s sustainable – with or without power I have the ability to care for our clothing.  Plus it’s better for the environment to use less energy.  I also get to learn the quirks and tricks for doing it now when things are going well, rather than in an emergency or power outage.  And it’s easier on the clothes with the lower temps and less agitation.  That lint you pull out of the dryer?  That’s actually bits of fabric off your clothes.  Fourth, and last, it smells great!  I’ve only used them twice so far, but I’m hooked!

Considerations

About two years ago I bought the poles to install, but I never put them in as I still wasn’t sure where I wanted them.  At New Year’s I decided that I wanted to put up the clothes line this year.  Mr. WPW and I talked about it extensively.  We could put it in the side yard, which is closest to the laundry room, but the yard is the dog’s run.   Or we could put it out in the backyard.  There’s lots of room and it’s easy to get to, but the winds get awfully fierce and there’s nothing to stop the wind.  The third place we could put it is outside the basement door, which gets great sunlight and is protected from the wind, but is the farthest point on the house from the laundry room?

This is where I really wish we’d known then what we know now.  If I had the house to do over, knowing how we actually use the house, we’d have built a mudroom on the back of the house and put the washer/dryer in there.  Then we could have a retractable line or three for drying in inclement weather, and the main poles outside in the back.  Ah, well.  Hindsight is 20/20 right?

I finally decided that if they’re close to the laundry room I will actually use them.  Let’s make this as easy as possible, right?  So out in the dog run they went.  Luckily the dog tends to do his business farther back in the yard and we plan on installing some pavers under the lines themselves for improved footing and because the dog won’t use them for a bathroom spot.

Installation

Once we decided on a spot it was time to dig the holes.  That was a LOT of work!  I did it mostly by myself, with one bit of help from Mr. WPW and it took me three or four afternoons.  Using first a shovel and then a post holer and breaker or digging bar I dug two holes down two feet deep and twenty feet apart.  Two feet may not sound like it’s that deep, but my shoulders, blistered hands, and abs know just how deep two feet is!  Especially since on the second one I had to break through huge chunks of shale!  Once the holes were finally deep enough it was time to install the poles.

I found the company Clothesline Shop by Googling “laundry lines made in USA”.  The poles are crimped at the bottom so they won’t twist in the concrete, which is kind of cool.  I’d never used concrete before and was really, really nervous about it.  For the most part it went ok.  I used Quikrete and all I had to do was add water.  (As a side note, I called Quikrete after the first batch because I was kind of freaking out, not sure if I did it correctly and the nice customer support person asked some questions about what I did and what the concrete looked like and then reassured me it was perfectly fine.  Thumbs up to Quikrete for their help line!)

I did make a big mistake, though.  I used one of the cardboard forms instead of just pouring the concrete into the hole.  The form was a little smaller than the hole, which meant that I had to backfill around the form.  Unfortunately, I didn’t backfill it enough and when I went to string the lines the poles actually tipped!  Here’s where Mr. WPW stepped in and saved the day.  He managed to dig it out enough to allow more dirt in without having to actually dig the poles all the way out!  Seriously, soooo grateful to him here.  I was so upset when I realized how I’d messed up (not that I’m a perfectionist or anything). But Mr. WPW calmly took care of it and with some watering to help the dirt silt down the poles are steady and sure!

Clothespin bag shaped like a chickenWe’ve started to string up the clothes line, though we’re still leaving it slack to keep the pressure off the poles while they continue to settle. (Yes, that’s why they are drooping so much in the top picture!)  I’ve used the lines twice and so far I LOVE it!  I love the smell – people aren’t kidding about how good laundry smells when it comes off the lines.  It makes me happy that I’m using the power of the sun to dry my clothes instead of power from the power company.  I am also ridiculously happy that I have an adorable chicken clothes pin bag. (I don’t typically decorate with chickens/country style, but this was too cute to pass up.)

Do you have laundry lines?  Any tips to share about using them?

About WellieWitch

Wiccan prepper with a small hobby farm, a day job, & a bunch of animals. Blogging about prepping, homesteading, gardening, cooking, chickens, fiber arts, & more.

6 comments on “Hanging it all out there: installing laundry lines

  1. Great article Wellie!
    Growing up we had a dryer however my mom used the clothes line a lot more than the dryer for the same reason you have given – Smell and electricity use.

    My only suggestion is, take care of where you put the line (s). Make sure that it is not in a well traveled spot. During the day it isn’t an issue but at night it may act as a garrote if you were to walk/run into it. Don’t ask me how I know this.

    Another point is to plan ahead for the weather. Don’t put your wash out if you are to receive some inclement weather or if the farmer chooses to cut his corn while your wash is flapping in the summer breeze 😉

    A short fun story…As growing up we had a live-in maid. Her name was Liz Williams and immigrated to the USA from Trinidad.

    Anyhow Liz came to the USA in mid-summer and had never experienced winter before. As fall approached she asked my mom, “MrsMac, do you still want me hanging the cloths outside? It’s getting pretty cold.” My mom chuckled and told her that the clothes would still dry in the cold weather.

    It was around Christmas and true to my mom’s wishes, Liz hung the clothes outside on the line. Well it must have been cold enough that the clothes froze to shape. LOL.

    She brought in a pair of my mom’s britches and asked her, “MrsMac, do you think it is time to start using the dryer now?”

    Well my brother and I thought that was the funniest thing!

    Thanks for posting this Wellie, I am adding this to my prepping “punch list.”

  2. Haha, the marvels and mysteries of concrete, funny how it’s been around since the Romans yet it’s a modern mystery. Having built, installed and used dozens of laundry lines in my life I’ll tell you there isn’t much to know about them. I do use a wire to hold my pins, it acts like a shuttle sliding down the line as I go because I got tired of digging in a bag. Also I’ll second what John said, a well built laundry line will ‘close line’ a body on the move.. I wonder if that’s the origin of the phrase.. keep it up and I’ll keep reading! Solid work Wellie!

  3. I’ve had a clothesline for years — much to my neighbors dismay, but I don’t care, I love it. I think there’s actually a rule against them in our subdivision from the Association, but I haven’t been called on it in the 20 years we’ve been here, so it’s too late now. Great post.

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