Green Your Summer: Use The Clothesline

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be running a  short series on how you can save some money and live a bit greener this summer by taking some very simple steps.  I enjoy the warmth of the spring and summer time, and all of the delicious foods that it brings along with it.  There’s berries, summer squash, warm weather, longer days, more nighttime activities in the community (at least for me) and generally a great time for relaxation.  Because there’s more time during the day, I figured I’d throw out a few tips to green up your summers.  This is the second article in the series.

Growing up, there was almost always clothing, towels or something out on the clothesline during the summer.  I used to go swimming a lot, and there was always a need for a dry towel (or two) and using the dryer would have cost quite a bit.  Also, if I remember correctly, we had a relatively old and probably inefficient dryer until I was a teenager.  Obviously, using this dryer was not all that great for saving energy, saving money or trying to be green (even though I didn’t really  know/care about that stuff when I was 10).

When I started living on my own in college, my first house had clothesline poles, but no ropes/lines connecting them to hang clothes on, so my roommates and I went to pick up a pack of clothesline – if I remember right, it cost about 3 bucks.  This, unfortunately wasn’t enough to get us to use the clothesline regularly, though it did get used for the occasional towel and a few loads of laundry here and there.  While I’m not positive, I think we recovered our paltry investment just the same.

Forced into a new habit

What really got us to start using it was the time our dryer broke.  Because we were a bunch of guys in college, the dryer broke and while we all knew about it, none of us really cared – we would just wear whatever clean (and clean-ish) clothing until we could figure out a way to solve the problem.  Luckily for us, this happened in late march or early april, so I decided that we should go get some rope for the clothesline.  We could still wash our laundry because the washer worked, and it was warm enough that our clothing would dry in a reasonable amount of time.

Once we started this, it really showed up on the electric bill – our energy use went way down because we got rid of our dryer, which was very old and inefficient.  Being forced to this change slowed our energy use greatly during the summer and saved us quite a bit of money over the 5 or so months that we were able to use the clothesline.   Eventually, we got a new dryer, but it didn’t get that much love when it was sunny out.

Even if you don’t have clothesline posts hung up or a hole dug that you can put your clothesline in, there are a few ways you can get around this on the cheap:

  • Use the fence:  Currently at my house, there’s no clothesline poles or a hole for one (which I find odd given that the house is over 100 years old).  What I did was tied the clothesline to the fence posts.  If you do this, make sure that you add some reinforcement (more screws) to the post – the clothes tend to get heavy and pull on the post a bit
  • Use a Pail:  You can always go to your local hardware store and pick up a pail and a section of pvc pipe.  You’ll probably need something at least 1″ in diameter, and at least as long as the bucket.  Grab a bag or 2 of quick dry cement, and set it up.  Put the post into the bucket, fill with your premixed cement, and buy one of the 1 hole clotheslines that look like a spider web.

Also, here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your clothesline.

  • Find solid clothespins – This is probably the most important.  They may cost a bit more than the other ones, but those other ones suck.  They break apart at inopportune times and generally don’t last as long.  Stay away from the made in china clothespins
  • Hang towels/sheets up by draping a small part over the edge of the line and pin it up – this will expose more surface area and help them dry faster.
  • Hang your shirts upside down – if you hang them by the shoulders,   there will be a little “mountain” where the clothespin was holding on to it when it was on the line.  It looks weird – trust me.
  • Hang clothes in the shade – the sun will fade the clothing dye.
  • Look at the pollen count – If someone in your home has allergies, then there could be a lot of pollen getting left on the clothing if the pollen is high that day.  (I don’t have an issue with this, so if someone does, it’d be nice to hear if this is a factor or not)

Do any of you readers have any tips or hacks that I’ve left out?  Do you use a clothesline, and if so, what’s your favorite part about it?  Mine’s the smell that they have when you take them off the line.  If you find them a little stiff, try my homemade fabric softener.  It’s cheap and works well.

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13 thoughts on “Green Your Summer: Use The Clothesline”

  1. As I was growing up, we always hung our clothes outside to dry except in the coldest winter days when we would use our dryer. Now, to be honest, I probably will always use my dryer because I don’t want the clothesline in my backyard and I like the convenience of the dryer. I like exploring frugal and simple ways of living but for some reason a clothes line just doesn’t appeal to me. Maybe its a subconscious thing…my Dad was putting up new clotheslines and hung the hammer from the pole and my brother knocked it off and it fell claw first on his head. As a little kid I was frieked out a bit by the whole ordeal. But I enjoyed reading your article anyways! And if it makes you feel any better, I actually feel a “little” guilty about using my dryer knowing that I could do it a better way.

  2. I am in the same situations as RB40, condo/townhouse rules against clotheslines. My gas usage for the clothes dryer is pretty low. Gas is used for heating, cooking, hot water and the clothes dryer. I average under $30 per month during the winter.

  3. I need to get back into using the clothesline. Thanks for the reminder.

    There have been a few times when I had to run my laundry in quickly when the neighbors decided to cook food outside. When I visited my brother a while back I noticed one of his neighbors hanging her laundry out. She had a small yard and no more than six feet from her laundry line she was burning trash in a large barrel. That cancels out the fresh smell. I don’t know what she was thinking.

    • I made that mistake already this year. Had clothes on the line and went and lit the fire pit. Clothes went right back in the wash

  4. Our dryer broke last summer, and we decided (or rather, Mrs. 101 decided, I just concurred) to use a clothesline for a while. Our HOA also forbids their use, but it’s our damn backyard, so here’s a virtual middle finger (again) to the HOA rules.

  5. Great post – I want to get one of those retractable clotheslines for our back yard. For those with persnickety HOAs, I read a tip about hanging your laundry in your garage to dry. I also have a drying rack in the basement I use for smaller items.

  6. If you have more than 2 lines on your clothesline use the middle lines for the lightest items – they don’t need the full breeze or sun to dry.

    Hang like items with like items using one pin to hang the edges of two together – for example 3 clothespins will hang 2 towels.

    If you have a lot of, say diapers, zigzag hang them between 2 lines – saves a ton of space.

    I can’t have a clothesline in the yard – HOA rules – but I can use lines, racks, hangers on the lanai or in the garage or in front of open sliders in the house. I can also use a fan in front of the racks or pointed up to the clotheslines in the garage. I do all of these.

    Raised 3 boys using cloth diapers never having a dryer – just racks by a wood stove or in front of a fan. Worked well.

  7. Great article. I can remember my mom using a clothesline growing up. I never thought to use ours in the backyard. It is mostly used for tent making my the kids. I think this summer my dryer will see less usage as I try hanging our clothes out to dry.

  8. My wife wouldn’t live anywhere she couldn’t have her clothesline.

    I do kid her about the scorpion she brought in on the sheets that stung me one night….She swears she didn’t know it was there-I am still skeptical…. Our clothesline is under a big oak, and I am sure it just happened to fall on the sheets.

    Other suggestions are using indoor clothes lines and putting one up on the porch-the reels work well for this.

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