The Clothesline Movement and How to Setup Your Own Outdoor Clothesline

The Clothesline Movement and How to Setup Your Own Outdoor Clothesline

Aug 26, 2010 |  by  |  Energy Conservation, On the Homestead  |  Share

“…the powerful religion of ordinary life, a spirituality of fresh mopped floors…and clothes blowing on the line.” ~ Adair Lara

Clotheslines are hip, chic, and in vogue, right? I mean, all the cool kids are doing away with those hot buckets of wasted energy we call dryers and switching to the sophisticated and fashionable clothes line. Because that long stretch of rope hanging between two trees or specially designed poles is no longer synonymous with ghetto life and gutter punks. It’s green and trendy and…man, who am I trying to kid? Ninety percent of the U.S. population still uses clothes dryers and the electric dryers out there consume more power than any other household appliance. People may know air drying is friendlier to the earth and to the wallet, but that sure as hell isn’t having any kind of significant impact. Certainly not enough to enact any sort of clothesline movement.

But wait….what’s this? There’s actually someone out there leading the charge for a clothesline movement? Yep, and his name is Alexander Lee, founder and executive director of Project Laundry List, a non-profit organization whose mission is to “make air-drying and cold water washing laundry acceptable and desirable as simple and effective ways to save energy.” So this lawyer dude is out there preaching the good word about laundry, trying to enact some change. Now that’s impressive. So go check out what Project Laundry List is up to nowadays, because this Alexander fella is a good steward of the earth who deserves our attention. And if you’d like to catch a glimpse of what this movement is about, check out this clip from CBS News, but be warned…you may end up smacking your monitor when that old, crotchety lady with sunglasses shows up on screen.

And hold up, there’s a another dude out there pushing this whole clothesline thing. I can’t believe it. I had no idea clotheslines were making such waves. This other guy’s name is Steven Lake and he traveled the globe to expose the inconvenient truth about clotheslines and made a movie out of his journey. That’s right, a movie…about laundry. The film “explores our love affair with energy, the people who are campaigning against it and those who fight to pass Right-To-Dry legislation, making it illegal to ban clotheslines.” It’s titled, “Drying for Freedom” and it’s due out sometime this year. Check out the trailer below:

Okay, so there are a few folks out there passionate about this crazy idea of saving energy by altering the way we do laundry. And with grand ideas like these I can’t help but ask myself, “What about me? Can I do this?” And at that point I always fall back on my contention that the best way to enact change in the world is to be the change. So that’s it. I’m jumping on board with this (and so is my wife) to prove it’s cheap and easy to set up a clothesline and far from backbreaking work to hang and take down clothes.

As usual, before I begin any challenge I like to scour the web for some clues. But finding a decent tutorial on setting up a clothesline was hard to come by. The best I could find was from the Life, In A Nutshell blog. They documented how to build timber “T’s” that can be used to hang multiple lines. Not bad, but I wanted something simpler. We live among a forest of pines and there are two perfectly placed trees roughly 65 feet apart. Perfect. Now I just needed to acquire all the necessary parts.

Tree Clothesline Material List

  • Two clothesline pulleys – $3.75 each
  • 200 ft, 1/4″ clothesline rope – $9.99
  • Two 4-15/16″ screw hooks – $.79 each
  • Aluminum clothesline tightener – $4.05
  • 6 clothesline separators – $1.79 each (the number will vary depending on the length of your line – place one every 10-15 feet)

Total Cost = $33.86

Once you have your parts then you’re ready to assemble. I’ll break it down for ya below:

And finally, here are some excellent tips for getting the most out of your low-tech clothesline:

  • Place your line perpendicular to the rise and fall of the sun so the greatest surface area of your clothes will be hit by the sun’s warm rays.
  • Hang darker colored clothes inside out to keep them from fading.
  • Delicate clothing can be placed on a hanger and then hung on the clothesline.
  • Keep your clothesline clean by periodically wiping it down with a wet cloth.
  • Hang skirts, shorts, boxers, and pants right-side up and hang tops by the bottom so that upper portion, which has more material, will dry faster.

There you have it. Now get outta here and go dry for freedom!

Featured image via Grant MacDonald

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  1. First of all, I love this blog. My partner and I are planning to homestead one day – we’re already doing a lot of little things to learn what we can and prepare ourselves for the shift. Second, I’m a clothesline convert! Our dryer has been semi-broken for years and lately I’ve been hanging things outside. Such a nice change of pace. I had to briefly go back to the dryer as it’s pollen season, but I can’t wait to get back to my line.

    • Thanks, Christine! Glad you enjoy the blog – if only I could keep up on it. I blog in spurts. 3 months on 6 months off…horrible consistency. But I still enjoy being creative with it and it provides an outlet when one is needed.

  2. So glad I found this! A friend and I were having a clothesline discussion YESTERDAY, and with nine kids between the two of us, our families make lotsa laundry. Our goal was to save money, but the clothesline makes me think of all the times I helped my grandmother hang out clothes on a sunny morning and take them in during the afternoon. So glad I happened to check your blog!


  1. How to build a clothesline « Life on the (Clothes) Line

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