DIY Clothesline

Back in Georgia a clothesline is a function of living. When we moved to Virginia and into Steve’s townhouse clotheslines were not allowed. Yeah, home owner’s associations make no sense. When we bought this house there was a clothesline. Not the best, not the most useful but it was there. A line tethered from the grill house to the tobacco barn. When we decided to build the swimming pool it had to come down because it was running right through the deepest end of the pool layout. From then on every spring and summer I asked for a new clothesline. The person who I felt sure would put me up a line never did. The deer caught in the headlights look always met my request. Out of necessity I started putting the clothes on hangers straight from the washer and hanging them along the main stretch of the back fence. It worked but a strong wind would blow them off and sometimes the fence left a powdery imprint on the clothes. It became such a point of contention that hanging out the clothes last fall made me angry. Just angry. I knew I had to do something for this spring and I knew what kind of clothesline I wanted. Then the snow and ice came and I completely forgot about my lack of a proper clothesline.

When I finished the raised bed project I had these timbers left over and there were two 2×3′s from the greenhouse still leaning under the awning out of the rain. I looked at them a few times and wondered what I could do with them. It was about 2am when I woke up knowing exactly what I was going to do with them. I decided I would build my own clothesline.

These treated timbers are approximately 3 1/2 x 3 1/2 x 8. I decided to use them to construct the T post to support the drying lines with pieces cut from the 2×3 lumber as the support arms.

First I measured 2 feet from the bottom of the post (the end I planned to put into the hole in the ground). I marked this off on both posts.

Next I measure 4 inches from the top of the post and marked this. Then I measure 3.5 inches below this mark and marked it on both posts. Next I cut two 42 inch lengths of the third post to use as the cross T. I located the center of this piece then marked the exact width of my post. Both of the areas I planned to notch so that fit together snug with good support.

The wood chisel is sharp. Very sharp. It will cut right in to the wood with a tap of the hammer.

I worked carefully on both pieces until I had notched out about half an inch on both pieces.

Then I checked the fit. I wanted them to be snug and tight and pressed together completely.

Next I drilled two holes through both pieces as they rested together.

I tapped a bolt through each hole making sure that the heads of the bolts where on the post side. Rolling the post over I secured each bolt with a washer and a nut. It is important that the end of the bolts be on this side of the arms. Once the lines are strung you want the force pulling the cross T into the post with the post as your resistance. If you turned it around the other way the lines and weight of the laundry would always be pulling the cross T away from the post and over time the arm would weaken, the bolts would loosen and eventually it would sag and no longer be a strong sturdy line.

Also with the bolt ends facing out you are never in danger of cutting or scrapping your hands on the exposed ends as you work with the lines and hanging laundry.

Next I used a miter box and saw to cut the arms that would support the weight of the cross T. I measured four 2 foot lengths and cut 45 degree angels on each end.

Thanks to Evelyn Shepperd and 10th grade geometry I didn’t even have to stop and think about what degree the angel should be cut. See that gorgeous triangle? W00t!

I used nails to secure the supports to the post and the cross T.

I worked through each side until I had both posts finished.

It took about 4 hours to do this part of the project. This includes set up of my workspace, clean up of the area, lunch for Steven, a phone call and a FB update while I waited for Steven to make up his mind if was going to come back outside (it was cold!) or stay in by the fire and watch GI Joe on Hub. GI Joe won and I finished out the project alone.

With rain in the forecast I really wanted to get those posts in the ground but it did not work out the way I planned. The rain came cold and quick so I had to wait until the following morning to dig the holes. I had to dig the holes manually – that was a real work out!! I used a leftover piece of timber marked at 2 foot to measure my hole depth, a level to make sure my posts where straight and quikrete to anchor the posts in the ground.

A 2 foot hole is much deeper than you can imagine! It is very important that the posts be put in the ground as deep as possible. Weather and temperature changes can cause the earth to heave those posts up. My posts are 8 foot leaving me with 6 foot above ground to work with. If you are in a sandy area you would need to use 12 foot posts and sink them much deeper – 3 to 4 foot deep each.

Bags of quikrete are heavy! This is an 80lb bag and I could barely handle it. If you do this I suggest two 40lbs bags instead. Quikrete is a ready mix cement. You don’t have to do anything to it but add water. If your ground is very dry it will pull the water out of your quikrete. When you dig your hole and your ground is dry wet the ground in hole. Spray it with the hose all around the sides and bottom.

Once I set my post into the hole I poured in a bit of the mix and used a stick to tamp it down tight around the post. Then I used the level and made sure the post was straight.

Next I filled the hole about one third of the way tamped it down tight, sprinkled in a tiny bit of water to get things going then added another layer of cement mix. I repeated the process again and filled the hole to the top. I tamped everything as compacted as possible. With the rain coming and amount of moisture in the ground I did not wet the top of the quikrete as it is exposed at ground level. I waited and let the rain and gravity do that work for me.

It took me about 25 minutes to dig that first hole. That end of the ground was filled with hard packed clay and rocks. The second hole was easy. It took only about 15 minutes to work down two feet. The quilrete needs 24 to 48 hours to cure. Give it time to set up before stringing lines.

I had saved the cans from kidney beans when I made chili knowing I would find a use for them. Instead of purchasing a post end cap to keep the rain from settling on the post and eventually rotting down into it I used the cans as the post caps. It works. You’ll see this done at many old farms along fence lines. The fence posts will be sporting a tin can cover. I like the way it looks. Colby thinks it is ghetto fabulous. Whateveah!

I had wanted my hardware to be installed before I set the posts but FedEx did not bring my items on time and I really needed to get those posts in the ground while it was raining. For as long as I can remember I have wanted a clothes line with pulleys. Just something left over form my childhood that I thought was fabulous and deemed one day I would have. Since I was building this one myself I indulged my dreams. I could not find a galvanized pulley in my local shop and what they did offer was more than I wanted to pay. So I ordered pulleys and line tighteners online and had to wait for them to be shipped.

I picked up at my local hardware store the eye screws and the linkage to connect my pulleys to the eyescrews. The links are actually links for chain that come open and you have to pound them closed. They were much less expensive than other linkage options and I didn’t have anything already on hand that I could use. This is my own pulley assembly. You don’t have to use pulleys. You can install the eye screws and hang your lines from there. I chose to indulge myself in something more.

I drilled 3 equally spaced holes on the cross T’s.

In the cold drizzle of the late afternoon I worked with cold hands and installed all six pulley assemblies.

Next I ran 3 lengths of cotton clothesline. I chose cotton over the plastic coated wire that is now offered for clothesline. I just don’t like the wire and it won’t work well with my pulleys.

No matter what the package says a cotton clothesline will stretch and relax over time. The weight of wet clothes will pull it down and make it sag. For months after there will be the need for pulling up sagging lines.

Unless you install line pullers. These grip the lines when you pull it tight to remove the slack. It locks in tight with the use of springs and bearings and the line will not pull back through. Once it is tight it will stay tight.

Simply tie off one end on the loop then feed the other end through the device. When you tighten the line make sure you put a knot or two in the tail piece and cut off the leftover length.

Next up? A sunny day and clothes pins!

Clothesline Project Cost:

3 – 8ft landscape timbers $3.97 each (I used these because this is what I had. Cedar timbers are expensive $12 each. 4 x 4 treated lumber is also expensive and not much different in size to the timbers I used.) $7.94

2 – 2 x 3′s @ $1.78 each = $3.56

6 pulleys @ $2.76 each = $16.56 – I chose galvanized pulleys and not the plastic ones at my local hardware. The plastic will degrade over time. In the deep winter of ice and snow they will eventually crack and need to be replaced.

3 line pullers @$2.56 = $7.68 – Kudos to the person who invented this! It works excellently!

6 eyescrews @$1.49 = $8.94 – I used the ones rated for 190lbs.

6 chain links @.49 = $2.94 – Thanks to Beverly at the hardware store for pointing me in a less expensive direction when I was in there looking for linkage.

3 cotton clothesline $5.79 = $17.37 – Old fashion choice that makes me very happy.

Total = $64.99

I think this summer I will easily cut my electric bill by using the clothesline. It will certainly pay for itself over the spring, summer and fall.

This is certainly a doable project for us ladies. If you need a new clothesline go ahead and do it yourself. I think you’ll be far more pleased with your own work and skills as you hang your laundry out on a sunny day.

I have one more upgrade planned for my clothesline. I intend to plant lavender in raised beds at either end of the posts.

Don’t you love the way your sheets and clothes smell when you bring them in off the line? I do!

54 Responses to “DIY Clothesline”

  • Mary says:

    That’s awesome, Angie!

  • kenju says:

    A high-tech clothesline!! I wish I could have one; my neighborhood doesn’t allow them.

  • jen says:

    I love your clothesline! We built a small one acouple years ago, its time for an upgrade… I need it longer. The teenagers hate that I make them hang their laundry as soon as the weather is nice enough, Oooo I’m so mean, lol

  • Carolyn says:

    That is awesome. Great job. Now I want one like that!

  • Sara says:

    I can’t imagine not having a clothesline! At each house we have lived, installing a clothesline has always been the first project. Before painting or anything else. We do have a dryer, only because it was given to me, that I use maybe once per year. I would love to convince my husband to let me get rid of it!

  • Darla Shannon says:

    I love it. You are inspiring.

  • JB says:

    Awesome Job!!!

  • I am near to weeping over this post. Our HOA does not allow clotheslines, either. And even if they did, I couldn’t hang anything outdoors because the damp clothes would pick up all the pollen and mold spores that float around here all year long to aggravate our allergies (and asthma, in the case of everyone but me). AND it would have taken hours and hours to dig holes that deep here. We have a couple of inches of soil sitting on several feet of solid limestone. We had to use jackhammers to plant tiny saplings a few years ago! All of my trees are planted in bowls of limestone. We could tell when the taproots punched through and we didn’t have to worry so much about losing the trees anymore because they suddenly got super healthy-looking.

    But I am super happy for you that you have your clothesline! And you built it yourself, just the way you wanted. That is so awesome. I know I’ve said it before, but I’m sure there is nothing you can’t do, Angie! Can I be you when I grow up?

  • the bee says:

    This is just amazing !! I am so glad that yoiu dreamed it, built it and now only you can take credit. I love line dried clothes. That is fabulous ! Take a bow !!!!

  • Julie says:

    Great job Angie!

  • Anita says:

    This clothesline was beautiful!
    We have both clothesline and a drying house witch stands here from old times. The drying house is a combo between drying, potting and playing house for us now.

  • renn says:

    I love it! We have an “umbrella” clothesline at our house. Our neighborhood covenants only allow this type. While I would LOVE a large, heavy duty line, I’m thankful for what I do have. It saves a lot of money in the warmer weather.

    When the pollen is high, we use a drying rack in the house. I place it near a heat vent in the bathroom.

  • Bellen says:

    Awesome!! Looks remarkably like the one my Mom had in CT and my Grandma’s in Ohio. They lasted forever.

    Because of HOA rules I have to put up with clothes racks on the lanai or inside in front of open sliders. It works but frankly is a lot of work shifting things around to make sure it all gets dry. But my electric bill is the lowest in the neighborhood (I don’t use the dishwasher either).

  • Lisa (The Chicken Lady) says:

    Wow, that clothesline setup looks absolutely fantastic! I told DH that I am going to be studying your design. If it would stop raining here I could actually get some of my outdoor projects done. I want a clothesline this summer!

  • Miz S says:


    I like to think that’s what you said when the man of the house came home and saw what you had accomplished.

  • Miz S says:

    Also, I would just like to officially announce that you have accomplished more in the last month than I have accomplished in, I don’t know, MY ENTIRE LIFE.

  • Mintamichelle says:

    Love it, Love it, love it!!

    BTW: Did you upgrade the server? I used to have a very hard time getting to this site…not anymore….I am really enjoying reading the “whole” post!!

  • rtmis says:

    I love that style and I love that you used the excess wood from another project.
    I am wondering if anyone on this forum remembers the old iron posts with the 4 hooks at the top to attach the rope?
    My grandmas and mom all had the same style.
    I can’t find them anywhere!!!
    Thanks for the instructions!!

  • . says:

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  • Tama says:

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  • JLC says:

    I had 1 of those umbrella clotheslines-bought it last June-the wind destroyed it yesterday. I had a feeling I was making a mistake when I bought it, but I desperately wanted a clothesline…and it had to be something I could do myself. Won’t buy 1 of those again! SOOOOO glad I found this post. Looks fairly easy to do. LOVE the pulley idea-won’t have to drag the basket of clothes down the line :) Can’t wait to find a free, dry day to do this…

  • Sonya says:

    Been trying to find the brand you used for the pulleys and such but haven’t had any luck. Can you tell me where on line you got them from?

  • JLC says:

    Just wondering if you’ve had a need for a line separator?
    About to finish my clothesline and didn’t know if I should invest in any, as several other online sites use them. Most of these sites are just using 1 long line on a pulley system, where as my line is 3 shorter (approx. 25′) lines, much like your set-up.

  • Tonya says:

    Thanks so much for posting. My awesome hubby made this for me and I love it.

  • Mark says:

    Two points. First, the best line to use is 1/4″ solid braid polyester. Won’t stretch or rot. Second, any reason why you didn’t place the line tighteners on the bottom?

  • Molly says:

    I loved this idea and was able to convince my husband to build it for me. I was wondering if you have had any trouble with the wood bending?

  • Shaina says:

    Love your detailed instructions! We’ve been talking about doing this for a while and I think the time has come :p I especially love your idea about planting lavender near the posts…brilliant! Thanks so much for sharing :)

  • hank you for the helpful information! I would not have access to gotten this on my own! Is it alright to reference reasons for having this on my website easily add a backlink to this webpage?

  • Ian Tlatelpa says:

    I like this weblog very much, Its a real nice situation to read and find information. “Never contend with a man who has nothing to lose.” by Baltasar Gracian.

  • Gilma Kenna says:

    Normally I do not learn article on blogs, but I would like to say that this write-up very compelled me to take a look at and do it! Your writing taste has been surprised me. Thanks, quite nice post.

  • tescik says:

    Very interesting! Perfect just what I was looking for!

  • Gina I says:

    Gals, Thanks for the great description and PHOTOS (easier for novices like me to follow!)
    I really want to thank all the others who posted about not using dishwashers, or how their teens complain about hanging out the laundry. I’m not alone!!

    WARNING: we had an old Sears Kenmore washing machine that finally kicked the bucket 2 years ago. We replaced it with what was touted as energy and water efficient – hooray? NOT so hooray – read on:
    The clothes come out super-spun so easier to dry, BUT because of this they also come out super-wrinkled and stay wrinkly after line-drying. Since none of us can bear the idea of ironing, I have been forced to decide to put the shirts and pants (not sports t-shirts) in the gas dryer for just 5-10 mins. BEFORE hanging up. This seems to loosen the wrinkles enough for the clothes to be (mostly) wearable off the line.
    These new “efficient” washers also use less water, so in ours the clothes come out with lint/grit caked onto clothing that doesn’t just blow off in the wind…The gas dryer helps deal with this, too.
    Unfortunately, however, the dryer settings don’t allow you to choose only 5 minutes of high-temp – they all seem to have a 10 minute “cool-down” period at the end of the cycle, so you have to set the dryer to 30 mins, let it run for 5 and be there to turn it off manually. I solve this by hanging up the socks and underwear, linens, etc. then returning to stop the dryer and hang them out.
    Ain’t it hard to be energy-respectful in this system?!
    Again, thanks for this wonderful info!

  • Gina I says:

    Also, am setting up lines in my samll laundry area which share s space with our furnace – great for winter and wet days!

  • Alan Cimon says:

    Why only use in the summer clothes will dry on the line even in the winter time takes longer but still works.

  • Dan says:

    We used a clothesline for a while when our dryer broke. We live in AZ and it was summer so it was REALLY efficient. However, I noticed that the clothes where very hard and crispy after drying. You could stand a towel up in the corner after it dried on the clothesline. Is that because of our dry heat or is that just normal? I much prefer the softness of the laundry coming out of a hot dryer than that stiffness.

  • Polly says:

    super efficient washer user here too but I have no problems with wrinkles. Granny’s trick is you give each garment a good hard snap before you hang it. Second granny trick: hang your laundry at dusk, leave it out all night and the dew in the morning will dampen it, then dry without nary a wrinkle. The dew also softens the fabric.

    Third trick, this one I must credit Heloise of the helpful hints since Granny never owned a dryer. Buy a yard or two of coarse net at the fabric store. The stuff used to make crinolines and formals. Tumble the lint covered clothing with the net and the net removes all the dog fur, lint, etc in about five minutes of tumbling. The net creates static but that’s what attracts the fuzzy stuff. No heat is needed either. I keep track of the time using my human senses and a clock.

    I like the design but it’s just as easy to untie the line, make it taut again and re-tighten it with a fresh knot. If the line droops, that is what a clothesline prop is designed for.

  • Karen says:

    Used such a line at my former mother-in-law’s when we lived in Canada. The system worked great and was high off the ground. We could stand on the homemade dog house roof with our clothes basket at our feet and clothespin bag right there. We’d put a shirt on line and send it out, followed by another, etc. We even used it on sunny winter days with snow on ground.
    It’s the best clothes line ever!!

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  • Hey I Like this , this is a great post for people like me. I think that what every lawn needs is the good old outdoor rotary clothesline. The annoying problem has been who is going to dig the hole for the footing, particularly when people are under soo much family commitments , then something which is quick and easy is really attractive for the average family. So have a look this youtube link it shows how you can install a rotary clothesline with a special groundscrew. These guys are only selling for the Japanese market but if I remember rightly then a company called “Breezecatcher” is selling something similar, and they sell worldwide. Well there you are a quick easy solution to an issue that would have affected many people, no more excuses now!

  • Thanks for the great tutorial! I found you on Pinterest, and I love your clothesline! =)
    My husband’s making us one, and we’re trying to find the line tighteners like you used. The cheapest we can find though is $4.50 each on Amazon. Do you remember where you got them for $2.50?

    ~ Mara

  • DIY says:

    anybody here!!….all on facebook!

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  • JAMES R. says:

    Awesome job Ma’am!!
    Looks absolutely top notch!

    When it comes to drying clothes, there is NOTHING better than a clothes line.

    I have a similar set up in my yard…I used steel “T” posts that I found while scavenging for other stuff.
    I welded 4 pieces of rebar to each end with a pulley attached…the pulleys allow me to stand in one place & move the line as needed to hang the clothes. this way I don’t have to be always walking the length of the line to hang my clothes.

  • Dana R M says:

    Found your article on the Homestead Survival site. Good read! It’s too bad everyone out there has to relearn all these skills (often by trial & error). We grew up not so wealthy on a farm & things like this were second nature. I liked Polly’s “Granny’” hints; cool of her to share :) In these days where we are wasting renewable resources it seems ridiculous that regulations don’t allow clothes line’s (probably for “aesthetic” appeal”). Oh I do have some tips. Line drying in the sun is an excellent way to bleach out stains on especially whites. I appreciated this with cotton diapers. Also an old timer informed me of bleaching cotton flour bags by getting them wet then hanging them to freeze-dry on the line: repeat process till bleached to desired degree. (Reminds me of bending & cracking long johns over the couch after bringing them in from the line @ -40° :) good luck everyone!

  • Rachel says:

    I was very intrigued reading this post. Here in New Zealand everyone has a clothesline. We have just replaced our rotary clothesline with a standard one as it has rusted out and was endangering us as it could of broken in our windy conditions. In NZ UV damages all plastics and fabrics that are not UV stabilised even then you only get a couple of years out of it. We also get a lot of rain but not the heat like you get over in the US. Fortunately this is counteracted by the constant wind. This enables my clothes to come off the line as soft as from a clothes dryer. As we are a household of 5 I need the space so we have constructed 6 lengths of 8m (approx 4.5 yards). That way when the weather is right I can fill up the line and do not have do washing every day.

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  • Kaylie says:

    I didn’t see an answer to Dan’s question about the stiffness of line-dried laundry.
    I grew up using clotheslines. My mom and all the generations before her used them. The clothes weren’t stiff, maybe occasionally crisp, but not stiff. Today, air drying my laundry produces stiff garments. I’ve tried adding vinegar to the rinse cycle, as it is nature’s laundry softener, but is there any other preventative measures I should be taking?

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