Thursday, June 6, 2013

How to Hang a Clothesline

Today I'm not going to talk about all the good reasons to have a clothesline. I'm just going to tell you that you need one and they are really easy to hang. Here's what you need:


a length of wire or cord (I highly recommend plastic-coated clothesline wire)
2 screw eyes, screw hooks, or one of each
1 turnbuckle (optional but very nice)
2 sturdy vertical objects to attach clothesline to (trees, posts, the side of the house, a fence, etc)

Don't know what screw eyes, screw hooks, and turnbuckles are? They look like this:

Screw eye
Screw hook

First of all, figure out where to locate your clothesline. Direct sun might be important if you live in a very damp, cool climate. Here in Austin I can totally get away with shaded clotheslines and my clothes still dry in an hour in the summertime. We have lots of trees out back so I strung all my lines between trees here. At our last house I strung my line between a garden shed and a wooden fence on the opposite side of the yard. When I lived in Madison I had the good fortune to have two old-fashioned T-shaped clothesline posts. Just look for solid, sturdy objects that can support the weight of a line full of wet clothes.

You can string a clothesline with virtually any cording or wire but you want to make sure it won't rust or sag horribly. Cotton cord is awful for sagging. Some braided wires rust (galvanized shouldn't). The plastic-coated clothesline wire is pretty great stuff and costs less than $10 for 100 feet.  

Now you need to figure out how to attach your clothesline to the endpoints. My preferred method is to use a screw eye or screw hook on one end and another screw eye/screw hook plus a turnbuckle on the other end. Using a turnbuckle allows you to adjust the tension on the line, both when you install the line and later as the line stretches over time.


1)      Install first screw eye/screw hook.
2)      Loop one end of the clothesline wire through the screw eye and wrap around itself to secure like this:

3)      Install second screw eye/screw hook and turnbuckle. (Make sure the turnbuckle is open at least halfway so that you can tighten it later.)
4)      Pull clothesline wire up to attach to the turnbuckle, wrapping it around itself as you did before, like this:

5)      Tighten turnbuckle to make clothesline taut. Don't tighten it so much that you create a weapon, but get it nice and taut so your clothesline won't sag when the clothes are on it.

All you need now is some clothespins and wet laundry! Wood clothespins last a lot longer than the junky plastic ones. The plastic ones get very brittle in the sun and they eventually break. I used to have a cute clothespin bag that my mom made for me. It hung on the line from an old coat hanger and held all the pins. After it wore out I started keeping the pins in a little cotton bag that I hang on my right shoulder and I have found that to be much more efficient. (It’s the yellow Café Bustelo bag in the photos.) I don't have to reach as high for the pins and I don't have to move the bag along the line. 

I have had a clothesline in my yard for almost my entire life. It wasn't until this week, however, that I had a child-sized clothesline. As soon as we moved into this house Mr. Chanclas strung up two regular-sized clotheslines out back. They're only about 50 feet from my greywater washing machine so they are pretty convenient. This week I grabbed some of the leftover plastic-coated wire and added a short, low third line for the kids to use. The kids loved hanging napkins and other small items on it. If your little kids have trouble pinching the clothespins properly just show them how the clothespin is like a little alligator and you have to pinch his tail to make him open his mouth. 

I’m planning to make a much longer kid-height clothesline so I can add hanging clothes to the chore list! (Insert evil laughter here.) 


  1. First, you need trees. ;) I want to hang one for the girls. These pictures of your babies are beautiful.

    1. You don't need trees! Any solid vertical surface will do!

  2. Thanks so much for this tutorial. You wouldn't believe how hard it is to find one. :-)

  3. This is exactly what I was looking for! I'm going to put a line up between trees soon. :)

  4. Thank you! What a great post! I would've done it all wrong and been so discouraged.
    Your little ones are super adorable. They remind me of my own who are now driving.

  5. I was trying to remember what the tightener was called....turnbuckle! Thank-you! I have lots of wind here and will need to tighten the clothesline from time to time (I bought poly/cotton line). Can't wait to hang my sheets and stop ironing them!!! I am nuts about a crisp fresh bed! LOL

  6. I wonder if this would work to hang gourds from trees. This looks like the perfect solution. Thanks for the info. Fantastic!

  7. My mom always had a clothes line when we were little. Laundry was a full time job with 8 kids. We had a wringer washer then. I've always liked a clothes line and today again, I am putting one up. I hung out on the deck the dogs sheets to dry yesterday and they were dry in an hour. Can't wait to hang out our sheets and clothes. Your article was great. I'm sure it will help others to put up the right clothes line. Great for the kids to learn that stuff young. Good thinking.

  8. Thank you for the tutorial. I am single mom and have a very strict budget. This is going to cut down on what I spend on drying clothes and blankets.

  9. Great article. And I fully agree on a plastic-clad metal line instead of a saggy cotton nylon one that they call clothes line today. Go into Ace Hardware or similar place and ask for guy-wire (that's what they call it today). It comes in different thicknesses so ake sure it's thick enough to serve the purpose and not snap under tension.

    Also, I think you have the labels of screw-eyes and screw-hooks reversed. Not that it makes any difference. Either will work just fine.

    Also, my mom taught me in back the 1940's to always run a damp cloth down the line to remove any accumulated dust or bird poop.

  10. Enjoyed the article. Clothes even smell better after flapping in the breeze. Might want to suggest turning everything inside-out when hanging so the sun won't fade the outside colors.

    Also, to hang shirts using two clothes pins, one at each outer corner of the upper shoulder seam. The seam adds strength when everything is flapping in the wind. Two pins for pants, too, at strong points, legs pointing down.

    In winter I even rig a short line over the bath tub for drying a few essentials overnight.

  11. Thanks so much for the info. Great instructions. I totally agree with the plastic coated wire. Shouldn't stretch as easily or rust. Rusting was my main concern. Adorable pics of the kiddos. It's really awesome that they love to help. That all stops when they get older. Lol


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