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The Clothing Line that is Retractable

Updated on January 11, 2013

How I dry my clothes

We have 8 people in our family. Even before we had kids, scrimping and saving was important. So we chose to dry our clothes on a clothes line most of the time.

Retractable Clothes Line

First, we got a retractable clothes line about 13 years ago. We used it indoors in our unfinished basement at first because our neighborhood was still under construction.

Then, we moved it outdoors. Having a retractable clothes line allows people to move large things through the space that would otherwise be occupied with the clothes line. For instance, just last week, we had a tractor enter our back yard as we were planting fully grown trees. If the clothes line weren't retractable, we would have had to remove it completely or not use the tractor to haul the trees.

We got a big family clothesline so that we can hang out between 3 and 5 loads of laundry at a time. When we first started using it, high efficiency washing machines weren't out yet, so the laundry was cleaned faster and we needed to be able to put out more clothes at a time. Now, we have an HE washing machine that takes about an hour to wash clothes. In the summer, the washing machine can't keep up with the clothes drying on the line. In the winter, the timing is perfect.

The Setting

I live in Colorado, where it is illegal for home owners associations to ban clothes lines- though some try to make it very difficult to get one approved. The air tends to be more dry than humid, so the clothes dry relatively fast.

Where to set up a clothes line

We chose to set ours up on the northern-most side of the house so that the house's shadow would over look our clothes as much as possible. This is important when you want to prevent fading colors. One part was attached to our house while the other part was attached to a pole that we chose to support with the fence post.

We use our clothes line year round, even though it's pretty cold during Colorado winters. I think that we save quite a bit on our electric bill. Nothing beats the smell of line dried clothes!

Clothes hung up without folding over the line
Clothes hung up without folding over the line

Tips for Drying Clothes on a Clothes Line

Most people do not want to dry their clothes on a clothes line because they do not like stiff clothes or wrinkles. It is possible to decrease that undesirable stiff feeling.


Vinegar has the properties to disinfect as well as soften clothes. In my washer, I add between half a cup to three-quarters cup vinegar in the fabric softener compartment. You may want to add it when your machine is in the rinse cycle- though I find this tedious and I'm likely to miss that cycle because I'm pretty busy. I add the lesser amount to clothes that don't get as stiff such as cotton T-shirts. I add the greater amount to fabrics that get more stiff such as towels and jeans.

In case you were wondering, you won't notice any vinegar smell because your clothes will take on the smell of being dried outdoors.

Baking Soda

I also put in baking soda because it enhances the detergent's ability to remove stains and clean clothes. Just add 1/2 cup when you add the detergent.

The way you hang it matters!

I am pretty picky about the way my clothes hang on the line. I hang shirts by the hem line. I don't fold it over the line either, unless it's so windy that the clothes will fly off the line. I line up the hem with the line and clip it. I do not end up with wrinkles.

For pants, I hang them by their waist lines. I also line them up so they don't fold over on the line when I clip them. See the picture for an example of hanging pants and shirts.

Though I do fold clothes over the line when it is very windy, I don't most of the time because there will be more wrinkles and the time it takes to dry increases. Another exception to this rule applies to sheets. I often fold the sheets and blankets in half so that they do not touch the ground. If we had our clothes line mounted higher, I would hang sheets horizontally on the clothes line, but my kids wouldn't be able put up or take down the laundry.


Make sure that clothes are given plenty of room on the clothes line. If they are too close together, they won't dry as fast and they'll have wrinkles. If the day's schedule is busy, it is best to do fewer loads so that they'll dry efficiently with adequate space.

Now you have some ideas to prevent your clothes from becoming stiff or wrinkled when you dry them on your clothes line. Enjoy your clothes line dried clothes- they're going to smell wonderful!

What you need to get started

It's easier to do the job right if you have the right tools. The picture of the 5 line retractable clothes line is the same one as I've used for 13 years. It has served us well and we have more than made our money back in energy savings.

I prefer clothes pins that are made of two pieces of wood and a hinge because they can handle really thick items. The one piece of wood type might break if they are forced to secure something too thick.

I made my own clothes pin bag. These are especially handy for keeping all the clothes pins in one place. I do not leave mine on the clothes line for two reasons. One reason is they'd be exposed to the elements and wear out faster- freezing and defrosting isn't good for most materials. The other reason is that if I needed to retract my clothes line, I'd have to take the clothes pins down. The clothes pins are rarely in the right place when I leave them out after bringing in a load and try to hang up another.

The last picture is a picture of the type of line my parents had when I was very little. It has only 1 line. It works well for someone who is drying indoors or has very little laundry to dry.

Homemade laundry detergent

As you know, I like to save money. I decided to make my own laundry detergent. I've used it for months. It's so cheap to make, that I joke I do my laundry for free because I made my own detergent and line dry. Here is the recipe that I use:

Powdered Laundry Detergent

1 (4 lb 12 oz) Box of Borax- Found in the detergent aisle

1 (3 lb 7 oz) Box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda- Found in the detergent aisle

1 (3 lb) Container of OxyClean- Found in the detergent aisle. (Optional)

2 (14.1 oz) Bars of Zote Soap- pink for the scent or white for none 1 (4 lb) Box of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda- Found in the cooking aisle

1-2 Bottles of Purex Crystals Fabric Softener (Optional)

Grate the soap using the smaller side on a hand grater or a food processor. Layer the soaps and mix gently. If you choose the bottle of Purex, you can pour some of the detergent back into the Purex Crystals bottle. The lid has approx. 1-2 T to measure with or you can reuse the oxyclean scoop.


*The Zote soap bar melts great in cold water

*Works perfectly with HE machines.

*This recipe is half the cost of your regular laundry detergent

Homemade All Purpose Spray Cleaner

I also like to make my own all purpose cleaner, making it safer for the kids to learn how to clean the house:

All Purpose Spray

¼ cup white vinegar

2 cups water

30 drops essential oil (see below)

1 teaspoon borax

doTerra Essential oils to try:

15 drops lavender and lemon

10 drops each of eucalyptus, peppermint, and wild orange

Add ingredients to a spray bottle, then shake thoroughly.

What are your experiences with drying your clothes on a clothes line? Do you have any tips to add or horror stories? Please help us to find ways to improve our clothes line experiences. Thanks!

Also, if you like what you read, please click the squidoo like button so I will know that people like the tips I've shared. Thanks!

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    • imamomof6ru profile image

      imamomof6ru 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Thanks for commenting. Life does get busy, so it's understandable that not all clothes make it out to the clothes line. I got lucky today and hung out 7 loads! I usually have to spread mine out over the course of a few days or more.

      It would be a good idea to make sure your clothes aren't out when your grapes are being sprayed. I don't know that that smells like, but wearing the chemicals doesn't sound like a good idea. It would probably give you the opposite effect of what you're looking for. Thanks again!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I also love hanging out my wash. Lately I seem to only be hanging out pants, jeans, coats & jackets and men's shirts. I need to watch out when the farm hands are spraying our grapes. I might just try your vinegar trick. Thanks for the ideas.