Building Your Own Laundry Line

Design at its core is about solving problems. A very important thing I learned in my design classes was to evaluate your “site” and exploit its strengths and minimize its weaknesses. Sometimes you can even turn a weakness INTO a strength.

Well I have an inferno hot “dog run,” or alley space if you prefer, that runs along the west side of my house. Why is the westerly direction worth noting? Because it gets tons of hot late afternoon sun. In fact, it gets so hot here in the summer time that the only thing the place is good for is storing our trash cans and our empty flower pots. The beauty of my “site” is that this space is surrounded on both sides by white walls. What does white do? It reflects sunlight and heat, and so these two white walls effectively bounce heat off each other like crazy.

Another thing about my site. This alley space is directly off my laundry area. So one day I thought to myself, “You know, if I were really smart, I would harness all of that freaking heat…hhhmmmm….what to do, what to do…..hhhhmmmm…” and then finally, after lots of thinking it hit me: A LAUNDRY LINE. Oh my gosh, why didn’t I think of that sooner. A laundry line. PERFECT. I could use my designer’s mind and turn a weakness (a blazing hot dead space) into a strength (a super ecofriendly alternative to my gas/electric dryer.)

So I enlisted my trusty partner in crime, my husband, to help me do it. But I didn’t want one of those huge umbrella shaped clotheslines because this space is narrow. I also didn’t want any of those retractable lines because they always seem to sag or break. So I told my husband I wanted a clothesline that would be sturdy and that had two long lines and he went to our local home improvement store and he bought:

– Two 5-gallon buckets (you could use leftover ones from plants you’ve planted if the plastic is sturdy enough)
– Two 50-pound sacks of quickdry cement
– 50-feet of clothesline
– Four-8 foot fence poles (this is a standard size, no cutting involved)
– Four-looped fence pole tops (that’s probably not their technical name, but look at the pictures and you’ll know what I’m talking about
– Four caribeneers

We then simply dug holes so that the buckets would be fully buried. We then put the buckets in the dirt and I held two poles in the bucket with about six inches between them while my husband poured in the cement and water.

As soon as the cement and water were in I could let go of the poles. We then let the poles cure overnight in the cement (the label of the cement bag said 24-hours) and the next day we backfilled the rest of the buckets with dirt so that the buckets were completely covered and invisible. We then put the caps with the loops on top of the poles, tied the clothesline to the carbineers and then hooked the carbineers to the loop. You could skip this last step and put the clotheslines directly on the loops, but we liked the carbineers because it allows us to remove the lines whenever we want and makes it a little easier to make the line super taut.

Voila, that day I did my first load of laundry that I hung dry with my perfect little wooden clothespins. In terms of estimating how long your line should be. My poles are 14 feet apart and initially I had two laundry lines for a total of 28 feet of natural clothes drying excellence. However, I found that with my high capacity laundry machine I actually needed a third line, which I strung on the same loop as the first line but made it much lower so that the laundry would dry properly. On this low line I hang rags, socks and other small items that won’t hit the ground. With the three lines (42 feet of clothesline total) I can hang one laundry load at a time. On a hot summer day I can dry 3 loads and on a sunny fall or winter day I can do a single load.

There is something very simple and perfect about hanging your laundry out…it’s almost meditative. And I love the smell of air dried laundry…and I love my $8 gas bills too. But more on that in my entry “Singing the Praises of a Laundry Line.”

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