Sunday, April 27, 2014

Lessons from the new home noob: Clothesline Tips

You know you've been a city girl for too long when the option of putting clothes on the line brings feelings of giddiness.

No really. The clothesline brings me loads of happiness. I took photos of our first load of laundry swinging in the breeze and we specifically plan our laundry for weekends when we can leave it on the line (I considered getting up early enough to do a wash AND hang it on the line before work... but that would mean getting up at 5:30am instead of our regular 5:50am... which is crazy talk).

Although I grew up with a clothesline, I also grew up with a mom who hung all the clothes. Oh, I learned a few things about hanging clothes on the line, but the past few weeks have been a crash course. This should be labeled under: "Things Everyone Assumes You Just Magically Know" or "Lifeskills".

Since the clothesline provides me with feelings of warm fuzzies, and since I am not ashamed to say that I had no idea about some of the practicalities of hanging clothes on a clothesline, I figured I would take a moment to share.

Things I learned from my mom knew prior to owning my own clothesline:

  • Clothes should be hung up before noon: This is actually kind of a myth. What I've learned is that you can hang stuff up at noon on a sunny day and you're good to go. Friday we hung up a second batch of clothes at 3:30 and they were *mostly* dry by 6:30pm. I would say the key is to hang clothes up before 2pm in the spring and early summer, and potentially later as the summer hours stay warmer for longer.
  • You need a bucket for your clothespins: My mom had metal gallon ketchup containers. I thought this was normal, not realizing that not every family had members (ahem, dad and my brother) who went through ketchup like it was air. What I have realized, though, is that the gallon container my mom used was actually a perfect size. My puny little plastic container sucks. Since I despise ketchup (please refer to family members eating ketchup like it was air comment), I'll have to find an alternative. Preferably not plastic.
  • Wooden clothespins are better than plastic: I specifically remember mom going through a phase where she bought pink and blue plastic clothespins and then complained how they just didn't last. 
  • You can double up the pin-to-cloth ratio (ie, layer two facecloth edges together and use one pin to keep them on the line) to conserve pins: After I ran out of pins Friday and had to hang the remainder of our laundry on our dry rack, this is an invaluable trick.
  • You need those clothesline attacher thingys: You know, those weird hook thingys to keep both lines closer together so the weight of wet clothes doesn't weigh down your line. While out purchasing clothespins I saw them and thought: "Meh, do I really need them?"... but am so glad I did buy them. Yesterday I actually used both AND a weird bungee cord version the previous owners must have used. The clothesline hook is essential. Without it the line dips so severely your clothes will end up touching the ground.
  • Fog is your nemesis. Growing up on the Atlantic ocean, the fog rolls in and out most days. I can remember the days my mom cursed the fog rolling in before she had a chance to bring in the clothes. 
  • Hang your clothes from the long edges always: T-shirts from the bottom, jeans from the waist. This assures that they a) stay on the line b) don't have weird clothespin dents in the shoulders and c) avoid as much stretchage as possible.
  • Hang your colour sensitive clothes inside out: this avoids as much fading from the sun as possible.
  • Be prepared to have clothes smell like the outside: This is mostly amazing. I LOVE the smell of the outside. But. If your neighbour is BBQ-ing, or has a bonfire, or any sort of smoke-type smell, be prepared for your clothes to smell like smoke. Just the risk of clotheshanging.
Things I've learned about hanging clothes on the line that no one told me:
  • Put the shorter things first: This is doubly true if you have a wooded yard. Eventually our line goes out into the bushes and small trees. I made the mistake of hanging sheets first since they were at the top of my laundry pile. Unfortunately, once the line was filled, the sheets were then closest to the branches. Sadly I had to get Andrew to go out with a broom, break a branch the sheet was tangled in, in order to get them down from the line. Lesson learned.
  • Judging how much laundry goes on the line is tricky: We don't do laundry every day like my mom does. Add to that saving laundry for sunny days I'm off or the weekends and we generally have 3 loads at least. Our line really only holds two loads. When I ran out of space and clothespins I was forced to hang the rest up inside. 
  • Clothes dry in half the time than on an inside dry rack: this is awesome news. Insert happy dance.
  • Checking all laundry for bugs is important: Today a little spider crawled away from my laundry on my bedspread. It didn't get very far.
  • Blindly assume neighbours aren't looking at your underwear: I never truly understood the feeling of "airing your dirty laundry"... and even though our laundry is clean, it does feel oddly personal that our neighbours can see our underthings. And my socks. (which a colourful and amazing, but still).
  • Clotheslines purchased at stores (plastic covered metal) suck: I grew up with clotheslines made of lobster fishing rope. You know, that bright orange or neon blue sturdy rope. They last forever, grip the clothes well and standout like a flaming line shouting "CLOTHESLINE". Now, I can appreciate how the plastic ones look invisible, but seriously no wonder they rust and break apart in a matter of a few short years. They are flimsy little piddly clotheslines. Also, they barely grip the clothes and those essential clothesline hook attacher dealys slide all over the place into adjacent clothes. It's a colossal pain in the bum. I can't wait for dad to come up and make the ugly, hunters orange clothesline switch. YEAH.
  • Hang heavy things on either side of the hook dealy: Since above noted crappy clothesline, every time I move the line further out the hook dealy squishes whatever small clothes I have hung adjacent. I quickly had to figure out that hanging heavy things such as jeans or towels, acted somewhat as a barrier and stopped (most) of this from happening. Totally a non-issue once we get our awesome LOUD rope line.
  • Crappy plastic clotheslines make awesome squirrel baffles: They may suck for hanging clothes, but they are slippery enough to prevent the squirrel from getting at our finch feeder. We'll see what the squirrel thinks when we get the new one up...
I'm sure there are many extra lessons to learn... but so far this is my list. Got any added bit of wisdom? I would love to hear it!


  1. Ha - I've never seen an instructional post for clotheslines! But I get the giddy thing :)

    I grew up with the old iron "T" clothesline posts, and with less backyard space now I have one of those TV-antenny style ones that comes down in the winter, which was only $39 at Home Depot. I always use wooden clothespins and prefer an apron to put the pins in or an old cloth bag that I hang on the center post. Everything dries pretty fast here in the summer on the line but I usually end up tossing it in the dryer for 10 minutes because most things end up pretty stiff. I've heard vinegar helps but haven't seen a noticeable difference, so still looking for a good solution if anyone has tips...?

  2. I always hung sheets on the sides, so that they didn't "drag" down into the ground. If you have heavier items (such as jeans or towels) putting them near the Ts will help with that too. I always did dress shirts, t-shirts, and socks near the center.


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