Now that most of the country is enjoying warm weather, it’s a great time to shut off that dryer and save money by installing a clothesline. I was surprised to learn from some of my girlfriends who don’t have clotheslines that they were interested in learning how to set one up in order to dry their clothes the natural way.

According to the Saving Electricity website, the average dryer uses about 3.3 kilowatt hours of energy; they estimate that’s an average of 11 cents per kilowatt hour. A small load of clothes takes about 45 minutes in the dryer, so the cost of that load is $0.36. If you do about 3-4 loads of laundry in a day that’s just shy of $1.50 per day.

Since I live in a rural area, my clothesline is located in an open spot that gets a lot of sun and wind, as well as southern exposure in the winter. I built the vertical and horizontal posts with some old fence posts I had lying around, sunk them into the ground with some cement and strung up two plastic lines that can accommodate about 2 dozen articles of clothing or six large bed sheets. In my high desert climate, the clothes are usually dry in about 20-30 minutes. On sunny winter days the clothes take about 90 minutes to dry.

The total cost of my clothesline was about $15:

  • $7 for the bracket hardware to attach the crosspieces of fence wood to the main posts and the rings to attach the clothesline to the posts
  • $5 for the cement to hold the posts in the ground
  • $3 for the plastic clothesline, which I found at my local hardware store
  • The fence post wood was free.

I’ve figured out that by using my clothesline throughout spring, summer and fall, I save about $10 a month on my electric bill. Plus, it’s better for the environment. In addition, I also happen to find it very relaxing to hang my laundry out in the fresh air with the sunshine on my shoulders. It’s a Zen moment.

Learn How to Build Your Own Clothesline

There are several tutorials online that teach how to build or put up a clothesline. Eric Rochow from Gardenfork has a helpful video on how to hang a sliding clothesline using good quality supplies from companies like Lehman’s or from your local hardware store. A high quality, metal clothesline kit costs about $25 to $40 depending on the length of the line. However, you can purchase shorter, retractable clotheslines for about $18. A large bag of clothes pins will cost about $3 to $5. If you want an umbrella clothesline (with a single metal post that holds up a square “umbrella” of several lines), those cost about $90.

Clandestine Clotheslines

If you live in a location with strict CC&Rs and are not allowed to have a clothesline where it can be seen by neighbors, there are other solutions. Build a clothesline area in your laundry room, garage or basement where it will not be seen by prying eyes. There are also many different kinds of standing, mobile or wall hung clotheslines or drying racks that can be put on a porch or kept in a bathroom or garage. A basic floor drying rack that holds about ten articles of clothing can be purchased at a store like Target or Home Depot for about $20, while a wall-mounted, expandable rack will cost between $15 and $30 depending on the length and quality. Learn more about how to change CC&Rs and the fight for clothesline freedom at Drying for Freedom.

Don’t Torture Your Clothes

When we first got our clothesline, I caught my husband hanging up his clothes by the ends of the sleeves. The clothes looked like they were being tortured! Not to mention that a strong wind would rip them right off the line. Be sure to hang your clothes by the strongest part of the item. Hang your tops and pants by the waist, socks by the ankle and make sure your towels and sheets loop over the line to keep them secure.

Laundry Time with the Family

Make laundry time with the kids fun. Have them paint or decorate your clothespins, and let them put their own clothes on the line. Teaching them how to save energy today will turn them into tomorrow’s environmentalists. If you have a forgetful teen (or adult) in the family who will mindlessly throw their wet laundry into the dryer on a sunny day, place an X with some painter’s tape across the front of the dryer to discourage them.

This has been a guest post by Christina from Washoe Valley, NV
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