Save money and go green: how to make an easy DIY clothesline

We finally set up our laundry room. It’s 5-feet wide by 11-feet long. In other words, long and skinny. With sink, washer, and dryer installed, all that was left to do was figure out how to situate our drying racks in this long and skinny room. This turned out to be…not so easy.

Our 5’x11′ long, skinny laundry room. We needed to be able to get to the business end of this room without shimmying sideways with a basket of dirty clothes on our heads while knocking clean dry clothes onto the floor along the way.

We needed to be able to get to the business end of this room without shimmying sideways with a basket of dirty clothes on our heads while knocking clean clothes onto the floor along the way. We also needed to be able to open the washer and dryer doors when the racks were in use. Hmmmm…. There were options out there but we’d have to spend a ton of loot and/or give up needed linear feet of drying area to use them.

Enter: clothesline.

We went old school and used items easily found at any hardware store or online to create an inexpensive and effective drying rack. Cost: about $50. Bonus!: we now have over 40 linear feet of clothesline which is about ten feet more than we could have gotten with an off-the-shelf solution!

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Parts and tools list

Clothesline: This Strata PVC coated steel cable is heavy duty, doesn’t mark up your clothes, and feels and looks great.

Cable clamps: The Strata cable is thick and not really something you can tie a knot in. These cable clamps work great to secure the cable to hooks and eyes and they are sorta cute too.

Turnbuckle hooks: We considered a clothesline tightener or winch but these are pretty big and would have marked up our walls. These stainless steel turnbuckle hooks took up less room and are just as effective.

Screw eyes: We used these 1″ long screw eyes to screw directly into plywood. You can get these in lots of lengths and eye diameters.

Wire cutters: I used snips that I’ve had forever. Not the sharpest and probably made this task a little harder. If you are in the market for a pair of wire cutters, you might consider snips like these as the clothesline is pretty thick.

8mm socket wrench: I have an old socket set that has a gazillion sockets – metric and US standard. If you need one of these, here’s a socket set that has useful sizes including 8mm.

Optional: Plywood or other wood for mounting hardware to walls.

And here are tips for putting this together

Figure out the best way to attach the clothesline to your walls

To get this all up and running you will install screw eyes into the walls at each end of your clothesline. I planned to install a custom plywood cabinet on the wall over the washer/dryer so I devised a plan to install the clothesline into the cabinet on one end of the room and into a simple piece of plywood on the wall opposite the cabinet. I used toggle bolts to install the cabinet on our 100 year old plaster walls. For the piece of plywood installed on the opposite wall I was able to screw directly into studs.

You might use a piece of wood on each wall or, if your situation allows, install your screw eyes directly into studs. Whatever you do to attach your clothesline, remember that you will load it up with wet clothes and so you’ll need to consider this weight as well as the tension you’ll need to create to stretch the clothesline. (Here’s some helpful documentation about weight, tension, and fastener load.)

Space out your screw eyes

I spaced my screw eyes so that they were two-inches from the back wall leaving space behind the line so that we could easily put clothes on and pull them off of the lines, and there would be air flow behind the wet clothes. Using the spacing of our old wooden drying racks as a guide, I spaced the outer line four-inches away from the inner line and I spaced the bottom lines twelve-inches below the top lines.

Set up your turnbuckle hook

Don’t forget to open the turnbuckle up so that you can take up the slack in the line once it’s installed. I opened the turnbuckle almost all of the way, hung it onto a screw eye, and pulled the clothesline through the eye end of the turnbuckle until the line was pretty snug. Any sag in the line was eliminated by simply twisting the turnbuckle closed.

Install the clothesline

The first time I worked with a cable clamp I took it apart, looped the clothesline through a screw eye, and then attempted to re-assemble the clamp around the doubled-up clothesline. Wrong. The easy way to handle this task is to slip an assembled cable clamp onto the clothesline, then loop the clothesline through the screw eye (or turnbuckle eye), then slip the clothesline through the cable clamp again. Then it’s just a matter of tightening the little bolts on the cable clamp which is quick work when managed with an 8mm socket. Here’s a quick video showing this technique.

Cut the clothesline

This line is thick! And I don’t have the strongest hands thanks to carpal tunnel…. To cut the line all the way through I turned it a bit and snipped, turned a bit more and snipped, and then one more time and snip: done.

Other ways to set this up

I went with four individual lines, requiring four turnbuckles and eight cable clamps, because I was worried about creating tension in the lines – in particular because my walls are plaster and I had to use small toggle bolts to complete my install. I also liked the idea of being able to tighten each line individually. But I don’t think you’d have an issue if you set this all up using one or two long clotheslines which would mean needing less turnbuckles and cable clamps. It all really just depends on your particular situation.

Parting thoughts

We’ve had our clothesline in place for about a month and we love it. The lines are as taught as they were when I first installed them. We get more linear feet of drying line than we had with our two standalone wooden collapsible drying racks which means no more wet clothes all over the apartment! And we no longer have to put laundry on pause because one of us is using the folding racks – we now have plenty of space for both of our drying needs.

I hope this DIY project fuels your imagination. There are a lot of options out there for clothes drying and maybe an off-the-shelf solution will work for you. If not, a quick run to the hardware store may get you more than you thought possible for a lot less loot!

Have you tried this DIY project? Have questions? Would love to hear from you! Please post your comment below!

Parts and tools recap

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