Clotheslines for the Frugal Soul

by Pat Veretto

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Some places, poor in traditional, satisfactory, hands-on living, don't even allow clotheslines. Some people think that a line full of sparkling clean laundry dancing in the breeze is an eyesore. If that's you, you have the right to that opinion, but you probably won't be interested in the following.

For those of you who understand the benefits of drying clothes on an outdoor line, whether for simple frugality or aesthetics, or a combination of both, you may be interested in putting up a traditional clothesline.

Indoor clotheslines or drying racks are usually portable or simply attached to a wall, but outdoor clotheslines are often more permanently installed. There are lines that are attached to the side of the house, much like indoor lines, and umbrella type of "lines," but more traditional clotheslines are attached to the familiar "T" posts, which are sunk into the ground and anchored in cement.

If you want to put in clotheslines like this, there are a few things to take into consideration.

Where to put them is the first concern. You'll need an area that's away from traffic, but not too far from the door and preferably not under trees (to keep birds from making a mess of your clean clothes!).

It's best to make the clotheslines perpendicular to the normal flow of the wind if you possibly can. If you make them parallel, the clothes will twist around and around the lines in any small breeze. That makes for wrinkles and stresses fabric, as well as making it necessary to tediously unwind each piece of laundry before taking it down.

Good "T" posts ready for clotheslines are not easy to find. You're better off to make them yourself from pipe, if you're handy with a welding machine, or get a welder to make them for you. They should be made of at least three-inch heavy pipe. The main pipe needs to be at least three feet longer than the height you want them. This three feet will be buried in cement in the ground.

You can also make them from treated lumber. They won't last as long, but they may be easier and less expensive to make in the first place.

The cross piece at the top of the pole should have three or four matching holes, eye bolts or other method to hold the clothesline. Make the lines at least 18 to 24 inches apart or more if you have the room. Not only does the extra room help dry the clothes faster, but also it's much more comfortable to hang them with enough elbow room. You should be able to walk between lines of drying clothes to check them without bumping into either line.

You can make the clotheslines as long as you want, but if they're too long (over 20 feet or so), you may need to make a center bracing post or prop to keep them from sagging. This can be as simple as a slender tree branch with a fork, trimmed and inserted between line and earth, or you can make another lighter weight "T" post.

Plain metal clothesline wire is best because it doesn't stretch like the rope type of line and it will last longer than plastic coated wire. The plastic will eventually weather and crack, and the wire underneath is not as good quality as the plain wire and could even have snags and tiny burs in it that will damage cloth.

Once the "T" posts are set, run the clothesline (wire) and fasten tightly. You may have to retighten after the line has been used for awhile. If you can't draw the line up any more but it's still too loose, use a claw hammer with one claw on each side of the wire, and twist until the slack is taken up. Insert a piece of wood or light metal into the loops made by the claws to take up the slack.

I'm going to make a note about clothespins: Plastic clothespins deteriorate at a very fast rate when used in the sun. Whether you prefer peg or spring type of pins is up to you, but to be frugal, buy only wooden ones. Look for good quality clothespins or you'll be disappointed.

And there you have it. The only piece of technology you need to dry clothes, and it's free to operate, too.

Pat Veretto is a work-at-home grandmother who has homesteaded, homeschooled and happily lived frugally most of her life. She currently freelances.

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