Clothes line

Clothes line
Clothes lines in Tripoli, in Northern Lebanon.

A clothes line or washing line is any type of rope, cord, or twine that has been stretched between two points (e.g. two sticks), outside or indoors, above the level of the ground. Clothing that has recently been washed is hung along the line to dry, using clothes pegs or clothes pins. Washing lines are attached either from a post or a wall, and are frequently located in back gardens, or on balconies. Longer washing lines often have props holding up sections in the middle due to the weight of the clothing.

More elaborate rotary washing lines save space and are typically retractable and square or triangular in shape, with multiple lines being used (such as the Hills Hoist from Australia). Some can be folded up when not in use (although there is a hazard of getting fingers caught, so there is usually a safety button).

In Scotland, many tenement buildings have a drying green which is a communal area predominantly used for clothes lines - it may also be used as a recreational space.



A rotary, or Hills Hoist, type of clothes line
Sundrying in Hermiston, Oregon.

Advantages of a clothes line

  • Saves money[1][2]
  • Zero greenhouse gas emissions per load[1][2][3] (2 kg of greenhouse gas emissions from the average mechanical clothes dryer per load)[3]
  • Laundry smells "clothes-line fresh" without using chemicals[4][5][6][7]
  • Less fabric wear and tear[2]
  • Laundry items do not shrink (hot air from a mechanical clothes dryer may shrink items)
  • No static cling
  • Laundry items stay softer to the touch (mechanical clothes dryers tend to remove short, soft, fine fibers), and may be less wrinkled
  • Avoids the potential of airborne lint and reduced air quality
  • Eliminates the noise from a mechanical clothes dryer
  • Does not vent to the outside and waste the large volume of conditioned (heated or cooled) indoor air that a mechanical dryer's blower does.
  • For a simple line drying arrangement (rope and clothes pins) the repair and replacement costs are about $20.00 per 1,000 loads of laundry or 2 cents per load. For non-commercial mechanical clothes drying the repair and replacement costs (including labor expenses) are about $200.00 per 1,000 loads of laundry or 20 cents per load.

Disadvantages of using a clothes line

  • Putting laundry on a line usually takes more time than putting it into a mechanical dryer (as laundry items have to be hung up and fixed one by one).[citation needed]
  • Laundry items need to be hung indoors during rainy weather, or may get wet if the weather changes.
  • Neighbours may find it aesthetically unpleasant[1]
  • Risk of theft or vandalism of clothes
  • Laundry items may be more stiff (at least initially) - with or without the fabric softener that can be used with a mechanical dryer, provided no treatment, such as adding a cup of vinegar to the washer's rinse water, is used.[citation needed]
  • Wind, temperature, and humidity can vary the drying time. In particular, drying will typically take significantly longer than in a mechanical dryer (except in very warm and dry weather).[citation needed]
  • Environmental contaminants such as soil, dust, smoke, automotive or industrial pollutants, pollen and bird and animal droppings can come in contact with clothing.
  • Clothespins can leave imprints (including rust from the spring) on the clothes.
  • Sunlight damages clothing.[citation needed]

Drying laundry indoors

Laundry may be dried indoors rather than outdoors for a variety of reasons including:

  • inclement weather
  • physical disability
  • lack of space for a line
  • legal restrictions
  • to raise the humidity level indoors, and lower the air temperature indoors
  • convenience
  • to preserve privacy

Several types of devices are available for indoor drying. A drying rack or clotheshorse can help save space in an apartment or clothes lines can be strung in the basement during the winter. Small loads can simply be draped over furniture or a shower curtain pole. The drying time indoors will typically be longer than outdoor drying because of the lack of direct solar radiation and the convective assistance of the wind.

The evaporation of the moisture from the clothes will cool the indoor air and increase the humidity level, which may or may not be desirable. In cold, dry weather, moderate increases in humidity make most people feel more comfortable. In warm weather, increased humidity makes most people feel even hotter. Increased humidity can also increase growth of fungi, which can cause health problems.

An average-sized wash load will convert approximately 3165 joule of ambient heat into latent heat that is stored in the evaporated water. To determine how much heat has been converted in drying a load of laundry, weigh the clothes when they are wet and then again after the clothes have dried. The difference is the weight of the water that was evaporated from them. Multiply that weight in kg by 440, which is the heat of vaporization per kilogram, to obtain the number of joules that went into evaporating the water, or multiply by 0.3074 to get kilowatt-hours. (Note: If the moisture later condenses inside the house, the latent heat will be converted back into ambient heat which could increase the temperature of the air in the room slightly.)[8][9] To obtain a good approximation of the effect this would have in a particular situation, the process can be traced on a psychrometric chart.

Drying laundry in freezing conditions

Laundry may be dried outdoors when the temperature is well below the freezing point. First, the moisture in the laundry items will freeze and the clothing will become stiff. Then the frost on the clothes will sublimate into the air leaving the items dry. It takes a long time and it is usually much quicker to dry them indoors; however, indoor drying removes heat from the air so it is a trade-off between speed and energy efficiency.

Controversy in North America

A variety of interests are involved in the controversy about clothes lines, including frugal living, global warming, individual rights, the economy, private property, class, aesthetics, health, energy, national security and nostalgia.[original research?][citation needed]

When mechanical dryers were first introduced, only well-to-do families could afford them and they became associated with affluence. However, now that most people can afford a mechanical dryer, clothes lines have become associated with a "home-town" character in neighborhoods because they are indicative of a low-crime area. (Outdoor clothes lines may be used less frequently in high-crime areas because of the risk of clothes being stolen - a worldwide phenomenon.) Also, environmental concerns and higher energy prices have created a new generation of clothes line advocates. Still, the old association with poverty persists in some people's minds.[original research?][citation needed]

The controversy surrounding the use of clothes lines has prompted many governments to pass "right-to-dry" laws allowing their use.[1] According to Ian Urbina, a reporter for The New York Times, "the majority of the 60 million people who now live in the country’s roughly 300,000 private communities" are forbidden from using outdoor clothes lines.[10]

As of October 2009, the states of Florida, Colorado, Utah,[11][12][13] Hawaii, Maine and Vermont had passed laws forbidding bans on clothes lines. Similar bills were under consideration in Maryland, North Carolina, Oregon and Virginia. At least eight states restrict homeowners associations from forbidding the installation of solar-energy systems, and lawyers have debated whether or not those laws might apply to clothes lines. A British filmmaker, Steven Lake, is planning to release a documentary in 2011 titled Drying for Freedom about the clothes-line controversy in the United States.[10]

In Canada, the province of Nova Scotia's first NDP government passed An Act to Prevent Prohibitions on the Use of Clotheslines on December 10, 2010 to allow all homeowners in the province to use clotheslines, regardless of restrictive covenants. See The province of Ontario lifted bans on clothes lines in 2008.[14]

Some other affluent suburban municipalities such as Hampstead, Québec or Outremont, Québec also prohibit clotheslines.[citation needed]


See also


  1. ^ a b c d Rosenthal, Elisabeth (April 17), "A Line in the Yard: The Battle Over the Right to Dry Outside", New York Times, 
  2. ^ a b c Aun, Leslie M. (August 17), "Nature's Dryer Revisited", Washington Post, 
  3. ^ a b a clothes dryer and a clothes line, ecofx, January 10, 2008, 
  4. ^ Brand, Downy (April 4), Fabric Softener Facts, 
  5. ^ P&G, Global Operations (June 17), [dead link]
  6. ^ Products, Landor (April 17), Case History, 
  7. ^ American Sanitary, Supply (September 5), clothesline fresh, 
  8. ^ Diamond, Sheldon R. (1970). Fundamental Concepts of Modern Physics. USA: AMSCO School Publications, Inc. pp. 205. "During evaporation... The surroundings thereby become the ultimate source of the energy required to change the phase of [water] from liquid to gas."
  9. ^ Enthalpy of vaporization. (2009, March 29). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 20:18, April 4, 2009, from
  10. ^ a b Urbina, Ian, "Debate Follows Bills to Remove Bans on Clotheslines", The New York Times, p 23, October 11, 2009
  11. ^
  12. ^ Chaker, Anne Marie, "The Right to Dry", The Wall Street Journal, September 18, 2007
  13. ^ Colorado Governor's Energy Office HOA Bill - HB 1270
  14. ^ Ontario premier lifts outdoor-clothesline ban

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • clothes line — UK US noun [countable] [singular clothes line plural clothes lines] a rope on which you hang wet clothes so that they can dry, usually outside your house Thesaurus: substances and equipment used for cleaning and caring for clothes …   Useful english dictionary

  • clothes line — ► NOUN ▪ a rope or wire on which washed clothes are hung to dry …   English terms dictionary

  • clothes|line — «KLOHZ LYN, KLOHTHZ », noun. a rope or wire to hang clothes on to dry or air them …   Useful english dictionary

  • Clothes-Line — This article is about the early BBC television programme. For other meanings, see Clothesline (disambiguation). Clothes Line Genre Documentary, Fashion Created by Mary Adams Presented by James Laver and Pearl Binder …   Wikipedia

  • clothes line — UK / US noun [countable] Word forms clothes line : singular clothes line plural clothes lines a rope on which you hang wet clothes so that they can dry, usually outside your house …   English dictionary

  • clothes line — /ˈkloʊðz laɪn/ (say klohdhz luyn) noun 1. a rope or wire on which clothes, etc., may be hung to dry. 2. a device, as a clothes hoist, on which to hang clothes to dry. Also, clothesline …  

  • clothes line — noun a rope or wire on which washed clothes are hung to dry …   English new terms dictionary

  • clothes·line — /ˈkloʊzˌlaın/ noun, pl lines [count] : a piece of rope or a wire that people hang wet clothes on to dry …   Useful english dictionary

  • clothes line — see clothesline …   English dictionary

  • clothes line — rope on which laundry is hung out to dry …   English contemporary dictionary

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