What's the best outdoor clothes dryer?

papercameraMarch 11, 2008

Hi- I live on a small lot in the city. I'm interested in putting up a clothesline, but don't want to commit to having it up 24/7 unless that's the best way. I'm looking at the pole-style outdoor racks (umbrella, parallel) and the sunline retractable clothesline, since you seem to be able to get these dryers out of the way when you aren't using them.

I'd love your recommendations on what works best, what to avoid, which brands are durable and not and your experience with them.

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grainlady_ks

BEST is pretty subjective... Here's what has worked for me. In three different places we've lived we've put up an umbrella style clothesline. The trick... we placed them on the very edge of a concrete patio in one place, on the edge of a 5-foot wide sidewalk on the side yard close to the deck in the 2nd place, and we designed a courtyard (concrete pad and walkway) on the side yard at our new home just for the umbrella clothesline. How convenient it is to stand on concrete, instead of going through wet (dew-covered) grass to get to the line in all those homes. I always had concrete to stand on and the line would accomdate the space because it goes around.

Second advantage. We can remove the clothesline and put up an umbrella in the same hole for extra shaded seating when we have an outdoor party or lots of family, friends or neighbors around.

In my basement I have 2 retractable (single line) lines that stay up all the time, but would be easy to take down if necessary. I got them for $5 each at Big Lots and they work perfectly threaded between large hooks placed between the studs in the unfinished room for a total of six 12-foot lines. We added a ceiling fan and light in this room and leave the fan on to help dry the clothes quickly.

In this same room on the back wall we installed a 6-foot rod to accomodate anything that is hung on a hanger. We solved the problem of the hangers sliding together from the air movement of the fan when we covered the clothes rod with one of those foam insulating pipe "jackets". (Looks like a swim noodle.) The clothes stay put now.

There's more than enough room on the umbrella clothesline for two adults, as well as when we had 2 children still at home. Anything I can hang on a hanger goes on the sides where the line threads through. I can pull the line up enough to get a hanger in it. This keeps the hanger in place and the wind doesn't blow the hanger/clothes off the line. Everything else is pinned on the line.

Growing up we had the traditional T-post lines, and I hated getting chigger bites from walking in the grass, or when the grass was wet in the morning. All the cut grass stuck to our damp shoes.

Our former neighbor had the long lines on T-post and her husband laid narrow concrete sidewalks between the posts so she didn't have to contend with grass.

-Grainlady

    Bookmark   March 11, 2008 at 2:31PM
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papercamera

The dual-hole idea with the umbrella is pretty neat! Are there any brands of parallel or umbrella dryers you had good luck with, or would avoid (cheap, flimsy, etc)

    Bookmark   March 11, 2008 at 10:56PM
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housekeeping

By all means avoid cheap umbrella (or so-called Aussie-style) dryers. I am using one that belonged to my Mother in the 50's and it is still going strong, despite the fact that under my care for the last 30 years it rarely is taken down. (Mother was much more meticulous about this than I am.) I would expect to pay at least $175-$200 to replace it, not the $39-49 that you could pay at Wally-World or Home Depot.

I have both the umbrella style one (and I prefer one with lines on all four sides, not a set of parallel ones) and two sets of long T-bar lines, and each kind has its place. If space were tight, I'd just get a large-size umbrella model. With an umbrella one, if you're modest about hanging your undies out, you can hang them in the center and put sheets and shirts along the outside lines.

In many soils, you don't need to sink a concrete post; a simple small diameter rod driven deep into the soil and extending up into the central pole of the umbrella may do the trick and certainly could be a first step if you're not sure exactly where you want the dryer.

Line drying is so much nicer than machine drying, and worth taking the trouble even on days like today when I brought still-damp, and now frozen, stuff back inside to await clearing and thawing tomorrow afternoon.

Molly~

    Bookmark   March 12, 2008 at 3:46AM
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papercamera

Thanks for the warning about the cheap dryers! Cheap products can often be more expensive because of having to replace them more often! I'm not sure which ones they sell at Home Depot, but thanks for the warning!

I'm considering a few brands. Can you please give me your thoughts:

* There's the Breezecatcher brand- made of aluminum so it doesn't rust, (no plastic hardware) and it has plastic covered wire clothesline. I think it's made in the UK. It looks really well designed! They ship from Michigan, and I think the shipping was free as a special. The cost was $180.

www.breezecatcher.com

* There's the Sunshine brand- made in the USA with galvanized metal (no plastic hardware) and hardwood arms and rope clothesline. I like that it's made in the USA. It cost $125 and the shipping brought it to about $140.

www.sunshine-dryer.com

* Then there's the Whitney Designs brand- which might be what they sell in the hardware store- I haven't had the opportunity to get out to the store yet- made with metal arms and plastic hardware. I saw this on www.clotheslineshop.com and other websites like Amazon. This one doesn't look as solid as the other 2, but it is supposedly made in the USA. They were in the $50 range.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2008 at 11:00AM
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faeriedust

I've never used the umbrella style as ours is just plastic coated wire strung between garage and a large tree, but I can tell you that when we had a rope/style clothes line, it sagged terribly and was constantly needing to be taken in. It also rotted quicker and got a bit dirty which transfered onto the clothes. Go with the plastic coated wire for the line. You can wipe it off easily with a cloth before hanging white sheets out and it won't sag as easily.
Oh....Spring and Summer....sheets dried in the sun....luxury at night....

    Bookmark   March 12, 2008 at 4:15PM
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wa8b

In my estimation, the very best outdoor clotheslines are made by Hill's in Australia. The "Hill's Hoist" is the classic model used by generations of families in Australia. They're a bit expensive to obtain in North America, but they come with a ten year guarantee, and will probably last for years beyond that.

See the Hill's story at this link:

http://www.hills.com.au/arbitrage/pages/48

You might also find the Hill's Hoist entry on Wikipedia to be interesting:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hills_Hoist

There is a Hill's dealer in the USA at the link below.

Here is a link that might be useful: Hill's Hoist Clotheslines in the USA

    Bookmark   March 13, 2008 at 1:16AM
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housekeeping

I tried the US Hill's Hoist link and it appears to be broken to me on my ratty dial-up connection.

However, you can see some pictures of Hill's dryers on the link below which is a company in Australia that sells several brands of clotheslines. These are not the cheap ones (Hill's costs US$300-$400+) but they are very well made. I like the Austral brand ones, too. And the link shows a wide variety of other types of clotheslines and accessories, including clothesline umbrellas to shade your wash. (Well, there's a lot of sun in OZ!)

One thing occured to me as I looked over the offerings. If you use king-sized sheets you may be happier with parallel lines so you don't have to fold them around corners just to hang them out. On my rotary dryer I can hang queen-sized flats but if I had KS I would be out of luck. For good drying it's better not to fold around the corners.

But rotary heads are very nice because they can always be turned into the breeze.

I agree with the previous poster who recommended going with a plastic covered wire or or strand over natural rope. The rope won't be satisfactory in the long; it will mildew and mar your clothes. I usually have to wipe down my lines once a month or so in the summer to keep them pristine. I also think I would avoid wooden arms since they will warp and bend, and won't be as strong as metal. Even a modest wind of 10 knots will produce terrific strains when you've loaded the thing with wet wash.

If the cost of getting a good clothesline seems daunting, perhaps a cheap one from Home Depot might be a good choice as a short-term trial to see if you find line-drying fits into your routine. If you find you like it, it may not seem so shocking to fork out hundreds of dollars for a top-quality clothesline.

HTH,

Molly

Here is a link that might be useful: Australian vendor of clothesline specialities - ships to the US

    Bookmark   March 13, 2008 at 7:21AM
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papercamera

Hi everyone,

Thanks for all your great suggestions!

Regarding the Sunshine dryer, they use a "One piece 132' Polyethylene rope, wipes clean in a jiffy". Is this "natural rope"?

I think it's probably between the Sunshine dryer (depending on the rope issue) and the Breeze catcher. (although the idea of testing umbrella dryers with a cheaper umbrella is an interesting thought- I just hate to waste $50 if I end up replacing it!) Thanks for your thoughts!

    Bookmark   March 13, 2008 at 8:53PM
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housekeeping

Nope, I think polyethylene rope is plastic rope so worries about natural fiber are moot (I think I read your OP too fast). But I wouldn't want any kind of rope because of the stretching issue. You want plastic covered nylon, at the least, if not plastic covered wire.

Regarding testing the concept of a rotary dryer with a cheaper one. I would hate to "waste" $50, too. But if you tried it on a less expensive scale and found for some reason that you hated it, you could always find someone to buy it for $10-20, mitigating your losses. You would probably have much more trouble reselling a $180 one. Likewise if you find you love line drying, re-selliong your cheaper starter one will be easy, so you're only risking a small amount to discover this.

I heard from a my query to the Hills people in Oz. They have US stocks of the largest Hill's rotary head dryer for (IIRC) $289 plus $35 shipping in the US. I am tempted.

Molly~

    Bookmark   March 14, 2008 at 2:42AM
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papercamera

Molly,

You might want to check out the breeze catcher from Dublin. It's $180 for their TS$-140 model and they have a free shipping special right now- you'll need to sign up on their website to see the special. It looks really well designed too. The photos are good, and it has plastic covered wire that's wired with a loop back technique to reduce sagging. It's a really tempting dryer! The breezecatcher also has a 10 year warranty. Go to www.breezecatcher.com

I had a hard time comparing the Breezecatcher with the Hills dryer, because the Hills site doesn't have a lot of photos or product descriptions and the enlargements don't really enlarge all that much.

Visiting the Hills site just added another layer of confusion- they mention folding frame dryers and retractable units for smaller yards. Maybe I should do a retractable multi line between the deck and the garage- it's only 16' between the 2. Or I could mount a folding frame dryer under my deck on the patio to avoid the bird dropping issue.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2008 at 8:48PM
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papercamera

One more thing I just thought of. I don't have any real grass or lawn in my back yard. Right now, it's all plants and a small tree. There's a path that goes from the garage to the patio, but most of the yard is full of plants- shade tolerant plants, flowers, etc. The garage and the 6' fence shade a lot of my yard. The middle of the yard has plants, but I need to redo this area, so I'm not 100% committed to any idea.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2008 at 9:00PM
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housekeeping

Having grass under your lines is a plus because you will drop stuff from time to time. Even now in the depths of winter in the NE I have dried grass (over frozen earth) so the corner of a sheet that slips out of my finger doesn't get muddy. When I first set up my lines I didn't have thick turf and I made a few unprintable comments when fresh white laundry got mud on on it. My mother had her rotatry set up on a slate terrace with sand between the slates and stuff sometimes got sand on it.

I have always thought a really cool thing to do would be to have a raised bed of lavendar bushes running just under a long run of parallel lines. Then you'd have the scent of lavendar on things when the bushes were in bloom and if they touched any of the veg. under neath the lines you'd still get a nice smell. Unfortunately where I am lavendar requires sun and wind sheltering to survive so I can't do it.

Retractable long lines are a neat idea, esp. on a small property. And they might be an excellent first step into the world of clothes drying. If you find you like the routine of line drying, then you could add a smaller rotary umbrella to accomodate additional items. For large flat things long lines are the best as they produce the most wrinkle-free items and sheets and blankets tend to block fast drying on rotary umbrellas, at least on marginal drying days. I was planning to add some more long lines to my set-up this summer, but the Hills dryer I mentioned got me thinking about adding another rotary. Retractable lines (and rotary umbrellas that are taken down between wash days) would probably be best in city lot because then you'd have less problem with the lines getting grubby from air pollution.

Since you have a small lot a retractable and/or removable set-up might be the best.

I think I once saw a project in one of Martha's mags about a retractable set-up that also had a retractable long awning above it to provide shade for delicate stuff, but I think it would be great for days when the weather is a bit iffy.

I will look at the breezedryer you suggested. It sounds intersting.

PS, be sure to buy beefy spring wooden clothespins (Diamond is a good brand). There are some skinny ones out there that don't hold up.

Molly~

    Bookmark   March 16, 2008 at 3:55AM
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outdoorgal77

Hi, everyone! I was also looking for a clothes line and I went to www.breezedryer.com. They have the Hills Hoist that was mentioned in this forum and I gave them a call. They are the only US distributor of this line of clothes lines. A co-worker/friend lived in Australia for 20 years and these clothes lines are everywhere . . . she thinks its crazy that we all don't line dry. She has a Hills rotary clotheline in her yard and let me tell you it is really really nice. Excellent quality, and I am really tough on the products I buy. I want them to last forever. She stores it in her garage when they are having a party and her husband hung it on the wall out of the way.

I am going to order the Large Rotary . . . who else will give you a 10 year guarantee. My Neptune Washer just died and it is only 4 years old and Maytag could care less. Anyway the lady on the phone told me that the Hills name is going to be popping up in all kinds of advertising nationwide with celebrity endorsements etc. I have been looking all over the web and I don't see anything as nice. Plus they have different styles that you can use inside (in the basement) or laundry room or out by the pool. You can move it wherever you need it. The Breezedryer lady was very helpful and friendly.

This is my first clothes line . . I am so excited to hang out my clothes!!! They also have stainless steel/plastic clothes pins that won't rust and leave marks on your clothes . .

Here is a link that might be useful: www.breezedryer.com

    Bookmark   March 21, 2008 at 11:57PM
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chelseah

Hello all,

I did good amount of research into the various line-drying options (racks, lines, indoor vs. outdoor etc.) since my college (Pomona College in Claremont, CA) is going to purchase a few racks for students to use instead of dryers. I figured I should share all my findings, so created a page on the Tip the Planet sustainable living wiki to do so. The page describes all the different line-drying options that are available and includes links to a number of websites that sell line-drying racks and lines.

Check out the link below, share it with friends, and by all means add your wisdom to the page!

Best,
Chelsea

Here is a link that might be useful: Air dry washing Wiki Page

    Bookmark   May 28, 2008 at 3:07AM
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