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Rigging a Clothesline




With the advent of the automatic dryer, their popularity diminished. Today, clotheslines are making a comeback -- and for good reason: There is something very satisfying about drying laundry on a line. Air-dried linens have a crispness that you can't get from a modern dryer -- not to mention the fresh, sweet smell your clothes gain when hung out to dry.

Martha prefers the strong, natural fiber of cotton line, but if you live in a very humid climate, you may want to use plastic. The height of your line will depend on your own height, but seven to eight feet is a good rule -- if the line sags, your linens will still be safely off the ground. The following technique calls for fifty feet of line; this measurement will vary depending on the distance between the trees from which your line will hang.

Resources: Heavy-duty hooks, pulleys, line support, line tightener, and clothesline rope are available at hardware stores.


  • Masking tape
  • 1/4-inch drill bit
  • 2 large heavy-duty hooks
  • 50 feet of cotton clothesline rope
  • Line tightener
  • 2 pulleys
  • Line separator
  • Small stool or ladder


  1. Step 1

    Determine height of hook by extending your arm upward to its full length. Mark the spot on each tree with a small piece of tape.

  2. Step 2

    Using a 1/4-inch drill bit, drill a hole into each tree at the marked height. Screw the heavy-duty hooks into the holes.

  3. Step 3

    Slip the end of the rope through the loop on the line tightener. To secure, make a bowline knot: Make a loop in the rope, bring the end of the rope up through the loop, around the standing part of the rope, then back down through the loop. Pull to secure. An easy way to remember how to tie this knot is: The rabbit comes up from his hole, goes around the tree, then back down his hole again.

  4. Step 4

    Run one end of the rope through the top of the first pulley. Pull the same end through the line separator, then pull the rope through the other pulley.

  5. Step 5

    Make sure the end of the rope is not frayed (if it is, make a clean cut), then slide the end of the rope through the center of the line tightener. Knot the ends of the rope.

  6. Step 6

    Using a stool or ladder, if necessary, attach one pulley to the hook on the first tree, then attach the second pulley to the opposite hook. Tighten the rope with the line tightener to eliminate sagging. Cut away excess rope.

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Reviews (6)

  • Glitteratii 26 Jun, 2012

    continued... but of course not too much shade... clothes may not dry well - in our Texas heat this is not a problem, dappled sunlight through trees really is best - don't leave clothes out in full sun for too long - even whites, sun is great to kill bacteria & whiten - but it deteriorates fabric too

  • Glitteratii 26 Jun, 2012

    I set this up the 1st year we moved in our house. I put the line tightener on the bottom at 1st. When the line was worn out, I then tried the new one with line tightener on top to allow a bit more space to hang clothes. On top, it can sag a little - but if line is pulled tight, it won't matter - it is the 9th year I have had my clothesline up, can't imagine life without it!I absolutely LOVE it! (hint don't let clothes linger too long to prevent bird droppings - shade is good -sun fades!!)

  • trespalmas 18 May, 2012

    we have used a clothesline for years, my mother did it and my mother in law. we have a dryer and give some things a fluff but our electric bill is low, it is one of the best ways to be green, stretch in the sun and talk with the neighbors!

  • salandson 19 Jul, 2011

    YOu should NEVER tie a clothesline on the top line nor put a line tightner anywhere BUT on the bottom line. Knots can not pass through pulleys, therefore the line seperators which keep the line from sagging, would get stuck on the tightner or the knot. Hang your clothes behind the knot and push the clothes out with the knot. The knot also acts as a cushion between your clothes and the pulleys which could snag your laundry.

  • TheNomi 13 Sep, 2010

    It's actually a very bad idea to makeshift trees into clotheslines. Nothing like getting sap on your linens. And what about birds overhead? The best place for a clothesline is in open space, where the sun can hit it directly and breezes are unobstructed. And what's the point of having a pulley line if you aren't going to pull anything? This was disappointing, Martha. :(

  • Dinamm11 13 Sep, 2010

    You should install the line tightener on the top line so that it doesn't interfere with the line you hang your clothes on. Also, the whole idea of a pulley line is so you can stay in one place to hang up your clothes and just move the line rather than the way Martha demonstrated it. That way, the whole line does not have to be reachable from the ground level if desired. You just need to reach one end.