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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Line Drying Laundry Indoors

Heather
Beauty That Moves
Today I'm taking you into my basement to share how we line dry our laundry. We live on the top of a hill, and our basement is nice and dry. I actually find it remarkably bright and not so scary for an older house. By now most of you know my family lives on a pretty small piece of property; we don't have the best outdoor options for putting up a clothesline, so we brought it indoors!

We've lived in this house for about five years, this has been our main method of drying clothes for about half that time. Before that, we used those wooden collapsible drying racks. They definitely do not last long term, they can be flimsy (unless you spend a huge amount of money on the fancy ones), and they take up so much space... spread out from room to room. It is also nearly impossible to dry a quilt or sheets on them.

Before we move on, here's a little old house trivia... behind that door is a toilet. No sink, no tile floor, no walls to the ceiling. Just a very old style toilet on the cement floor. Many of the old homes in my neighborhood have them, nobody knows exactly why. The most common theories are: they are the original bathrooms to the houses, or they were put in during the Great Depression when it was common for folks in mill towns to take in boarders. If you have any thoughts on this, please share! It's a bit of a local mystery...

I asked my husband to build us something that could take the place of our portable wooden drying racks. We had a few discussions about the details... we decided the only new material we would purchase for the project was the length of clothesline, we simply didn't have that amount of rope on hand. The rest of the project was to be made entirely of supplies found already at the house. And there is quite a mix of supplies in here as a result. I think one of the stabilizers on the floor (in the front, top picture) is actually an old wooden curtain rod left by the previous owner.

A few more details... I wanted the rows of clothesline to stagger, similar to the design of those portable racks. Adam took this into consideration when he located and drilled the holes for the rope to be fed through. Staggered holes, staggered line. I also wanted it be wide enough to hang a quilt on, and it is! That is a pretty dreamy detail for an indoor laundry drying arrangement. And finally, I didn't want it to be too deep. I would need to reach back there! Well, all was achieved and we've been using this for almost three years now.

Looking at the photo above you'll notice a section of rope that is vertical, right in the front of the picture. When the frame was first in place, I thought Adam would just string each level individually and tie it off, then move down to the next. He explained that by running the rope continuously through the entire structure we would be able to untie it in one place should we ever need to "re-tighten" the whole thing as time passed. In the almost three years of use we've needed to re-tighten only once.

You can also see there are a few small hooks he put on the front. These are very useful for hanging ladies strappy things. :)

One more detail to note. Looking back at the top photo you can see he secured the framework to the ceiling rafters, and those braces on the floor are attached to the frame sides only, not the floor.

The measurements are: 78" wide (6 1/2 ft) x 19.5" deep. Approximately 117 linear feet of drying space!

I can easily hang three large loads of laundry on this drying rack.

The whole system works beautifully for us. Oh, in case you were wondering, my washing machine is just to the left of the screen in these photos. Everything about this is convenient as well as efficient. There is no correct way to do this, I bet if you look at the photos for a few minutes the wheels will start turning for how something like this could work in your home.

59 comments:

Brian said...

Way to use the space that you have.

grace and peace,
brian
lawnandhome.blogspot.com

amanda said...

This is awesome, heather. Way to work with what you've got. It's got the wheels turning in my head...

(and the toilet-in-thebasement thing! We totally have that going on all around Portland too in our older homes. What's up with that? At least yours has a door. ;)

badhuman said...

That's awesome! In Philly many people strung clothes lines down the full length of their basement. That's what the owners of our house did. It's a considerable amount of clothes line considering the basement is about 500 square feet much longer than it is wide (we live in a rowhome). We supplement that with three collapsible wooden racks. We've never had problems with any of them and they all came from thrift stores. The set up works for us because the basement is large but I'd love to have a set up like yours.

Tammie said...

this is very cool.

i live in florida so i can pretty much line dry outside year round, but i can still totally appreciate this.

i love how its mostly made from things you already had, very resourceful.

Kristina said...

Oh how awesome!! I live in Nebraska and it is impossible to line dry here in winter without freezing your fingers off! We have a damp basement but I think my husband could make something like this for our garage. It's got a wood stove in it for some reason! Thanks for sharing this! Also, in your previous post you mentioned you make your own dishwasher soap. Would you share your recipe with us?? Thanks!

Chiot's Run said...

I love it. My basement smells a little musty, so my clothes would if dried there. I line drey in the summer, but use my dryer in the winter.

heather said...

hi kristina - this would be perfect in your garage!

for my dishwasher soap i use a 50/50 mix of borax and washing soda. i also add several drops of tea tree essential oil (you don't have to, but it does provide additional natural cleansing properties).

i have very good results with this recipe. i have heard of others having mixed results, maybe it has to do with your water supply. but we love it, and i say give it a try! you might already have the ingredients on hand if you make your own laundry detergent. good luck!

Anonymous said...

They are called Pittsburgh toilets! At least that's what my realtor said. All the old houses have one. Mine looks similar to yours. I don't use it. It's creepy even though there is a glass block window in the little room. I didn't know other cities had them in quantity.

I do have lines strung across my basement that the previous owner had strung. But I love your clothes rack. It's beautiful.

Myra
Pittsburgh

Fleecenik Farm said...

I remember when I was a kid, my mom had a friend who would watch us on occasion. She lived with her family. A big Irish family in a small house. That toilet in the water closet was a life saver.

Anna in Atlanta said...

Oh to have a basement (or a garage, or an accessible, clean attic). Oh well. Thanks for the idea at least, and the detailed photos.

As for the toilet -- how about fallout shelter? I mean, if you're living down there for weeks, you'll need some necessaries, right?

Maureen said...

We are SO copying this plan for our back patio...we don't have a basement and live in a very small house so it's summer only for air drying...but it's something! Thanks for all the details and the pics...my very talented husband will be able to put one of these together in no time (well, once he's thru with the 43 other jobs I have for him :)

Dawna said...

My guess for the toilet has always been it was put there for the "help". The bathroom on your first floor was an add on, right? That would mean the original bathroom was on the second floor. If families had housekeepers or gardeners they certainly wouldn't want them passing through the family's living and sleeping quarters to use the "facilies". Even with a wash room on the first floor I would guess the family would prefer that the house staff had their own bathroom. Just a thought.

Georgie said...

That's great! I'll have to show that to my American friends who use the dryer all the time (apparently in some areas you're NOT ALLOWED to put up outside lines, what is with that?)

I live in Australia but in winter it can be hard to get things dry outside (especially the cloth nappies), also when I do the laundry late at night I hate going outside with the bugs and stuff. I solved the problem with an IKEA storage solution with fold-down drying racks on the wall of my TINY laundry room.

Karen said...

I am from Australia and am very jealous of your lovely basement as we don't normally have them over here. What a very clever idea - well done!

Chili said...

I'm new to Simple, Green, Frugal Co-op and have found the ideas incredibly useful -- just like this one. Thank you for the post and sharing green ways!

KPiep said...

That's incredible! I'm going to have to talk to my husband about rigging something like this. Right now we use the banister in the living room to dry all of our bedding - but it doesn't hold all that much.

Juhli said...

We are in Atlanta and have a toilet in the basement too. Neighbors told us it was from the Jim Crow era and was for use by the maid, etc. who were not allowed to use the family facilities. Don't know if that is right or not but do wish there was a utility sink instead!

Posh And Trendy Living Frugal said...

My house was built in the 60's and when we bought it we were surprised to find a pipe sticking above the basement floor that was put there for a toilet. No one had ever installed one so we closed the area off and put one in along with a sink. We love the extra toilet.. if someone is hogging the upstairs one we just run down to the other.
Yes, wheels are turning in my head. I've been working on how to have lines in the basement and I've also been trying to figure out one that can be installed on the wooden deck outside so hub will quit complaining about mowing around the lawn one. We don't have rails on the north side of the deck so I'm going to build one of your gagets on that side and string the lines. It would hold a LOT more clothes then the other lines.
Thanks for the great idea.
Warm regards
Pat

LisaZ said...

OMG, that is so beautiful! I don't think I've ever coveted a laundry line before...My husband is very much going to see your photos.

Now, to find the space for it. Our basement looks a lot like yours, old 1924 house. We've also had similar toilets in our old home basements. I think they were the original bathrooms, since what are now the bathrooms were usually another room. In our current house, our bathroom was the nursery. In our last house, our bathroom was the kitchen pantry! lol

Thanks so so much for the idea! I'm tired of dealing with the folding racks that only hold one load at a time.

Tameson said...

I really like your clothes line set up. I may try to construct one similar in my laundry room. I live in an old house too, also on top of a hill but my cellar usually has about a foot or two of standing water in as the aquifer has changed in the 300 years since the house was built.

A little history on indoor plumbing...Many people were disgusted at the thought of soiling in their houses - that's something that should be done outside. That said, if space was tight, new zoning laws disallowed outhouses, or whatever made keeping the outhouse a challenge, a suiltable alternative was to place the toilet in the basement. There are a lot of such set-ups scattered throughout New England. Our toilets were not installed until 1963. One was put in the "new" bathroom, and the second was put in a very small closet off the kitchen. It too is just a toilet in a closet, no sink. And frankly if our cellar was dryer I like to think it would have been put there instead.

Kate in NJ said...

I am,literally, GREEN with envy!
That is just what I need. I use two flimsy wooden racks and two of those rolling racks (with hangers)
that someone was tossing out because the plastic,zippered covers
were ripped. But I cannot hang my quilts and blankets very well.

Kate@LivingTheFrugalLife said...

Great re-use of materials, great frugal practice, and great write-up. I'll cross the indoor laundry concept off my ideas to post about here. Your system is better anyway. We use a combination of hanging places, but only have enough room to hang one load at a time. And really big loads can be challenging.

I'll only chime in to agree with badhuman in that our wooden drying racks are still going strong after about 15 years or so.

heather said...

hi everyone! i am loving the toilet stories, funny AND informative. :)

kate and badhuman ~ please do share your source for drying racks! i've had such terrible luck with the dowels popping out just after a couple years of use... and they do this severe leaning to one side thing.

where do yours come from?

thanks!
heather

Carolyn said...

I love your drying rack and could definitely do something like this in our basement. Right now we use those awful collapisble racks and this is so much better.

Thanks for the dishwasher soap recipe too; I was also wondering about that.

Elizabeth said...

I love it!

My flimsy drying rack drives me crazy!

I've been playing around with the idea of air drying in my basement for a while.

Thanks for the inspiration and the details!

Karen said...

this is amazing, very inspiring. thanks for sharing this!

Karen said...

Never mind the laundry. Look at those tidy shelves!

denise said...

We cannot have an outdoor line either due to neighborhood regulations. So we a two fold down racks we use on our deck in summer, and put in the basement or in front of a vent in winter. Hard to do the big stuff on it though...That is a great idea for a larger system.

Wife to 1, Mom to 5 said...

Oh I'm SO loving your drying rack! I think that's a must have! I'll have to figure out where to put it - our laundry is on the main floor in a tiny room off the kitchen... it should be the pantry with laundry in bsmt. Hmmm, wonder if we could move plumbing around! Anyway, around here we have older victorian style homes with toilets on the landings between floors!! As a realtor, I see them tucked into the oddest places, but on the main staircase of the house?! One was literally in the way of the traffic flow. Why no one had ever removed it is beyond me. When I was little, we lived in an old house in Ohio that had a back staircase. It also had a toilet & a sink tucked into the back set of stairs. Weird!

jimmycrackedcorn said...

Our house was built in lat 1969 and we have the toilet in the laundry room. Ours doesn't have a wall at all, but there is a sink nearby. It's just a convenient extra, perhaps to put a house of the time into the "2 bath" category in the real estate listings? I don't know, but it has come in handy.

farm mom said...

We have a small room with just a toilet in our basement too. Apparently, my husband's great grandparents lived in the basement while they worked on completing and adding on to the house above. Ours also has a small kitchen and shower that they used as well. Apparently these things are normally all torn down after the work is complete, but my hubby's grandmother wanted hers left in, so the dirty men would have a seperate place to shower, coming in from the fields, and she would have a cool place to can, without heating up the entire house.

Anonymous said...

Not as elegant but maybe less daunting to the carpentry impaired is the system I found in my basement when I moved in. Short lengths of 1 by 2 are nailed to the floor joists with a nail protruding from each side near the bottom. Rope is strung on the nails up and back from one to the other. They are safely overhead but not too high to reach. It's handy for large items and supplemented with folding racks for the small stuff.

chelsea said...

an incredibly efficient system -- when i was broke and living in an apartment last year i would do laundry in the bathtub and then string plastic lines up across my bedroom / hang things on doorknobs, over the backs of chairs, over the radiators... this is downright sophisticated compared to that!

lgaumond said...

That's brilliant! I just said to my husband today how much I miss drying clothes on the line in the winter.

My grandparents lived in an old house in a historic section of Rockville, CT and they had one of those little "toilet rooms" in the cellar. Weird! I thought it was just my crazy grandpa's idea to put it there, I didn't realize anyone else had one, too.

belle said...

I've passed this post onto my daughter, who is an Aussie living in Ohio. Having grown up with outside line drying being the norm, she still hasn't got used to having to use a dryer..she's planning an outside line for summer, but I think she'll love this idea.

I don't have a basement to dry in, and wet weather's more my problem than cold, but I do have a high set 'Queenslander-style' house, with lots of space underneath to string lines across for drying ...although the sides are open, in the middle stays dry, and the breeze blows through.

I even use it in summer, the sun can be pretty harsh on fabrics, and I don't get sunstroke hanging the washing out. My laundry is under there too.

Love the stories about the extra loo :)
Nanette

eatclosetohome said...

We hung a regular closet-type clothes pole in the laundry room. Clothes go on plastic hangers, then on the pole. It's exceptionally space-efficient; we can get 3 loads of shirts and pants across the width of the room (which is just as wide as washer, dryer, laundry tub).

James said...

A bit of advice:
On the dowels popping out of the wooden racks... Try using a waterproof glue, like Tightbond II to hold those suckers in.

As for the toilets in the basement... Our UK friends will remember the words WATER CLOSET. Often the crapper was put into a small closet to give the user some privacy. Hands were washed in a different room.

And I have filed your line idea in my archives for the next house. I have outdoor lines, and use them most of the year here in Maryland. On those cold clear days, the clothes may take a day or two to dry, but they do dry. For rain we have some wonderful metal racks I found in an Asian grocery store.

jacqui jones said...

love the idea
we spent a bomb on one of those lines. but i also dont have an outside line. when all was said and done it was better to have a line i could move around for winter. if i dont have to use the dryer much we will save in all areas.
we went with a mrs peggs clothes line...its actually pretty good, light weight for moving around, but takes two loads of clothes for drying. (we were not clever enough to build something ourselves...wish i had the space in my laundry to have that set up but)

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

I love your clothesline, but our basement is too damp and not heated so we dry on the portable wooden racks upstairs. We also have several wall attached-fold down when not in use.

On our folding racks which are all estate sale finds, designs vary, and our best and most sturdy, are scissor design and fold up when not fully extended. They take up more room but have lasted for years, and they were old when we purchased them.

Brandi said...

well, another toilet story--our house in Iowa was built in 1885 and we have a toilet in the basement. A really dark yucky basement, not useful for anything but storage. It's attached to pipes but not operational now as far as I know (i've certainly never tried it).

laura said...

Oh how I wish we had a basement so we could do something similar. We do pretty well with drying racks though...We have to use the dryer for towels and quilts.

The Talberts said...

Great idea! Thanks for sharing. I have been using an indoor collapsing rack during the winters, but we do quite a bit of laundry and it just isn't a workable situation. I wonder if something like that could be made portable so that we could bring it into the living room in front of the fireplace and then return it to the laundry room?

Susan said...

I have been hang drying my laundry for several years. In my current house, I use an old shoe rack found at at thrift store for $1 for hanging smaller items (socks, underwear, cloth napkins, etc). The shoe rack is positioned over the heater vent on the floor in my bedroom. It helps add moisture to my room, and when the heater is running a lot in the winter, I swear the laundry dries almost as fast as with a dryer. For the larger items, I have a surplus of basic plastic clothes hangers given to me. I hang all of our shirts, t-shirts, etc on the plastic hangers. The plastic hangers get hung on the top edge of the moulding around the closet in the bedroom. Drying them on hangers helps them dry without many wrinkles, and they are already on hangers to go straight into the closet (we hang most of our clothes in general). Some of the plastic hangers have little hooks on them, and to dry pants or jeans, I just loop a belt loop onto each of the little hooks. Jeans dry faster this way than if they are slung over a clothesline (no having to turn them over to finish drying). I have never broken a hook yet, even with my husband's large heavy wet jeans. For my larger items-sheets and blankets- I hang them over the shower curtain rod. I also do big items sometimes using two hangers, with opposite corners of the sheet pulled through each, and the hangers hanging on the closet moulding (though the corners do get a bit wrinkled this way.)
Another hint: when line drying towels, I give them several vigorous shakes before hanging, and then again before folding. This helps reduce the problem of "crunchy" towels.
I hope this all makes sense. I enjoyed reading about everyone else's line drying solutions!

Joanne said...

Being a suburbanite in sunny southern Australia, we get very few days when we can't line dry outside, so its interesting to see how other people live!
My dad used to live in a small unit with a seperate double garage that had a plumbed toilet. Just sitting there in one corner- no privacy walls or anything! We guessed that the previous owner worked on cars or in the garden and didn't want to have to wash up or come indoors to use the loo!

Anonymous said...

That is the most FANTASTIC thing I have ever seen! I want it!
Unfortunately, here in the lovely state of California we don't have basements, and Oh,do I miss one.
Years ago in Cleveland, Ohio, we almost bought a house which had a system that looked kind of likeyours, but it slid into a framework connected to the furnace, so the hot air would help dry clothes during the Winter. Not a bad idea, old, old, old.
Jenny

mitzi said...

I live in a house from the 1920s, and we have a toilet in the basement, too. I figured it was an extra just in case of "emergencies". It's as old as the hills, but it still works. Love the drying idea! Our house came with clotheslines good for 2 loads in the attic, with an old metal TV antenna I use for extra clothing on hangers. That attic dries things as fast as an electric or gas clothes dryer much of the year, even with Tennessee humidity. If you have stairs to your attic, and you can haul the baskets up, it might be another option for people with wet basements.

MystikMomma said...

I would love to not be reliant on the apartment common shared dryer, and have a drying rack. However, I have noticed that there is a mildewy smell with my towels when dried this way. Any advice on how to rid the drying items from this smell???

I live in the humid South Florida, if that helps to define my weather challenges.

Hill Country Hippie said...

Heather, tell your husband his rack is a work of art. In fact, I saw a great kinetic sculpture at a museum in San Antonio yesterday, that actually reminded me of your drying rack!

heather said...

********************************
mystik momma ~ i think the greatest factor in whether or not your towels smell mildewy is how quickly they dry, which depends on the moisture level in the air. my basement is extremely dry and the furnace is down there so they really do dry overnight in the winter months. in the summer i will dry the towels on a collapsible rack out on the deck just to speed things along. if you don't have outdoor space to do this you could achieve similar results if you put a rack in front of a south facing window indoors. good luck!

hill country hippie ~ i will share your kind words with adam when he gets home. i know you have totally made his day. :)

thanks everyone!
heather
*********************************

shelle said...

I love this drying rack. I showed my husband the photos and he is making a smaller one for me this weekend! thank you

Anonymous said...

Great site & fantastic ideas. About that basement toilet...I've seen these in tiny houses in the coal country of West Virginia...don't think it was for the household help, more just an extra facility for a big family.

Anonymous said...

When I was growing up in Ohio many of the homes had a toilet in the basement. It sometimes also had a shower. The men would come in from the steel mills, and go in the side or back door of the house into the basement then wash in the shower or the laundry tub sinks and if needed use the toilet. Then they would change into clean clothes leaving their work clothes by the washer and enter the house upstairs of the house all clean. They also liked it when they were dirty on the weekend from working on their cars or in the yards to clean up before going into the rest of the house. Course little kids could also get cleaned up there too if needed...if you could catch them to do it! ;-) Jody

Anonymous said...

Maybe someone has already said this, but reaching into my growing history, may I (perhaps redundantly)contribute:
My parents bought their post-WW2 2 bedroom home in 1950, when they had a two-year-old (moi) and a one-year old (my bro). By 1955 or 56, they had another child (our little sis) plus a recently-widowed grandma. Soon, 3 children were getting ready for school, adults were getting ready for work, and what's a person to do when nature calls someone at the same time as someone else is in the bathtub? That basement toilet was moved from the main floor to the basement when the main floor got a new toilet. It came in handy. And in a time of emergency urgency, the laundry tub doubles as a sink.

Pampered Mom said...

What a fantastic idea! I printed off a picture to show Hubby when he gets home - I love hanging clothes on the line during the spring/summer/fall, but have struggled with how to do it in the winter.

Nick said...

Neat way to add a clothesline. Luckily you have the space for it. I'm stuck using smaller types. This clothes drying rack seems like a good design - especially set up under a ceiling fan!

Have you heard about clothes spinners? You load wet clothes straight from the washer into the spinner, then they spin at very high RPM for a minute or two to force excess water out of the fabric. Supposedly they are almost dry enough to wear. Just a short time on the clothesline and they are finished.

Anonymous said...

I saw thisw a few months ago & I knew I just had to have one in my basement! What an awesome idea.
My son and I built it to fit the spot near my washer and dryer. I even rigged up a window fan that I can turn on if I want things dried overnight. Still cheaper than running the dryer. This has saved on out electric bill alot. This is the best 17.00 I ever spent! Thanks for sharing!

annette and matt said...

I absolutly LOVE this set-up! I am currently line drying in my basement as well but I just have two cloths lines hung up and can barely fit one entire load of laundry between both lines :( I and going to try and get my husband to build me one of these for our four seasons room (it's nothing but windows so the fresh summer breeze would help with drying!) Thanks for posting this!!

Anonymous said...

Hi there, I am performing research on alternatives to electrical drying machines, and was wondering people's perceptions towards line drying in their house or backyard and any Canadian programs that have been delivered to date to foster this behavioral change. Also any ideas on systems for drying clothing without the use of an electrical dryer. Thanks a lot for your feedback :)

Anonymous said...

I too love hanging things outside on a line. Unfortunately we can not in the winter here in Canada. Years ago I purchased a rack from a home show and it's probably the best investment I ever made. I'm sure if I describe it you could have your husband whip one up for you too. The line actually consists of about 8 lines that sit on the ceiling of my laundry room. Each individual rope goes through a rod which is on a pulley system...using a hook I release a ring that is anchored to my wall...this brings the line down for me to hang the clothes on...I pull back down on the ring using the hook and secure the ring to the wall hook... My clothes get pulled up to the ceiling over top of my washer/dryer out of the way. Very similiar to your contraption but good for small spaces. I'm sorry I can't remember the name of the laundry line for you to purchase. Hope my description helps get someone's creative juices flowing to make their own.