My family has been hanging out the laundry on a retractable washing line for years. Our washing dries very quickly on a sunny day – and they’re so simple to put up and use. If you live in State where local rules mean you can use them – then I’d definitely recommend buying one.
Retractable clothes lines are cheap to buy, easy to install and simple to use if State or Housing Association rules allow. They will dry your clothes and laundry in no time at all on a hot day or when the sun is shining.
Let’s discover more about retractable washing lines, how to fit them and use them safely.
How Do Retractable Clothes Lines Work?
Retractable clothes lines are basically a traditional post-to-post line that can be tidied away. Like a classic line, a retractable model gives you a single, long, drying area.
However, the line comes tucked away in a tidy casing, and you simply pull it out when you need it. It automatically retracts (no more winding in the line), then the casing often folds neatly against the wall.
It’s a tidy and convenient way to manage your laundry. Retractable lines aren’t a permanent fixture, and are super-quick to get out and put away. You don’t need to store them in a shed or garage, and the line is safe inside its housing in all sorts of weather.
They can also be used to dry laundry indoors, provided you have a well-ventilated room, and a floor that can take a few drops of water. They’re a handy thing to have in a utility room or basement for all-weather line drying.
How Do You Install a Retractable Clothes Line?
Retractable clothes lines are pretty straightforward to install. The same process applies to outdoor and indoor lines.
Before you start, work out where you want to attach the line casing, and where you want the extended line to reach. You’ll need to work with solid walls here – an old fence or plasterboard won’t take the weight of a load of wet laundry.
Find a good spot for the casing, such as the house or garage wall, then work out where the extended line will reach. What can the hook be fastened to at the other end? The lone could run between the house and garage, or garage and shed. If there isn’t anything, you may need to install a post.
Most retractable clothes lines come with all the fastenings you need, so you’ll just need a pencil and a drill. Bear in mind that you may be drilling into masonry.
- Hold the casing up to the wall, and decide what height you need. Remember that you have to be able to reach it! If you’re using a clothes prop (more about these in a minute), you won’t need to go as high as you can raise the line.
- Mark where you want the screws to go by holding up the mounting place and marking where the screw holes are.
- Drill the holes and put in the screws. Leave them sticking out about half an inch.
- Hang the mounting plate on the screws, then tighten them.
- On the opposite wall (or post), drill and small hole and firmly attach the screw. This needs to be the same height as the base of the casing.
Household Essentials has made a short film to explain how to fit a retractable clothes line.
There’s an extra stage to the process if you don’t have a conveniently situated place to put the hook. You may need to put up a post. You’ll need a long post that’s treated for outdoor use, cement mix, and ideally, a friend to help.
- Dig a hole about a foot to a foot and a half deep.
- Fill about a third of the hole with cement mix.
- Put the post in the hole, then fill the rest of the hole with the mix.
- Check it’s straight with a level, then stake the post in place with rope to hold it in its straight position. Allow at least a day for the concrete to set before removing the stake and ropes.
True Value has some tips for building clothes line posts.
How Much Weight Can a Retractable Clothes Line Hold?
A typical retractable clothes line with 40 feet of hanging space will hold up to about 30 pounds in weight. Some industrial strength ones can go up to 40 pounds (look out for ones that suggest commercial use).
The smaller ones that are marketed as “indoor clothes lines” vary; however 20 pounds is good going for a short line.
It’s hard to visualise 40 pounds in laundry terms! A decent-length line should be able to hold one large or two modest-sized loads of washing.
How Do I Stop My Clothes Line From Sagging?
There are a few ways to prevent clothes lines from sagging. When you pull out the line, make sure you pull it taut. Do this by pulling out the line and securing it to the far hook. Then, go back to the casing end, and twist the line around the locking ring as firmly as you can. All cases have some sort of locking ring, button or hook, which you wrap excess line around a few times in order to secure and tighten the line.
However, to completely rule out sagging, you’ll need a second piece of kit: a clothes prop. Everyone’s grandmas had one of these: a tall wooden pole with a notch at the top, which is used to raise the line up higher. It catches more breeze and sun up high, and prevents large items like bed linen from dragging on the ground.
These days, you can get smart, extendable aluminum ones from places like Amazon. Find the mid-point of your line, then angling the pole, slip the top hook or notch under the line. When you raise the post, the line comes with it. A clothes line held by a clothes prop simply can’t sag.
Whether you’re using a clothes prop or not, make sure you wind the line in after each use. This will help prevent it sagging with time.
Are Retractable Clothes Lines Dangerous?
If used correctly, a retractable clothes line shouldn’t be a danger. What you don’t want, is the line whipping at speed across your yard when you unhook it.
So, when it’s time to put the line away, release it from the locking ring/hook/button. Then, unhook it at the other end but don’t let go. Holding the line by the hook end, walk it slowly back towards the casing. Do not let go until it’s almost fully retracted.
Also, never leave a line out without laundry on it. It can be very tricky to spot an empty line on a bright, sunny day – and imagine the kids running full-tilt towards it… The beauty of a retractable line is that it can be out away in moment, making it a safer option than a fixed one.
How Much Do Retractable Clothes Lines Cost (And Where Can I Buy One?)
We took a look on Amazon, and you can get retractable washing lines for as little as eleven dollars. Most models provide 40 to 49 feet of line, so the real difference lies in the quality of the materials.
For a yard clothes line, you need a robust, heavy duty case that can withstand life in the great outdoors, and won’t rust. Tough plastic cases are good, and fade resistant plastics will look better for longer. Expect to pay anywhere between fifteen and thirty dollars for a decent one. Indoor lines are in a similar price range.
You’ll also need to factor in the cost of a clothes prop and perhaps a post, if you don’t naturally have two fixing points.
You can buy clothes lines online at Amazon, or in homestores like Lowe’s and Home Depot. They’re not a tricky item to get hold of.
Retractable clothes lines are a great investment if you live in an area where State legislation or Housing Association rules mean you’re allowed to hang washing outside.
They are both easy to put up and use, and your washing will dry out in no time on a sunny day.
We’ve had one for years, and we either wrap it round the retractable box at one end to keep it tight, or use a long pole to keep it from sagging. It’s been well worth the $15 we spent on it. 🙂
Homeowner and property investor Larry James founded Take a Yard in 2020 to bring you the very best outdoor living content, based on his years of experience managing outside spaces. Read more >