DIY Weekend Project: How To Build a Kickass Clothesline

Since it was ninety-seven degrees in my house last weekend, it seemed like building a clothesline so that I wouldn’t have to run the dryer in the house would be a logical project to undertake. Of course, that meant digging a couple of three-foot postholes in hundred-degree weather so it was probably a wash as far as “projects that will cool me down” went.

But I have this to show for it:


I mean, every country house has to have a clothesline, right? It’s not as if my neighbors get to see enough of my unmentionables when I’m forced to quickly and thoroughly strip down on my deck in broad daylight because a wasp flies up my shorts. Yes. That happened.

Note: I did manage to keep my pants on for the entire duration of this project.

So here’s how building the clothesline went down. I didn’t use a plan, but started with a general idea of how I wanted it to look. My materials list consisted of:

  • 2- 4x4x10′ PT wood posts
  • 1- 4x4x6′ PT wood post
  • 1- 2x2x8′ PT wood
  • 4- 1/4″x6″ hot dip galvanized lag screws (and washers)
  • 8 – 2″ deck screws
  • 8 – screw hooks
  • 2 – clothesline tighteners
  • 2 – quick links
  • 100 ft clothesline
  • 1 bag quickcrete (but you should probably use 2)

And of course I raided my tool collection for:

  • Miter saw
  • Drill
  • Socket wrench
  • Cordless nailer (optional)
  • Clamps
  • Post hole digger

I was figuring on the clothesline being approximately 6 feet tall with a 3 foot wide crosspiece at the top. I bought 10′ posts so that I could sink them 3-4′ in the ground, below the frost line.


This isn’t necessary in every part of the country, but if you’re somewhere that goes into a deep freeze once a year and you try to sink a post a measly 18″ in the ground, next spring your fence or clothesline will be a straight as a hillbilly’s teeth. I’m just saying… put the extra effort in.

I started by cutting my crosspieces on a 20-degree angle (because you know how I like to fancy things up.)


I think they ended up about 33-ish inches long.


Then, to prep for attaching them to the posts, I marked the middle of each crosspiece and then marked the spot for each lag screw– two per post.


I pre-drilled the holes for these and then got the screws started. Turns out I don’t have– or, more likely, can’t find— a socket attachment for my drill so I had to do this by hand.

Also, does anyone notice anything wrong in this picture?

I got this screw all the way in before realizing I forgot the washer, and I’m blaming it on the heat instead of general absentmindedness. So. Don’t do that.

As for actually attaching this piece, first I tried tacking it in place with a couple of finish nails…


Which worked not at all.

So I upped my game and tacked a couple of pieces of wood onto the post so I could hold the crosspiece in place with some wood clamps, which was a much better idea.


Everything tightened down…


Then I cut a couple of cross braces at a 45 out of the 2×2, and this time tacking them in place with finish nails did work, which made it easier to put in a couple of 2″ wood screws in to finish it off.


The final touch was pre-drilling for the screw hooks to hold the actual clothes line. I used 4 per side, spaced about 9-10″ apart.


I grabbed the first thing I saw to help give me a little leverage when screwing these in… a paintbrush.


What? It worked.


With the posts finished it was time for the hard labor portion of the program. I used a couple of stakes to plan out where I wanted the holes for the posts to go.


I set it a few feet farther in than this picture shows. The posts are spaced approximately 20 feet apart.

Then, there was a lot of digging…


And a lot of sweating. And more than one instance of spraying myself down with the hose to keep cool.

My intention was to dig 4′ holes, but both the posthole digger and my arms stopped being effective around 38″, so I called it good.


Since I’m a one woman show these days,which makes holding a post level while simultaneously filling a hole in…um, difficult, I put a couple of inches of dirt back in the hole and tamped it down to help hold the post in place while I adjusted it.


This worked surprisingly well. As did my post level, which I’ve had ever since installing my first fence back on Garrison Road many years, power tools, and one buzzed haircut ago.


When she was good to go poured half a bag of quickcrete in, mixed it with a little water from the hose, and let it set up for a few hours. I probably could have used a full bag in each hole, but considering how deep the holes are and the fact that my soil is mostly clay and gravel, it will probably be fine.


After a few hours I half-ass strung the line up because a.) I was excited to try it out, and b.) I wanted actual dry sheets to sleep on that night.

Unfortunately I didn’t have any clothespins so I had to make do…


It may be touch-and-go around my house for laundry supplies, but I always have wood clamps.

What became very clear at this point was that using brute strength wasn’t going to get the line as tight as it needed to be, so I bought a couple of $3 tighteners and some hooks at Lowe’s.


So. Here’s the part of the project where I roll my eyes so hard that I fall out of my chair.

See this?


I made the poor assumption that the diagram on the back of the package was indicative of how the product actually worked. Silly me.

I taped the end of the line, threaded it through the tightener as shown on the picture, and it. did. not. work. for. shit.

I made my not-amused face at it for a good minute before it occurred to me that things would make much more sense if I threaded it backwards.


Yup. When you pull the line the barrel moves out of position, freeing up the bearings so the line can move through the tightener. When you release the barrel is pulled back “inwards” and the bearings clamp down on the line.

Ingenious product, asinine packaging.


I used a small hook to attach the tightener to the post which was useful in allowing the line to drop below the level on the post when I pull on it to tighten.

There are two separate lines here that are tied off on one hook, run down to the other post and back, and are then run through the tightener.


And that’s it.

Let me tell you something… I can’t believe I’ve gone thirty-one years without line-dried sheets, which are exactly what I imagine it’s like to fall asleep in heaven. Fresh country breeze scented heaven. Sorry Downy, but you’ve got nothing on the smell of the great outdoors.

God, I love living in the country.

91 Responses

  1. I’m STILL busting a gut over the clamps for clothespins!!! Nice save! Around here, clothespins are for closing potato chip bags. 🙂 But, while line dried sheets ROCK, line dried towels do not. At least they didn’t at my grandma’s house. She probably thought fabric softener was from the debil.

    1. Send towels for a little spin in dryer when you bring them in. They keep the freshness but not the stiffness.

    2. Snap the towels before you hang them for some odd reason it seems to help soften them up.

  2. That’s pretty badass. I feel like you get WAY more done in a weekend than me and I often have my dad to help. Kudos to you!

    1. My productivity is usually hit or miss, but when I’m on, I’m on. I think it’s adrenaline from having a big deadline looming and a lot of money on the line… but I know some day soon I’m going to crash big-time, and then it will take me 3 weeks to hang a picture on the wall. I’ve learned to embrace it!

  3. I am laughing so hard at the “installing my first fence back on Garrison Road”. Dearest readers, if you did not know Kristin back then, you’ve to read it. Ohmygeez! I loved that house!

  4. Love those clamp clothespins!
    Question: how do you keep those longish fingernails with all the work you do? Mine just get in the way and filled with gunk. Although they do make handy scrapers.

    1. The fingernails, like this mop of hair on my head, are strictly a lack of personal maintenance. lol. I can’t tell you the last time it occurred to me to actually cut them, they just end up tearing off eventually. And I’m sure are very often filled with gunk, I’m just so used to it by now, it doesn’t register.

  5. Yah, don’t you find that line dried stuff is scratchy?

    Not to mention likely to be bird pooped on.

    If I could solve those problems, I’d never use the dryer again.

    1. So, I haven’t been using the clothsline for that long, but I think the degree of “scratchy” has to do with how much wind there is and the type of fabric.

      My “jersey” shirts, skirts, and dresses are always fine no matter what, and as long as there’s a good breeze going (and out here, there usually is) I don’t notice any stiffness in the other stuff.

      BUT just yesterday there was no wind and my towels felt like cardboard! I just tossed them in the dryer for 10 minutes on low though and then they were fine.

    2. Also, the birds are way too interested in destroying my garage to care about my clothesline, apparently.

    3. I’ve had line dried clothes my entire life, maybe that’s why I like my stiff cardboard towels. Good exfoliation! I’ve never had a bird poop on my clothes.

      1. Never had a bird poop on your clothes out on a line? (!!!)

        I have had a bird poop in my coffee when I was holding it in my hand watering the garden.


  6. I love this! I had one in my back yard, but I had to take it down because it was rusted through in many places. Plus, I didn’t feel particularly comfortable airing my goods outside in the middle of the city!

  7. There is nothing better than sleeping on air dried sheets. My kids would complain about the towels and you can just run them on “fluff” to make them softer, big babies. 🙂 I don’t have the room for a line, darn it, but I bought a wooden clothes horse and am enjoying the savings, the smell and the independence from the grid.
    Birds were a problem during choke cherry season, when they would get drunk from the berries and poop purple on the 100% white sheets. Boy, did my mom get angry, but I thought it was funny.

  8. I can completely empathize with you on digging post holes in 100 degree weather. We had to dig 16 at 42″ deep each for the wrap around deck we’re building on our house. I feel your pain!

  9. “Use clamps for clothespins” now in my “Info Per Kit” list

    Grew up using clotheslines even in the winter in the basement and there’s nothing that can compete with the fresh smell.

    Unfortunately, where I am there’s way too big of a population of the teensy tiny pin-head size deer ticks that carry Lyme disease…been there done that x2…sticking to dryer!

  10. I love your clothesline pins SO much! Seem a little pricy or I would just use those instead of wooden ones!

    I love clothesline dried sheets, and jeans and most shirts. But NO towels. I can not stand how stiff and scratchy they are. My cousin told me to add a little vinegar to the wash cycle to help with that, but I haven’t tried it yet!

  11. I have clothesline strung around the posts on my deck because I am not handy at all but need air dried sheets in the summer! My towel trick: vinegar as fabric softener in the washer (it also makes the towels more absorbant). Then I cheat a bit and throw them in the drier for about 10 minutes before folding. Not scratchy, and if you use those dryer balls or a couple (clean!) tennis balls in the dryer they keep that outdoor smell!

  12. Wow great in-depth breakdown there. I do believe DIY is the way forward whenever possible so take as many tips as I can. Would have been up for this project if it wasn’t for the terrible weather we’ve had here in the UK which means a clothes line so far is out the question! Will keep this in mind for the future though.

  13. We currently live in a townhouse so a clothesline is out of the question for us. But I do like the romantic feel to having a clothesline filled with white sheets in the backyard.

  14. I love the wood-clamps-as-clothes-pins. Did you know they also work to hold the doors of a 32″ shower enclosure shut? Both of the doors on my shower have lost one of the wheels that hold them in the track. When I want to make sure they don’t collapse on my daughter while she’s showering, I just clamp ’em up. One of these days I’ll get around to replacing the shower, but that means ripping out the walls, then I might as well take up the floor, but then I’ll need to redo the kitchen floor which means I might as well redo the kitchen…I’m fully on-board with your project escalation.

  15. I have lived in apartments now for a long time, while I can’t say I miss line dried clothes, I do miss being able to take an area rug out and give it a good beating. For clothes I don’t want to put in a dryer; I just hang them up in my bathroom shower and on the plus side they are already on hangers and are then easy to put away. If I shower first then my clothes have hours to dry before I need the shower again. When I have my own house someday I might figure out how to rig a line up between two trees or a tree and the garage that can be easily taken down without harming the tree. I foresee only wanting to use it a few times a year, so I wouldn’t want it to take up much room in my backyard, which will probably end up being small (I hate cleaning and so want a small place).

  16. I grew up and still live in the country. Though I don’t anymore, I can still remember when we used to hang our clothes out to dry. Those memories are awesome.

  17. I love diy projects but I don’t appreciate u makn comments about a hillbillys teeth. I am a hillbilly from Tennessee and I don’t no why people think we don’t take care of our selfs so I don’t that was funny but I do appreciate the info on makn a clothes line

    1. Here… Wood cost $35 and hardware $20 and cement ummm half price because bags were taped but mostly there… $15.

  18. Thank you for the tutorial!! I love the finished product. I lucked out though, my boyfriend has an auger for his tractor so no post hole digger here. Seems funny though, I am usually a totally a hands on person and don’t use any “shortcuts” or easier methods but, I guess if they are available, why not use them. Again, thanks for taking the time to post this and I will be checking back in with other projects you do.

  19. Hey Kit,

    Thanks to your great post here, I now have my first fabulous clothesline since we lived in Michigan – two homes and two states ago. Love being back in the Midwest; Arizona low desert isn’t really conducive to dust-free dry clothing. My husband and 15-year-old son put this puppy up for me on the 4th of July, and while my husband scoffed and said he’d be going the full 4′, my son got the last laugh when defeat was admitted at… you guessed it, 38″. Love building memories into, well, building.

    Anyway, just wanted to wish you a fantastic Independence Weekend at Liberty House… on Independence Farm? Just a thought… unless you got a great name for it from your readership already.

    Build on!
    p.s. Also got two fantastic 12′ sections of pantry shelves built in my basement this week… Now off to buy the floor jack to stabilize the floors to hold all the books!

  20. Over here in Australia, almost every home has a clothesline, when I lived in Florida my neighbours were amazed when I told them we used solar dryers. Our problem is that I’m of average height, and my partner is a fair bit shorter. She loved our clothesline at our last house, while I cursed mightily every time I hit my head on the frame. So in our next house, which s currently being built I intend to make a similar frame, with the lines on pulleys. Then there only needs to be one low spot, and she won’t have to move the washing basket constantly.
    She always give the towels 10 minutes in the dryer before putting them on the line and uses fabric softener in the rinse, and our towels are famously fluffy.

  21. So, a year and a half later – how is she holding up? My concern is the posts eventually moving/angling inward with that much tautness. Great tutorial BTW.

  22. Hello: This project looks so much like one my grandfather installed in our backyard so many years ago. The only difference is our clothesline poles were set in cement; how much more difficult would that method have made your project?



  23. My mom always line dried our clothes when I was growing up. I loved that smell!!! As to our “unmentionables” her trick was to hang the sheets, pants, shirts and such on the outer lines and the personals on the inner lines in-between. Now that I am retired and have way more time in my days I plan to put up a clothes line here for hubby and I. wonderful smelling clothes and savings on the electric bill, double score!!!!
    Thanks for this wonderful post!

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  25. Thanks for this. I just finished my clothes line following this post. Came out great!

  26. PS: I used your pictures as a guide but two things, I knotched (spell? wrong? I think it looks better with a K don’t you?) I knotched the post (I have a miter saw) where they crossed about an inch down, and… I had some PVC “fence” laying around that was 4 inch square and a fraction (so it slide over the 4 by post just barely) and cut them into five foot sections and when I dug the hole (sigh…) I cemented those in which made it a lot easier to make sure the plastic posts were perpendicular with the center of the universe rather than those T post (BTW… I felt very biblical when I was dragging them out to the hole…).

    I don’t know how much these PVC fence cost, it can’t be much, maybe you have a neighbor who is replacing his with a cedar fence, they are handy if they are free…

    When the cement was dry (100 pounds sackrete per hole) I cut the plastic section two inches from the cement and dropped the T posts into the hole.

    In theory… I can pull them out come fall when here in Oregon we get less sun than they do in the Artic circle on Christmas day… And I can run over them with a mower which I use to pick up the clothes pins I drop over the drying season and teach my dog to stop following me around while I mow the lawn.

  27. You are my kind of woman! I am impressed. You sure saved me a lot of thinking. With a few simple changes my clothesline turned out beautifully. We have the same saw horses and some of identical tools in your pictures. My wife is so proud of her clothes line. If I wasn.t married I would be knocking at your door.

  28. I’ve been waiting for 20 years for a clothesline. No more waiting for the man to do this for me. I guess I was waiting for Kit to show me how to do it on my own. Hey Kit, what kind of wood post did you use (species). It’s really gorgeous. Looks like a hardwood type. I was surprise you didn’t mention treating the post nor using concrete to hold in the post in the ground. Any insight? thanks. kahnej

  29. I’ve been after my husband to help build a clothesline, thanks to your blog I think he’ll come home to one being done. Every time I use the dryer my head spins spins just as fast as my electric meter. I despise paying for electricity when you the outside air is free.

  30. Loved it! I want to make one for my mother, but might have to improvise with just one post with the tighteners going from post to balcony stairs. Lack of space. Eh. What are you going to do? lol.

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  32. This is definitely a “kick azz” clothesline! I have also used this same design/concept for my Kiwi Vines!

  33. I remember when the clothes would freeze and I had to bring them in from the outside and let them thaw on the table. But they always smelled great coming in from outside.

  34. Your directions and supplies are, bar none, the easiest and most cost effective I’ve found. The construction looks rock solid. Good dose of humor sprinkled in makes this a keeper. Thanks for sharing!

  35. Kickass, indeed ! Thanks for sharing your top notch plans. Waiting up here in Maine for the snow to back off so I can attempt this project.


  36. Well amazing have one question I’ve jst built same but not with screws as I got told stick board at bak of post drill holes put clothesline nylon threw so did washing dry tht day but second go was bit heavier washing as restretched nylon so tightern it as much as I could being weak female but doing tht now pole has started bow sag inwards between poles and not sure how to stabilize it as concreted wondered if you had any suggestions as thought maybe digging hole post out break concrete redo but put two reforcement stakes so doesn’t resag again when heaver washing gets put on . but any suggestions be grateful as can’t afford builder so have try do and hard being invalid but u do what have do. But hope hear back with suggestions as did think maybe get clamps hamerto post and tighter outwards till xcomes restraight again. Say because long line tht common thing but can’t see how when yours looks roughly same length except top t is different were minds hammered frm bank post make letter t not on top. Thanks hope hear bal asap

    1. Your posts should be set at least 3 foot deep to avoid pulling inward. Concrete also helps, particularly if you have loose, sandy ground. You could also put a tension line down to a stake off the back side of them and that might help. Best of luck!

  37. Just wanted to let you know that I have had the link to this post bookmarked for a while, and finally built it this past week! We paid our neighbor kid $50 to dig the holes though – best money we ever spent 🙂 Thanks for the inspiration! Picture of it will be posted Friday on my blog!

  38. Kit – your instructions list “4 1/4 x 6″ lag screws. Is this correct? Or should the screws by 3/4 x 6” ?

    Thanks !

    1. well, i should have typed 1/2 x 6, not 3/4 – aren’t the 1/4 screws to small?


  39. I like the way you think. HOWEVER for much added strength I bolted the cross pieces to the back of the upright. Thus not relying on the lag bolts to hold it but rather the strength of the upright itself. MAKE SENE DON’T IT???

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