Gone are the days when the only clothesline option was a simple rope suspended between two trees or poles in the backyard. Today’s market offers a number of versatile clothesline choices for both outdoor and indoor use.
Air-drying laundry on a clothesline is healthy for the environment as well as gentle on fabrics. It saves the energy consumed by an electric dryer, and it reduces stress on textile fibers. Add to those advantages the bacteria-killing effect of sunlight, and hanging laundry on a clothesline becomes a desirable practice. Keep reading to discover the best clotheslines for a variety of laundry-drying scenarios.
- BEST OVERALL: Honey-Can-Do 5-Line Retractable Outdoor Clothesline
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Greenway Portable Collapsible Clothesline
- UPGRADE PICK: Best Drying Rack Umbrella Clothesline
- BEST ROTARY: Brabantia Lift-o-Matic Advance Rotary Dryer, 164 Feet
- BEST RETRACTABLE: BESy Retractable Clothesline SUS304 Stainless Steel
- BEST FOR TRAVEL: Hawatour Portable Travel Elastic Clothesline
- BEST COTTON ROPE: Household Essentials 04800 All-Purpose Cotton Rope
- BEST POLYPROPYLENE ROPE: Ram-Pro 80 ft. Diamond Braid Polypropylene Rope
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Clothesline
While shopping for the best clotheslines, consider the designs, sizes, construction materials, and operating procedures. Because the multiple options can be overwhelming, this article breaks down the important factors to consider and takes a look at the types, materials, lengths, weight-bearing capacities, and portability of the available options.
An array of clothesline types are available to suit a variety of needs and preferences.
- Rotary umbrella clotheslines: Affixed atop a vertical pole, this clothesline resembles the frame of an inverted umbrella with lines between the arms. The user can stand in one place and spin the best umbrella clothesline to hang the laundry.
- Retractable clotheslines: If short on space, retractable clotheslines can be extended for use and then recoiled within their wall-mounted housings. A hook or receptacle base on an opposite wall, post, or pole holds the end of the extended line. The best retractable clothesline options have one to five individual lines.
- Braided clothesline rope: Some users attach the clothesline to a permanently installed upright pole or tree. Braided clothesline rope made from polypropylene or cotton works well.
When shopping for the best outdoor clothesline, look for options made of weatherproof, rust-resistant, and water-resistant materials. Some models also can resist UV damage from the sun.
High-quality indoor and outdoor clotheslines are constructed with a frame made of stainless steel, alloy steel, wood, chrome, or aluminum. These materials are weather-resistant but light.
Polypropylene (PP) plastic and braided cotton materials offer tensile strength to bear the weight of wet laundry as well as resistance to damage from water and rust. Moreover, polypropylene also resists mold and mildew.
Length and Capacity
Most users look for a clothesline based on the amount of clothing it can hold as well as the available space for it. Those with large families or who wash numerous loads of laundry every day may want to search for a clothesline that can not only bear lots of weight but also provide plenty of hanging space. Some users may need only a simple indoor rack to dry a few clothing items at a time.
“Linear hanging space” refers to the full length of line (rope) or hanging bars on all three major types: retractable, rotary umbrella, foldable, or wall mounted.
Similarly, the stated weight-bearing capacity of a clothesline offers a clue about its practicality. For example, a heavy-duty large-capacity clothesline should serve the needs of big families or for drying heavy items like comforters.
An elastic bungee cord is the best clothesline rope for travel. With hooks attached at the ends, the bungee cord becomes a clothesline in either indoor or outdoor settings. It’s lightweight, flexible, and easy to pack.
Although not as compact as a bungee cord, larger folding racks also are somewhat portable. Users simply roll a wheeled rack onto a deck or patio or use it indoors. Folding models stow in a closet.
Finally, for campers and vacationers, collapsible rotary umbrella clotheslines work well outdoors and fold into compact units for packing and transporting.
Our Top Picks
The following recommendations of high-quality outdoor and indoor clotheslines can help users complete both large and small laundry tasks.
Honey-Can-Do’s retractable clothesline can air-dry laundry both indoors and out. Five lines extend up to 34 feet from the wall-mounted housing to provide 170 linear feet of drying space.
To mount the clothesline, simply attach the included hook to an opposite wall, post, or pole. Pull the handle, and five lines emerge from an alloy steel housing. Place the lines over the hook to hold them in place. When the laundry is dry, remove the lines from the hook, and they automatically retract into the housing.
Use this retractable clothesline in a bathroom, laundry room, porch, or balcony. Alternatively, mount it to an outside wall.
- Dimensions: 36.61 inches by 8.54 inches by 5 inches
- Weight: 9.48 pounds
- Material: Alloy steel
- Retracts neatly
- Alloy steel construction
- Large drying capacity
- Saves space
- Requires installation
- Requires an opposite wall, post, or pole for mounting
Get the Honey-Can-Do clothesline on Amazon.
The Greenway portable, collapsible umbrella clothesline provides 44.3 linear feet of drying space and folds when not in use.
Weighing only 4.85 pounds, this portable clothesline unit packs into its included carrying case. It includes ground stakes to hold it in place. The umbrella clothesline can set up on a deck, patio, porch, or in the backyard.
The unit opens to a 39.7-inch square of PVC-coated and pre-corded lines, and its painted aluminum body resists weather and rust.
- Dimensions: 39.7 inches by 39.7 inches by 63.4 inches
- Weight: 4.85 pounds
- Material: Painted aluminum
- Included carrying case and ground stakes
- Ample drying space
- Not as heavy duty as some
Get the Greenway clothesline at The Home Depot or Amazon.
The umbrella clothesline from Best Drying Rack is a substantial, durable clothesline for permanent installation. The upright and horizontal poles are made of steel, and the extended arms are solid wood. The entire unit rotates atop a steel pole.
The standard model accommodates three or four loads of laundry on 106 linear feet of clothesline. With a maximum height of 64 inches, this unit is comfortable for most people. This model requires a circle of open yard space measuring 9 feet in diameter.
For high-volume laundry needs, the clothesline is available in a large version, which holds five or six loads of laundry at once on 183 linear feet of rope. The maximum line height is 77 inches, which requires a 14-foot diameter of open yard space.
- Standard: 106-foot clothesline, 9-foot rotating circle, 64-inch top line height
- Large: 183-foot clothesline, 14-foot rotating circle, 77-inch top line height
- Standard: 25 pounds
- Large: 32 pounds
- Material: Steel and wood
- Durable and sturdy
- Steel and wood materials resist UV rays
- Rotating umbrella design
- High-volume capacity
- Not portable
- Requires hole and pole
- Requires open space for rotation
Get the Best Drying Rack clothesline at Best Drying Rack.
This outdoor rotating clothesline operates like an umbrella. The arms of the Brabantia Lift-o-Matic raise to a comfortable working height of between 50 inches and 74 inches. When the laundry is dry, the ultralight “Easy-Lift” mechanism folds the entire unit toward the center pole. Use the included weather-resistant cover to keep the clothesline dry and clean.
The 164 feet of clothesline provides enough linear space to hang two loads of laundry. Because of the umbrella system, the lines stay taut and never sag. Even when fully loaded, the unit rotates smoothly.
Insert the included metal ground spike into the soil at the ground level. Next, insert the umbrella’s center pole in the ground stake. Remove the unit to mow or store it.
- Dimensions: 4.33 inches (when folded) by 116 inches (diameter) by 74 inches tall
- Weight: 14.22 pounds
- Material: Metal
- Dries 2 loads
- Included cover, ground spike, and peg bag
- Adjustable height
- Not as heavy duty as some permanent umbrella clotheslines
- Requires installation
Get the Brabantia rotary dryer on Amazon or Williams Sonoma.
A retractable clothesline saves space. When not in use, this BESy unit retracts into a small, polished-chrome wall-mounted unit.
Measuring 3.6 inches in diameter, the housing unit protrudes just 1.3 inches from the wall. Mount the included small flat base to an opposite wall to secure the line.
The clothesline extends up to 9.2 feet and holds up to 22 pounds of wet laundry. Made of seven steel wires braided to create one sturdy, non-sagging clothesline, this clothesline is durable.
- Dimensions: Body: 3.6 inches in diameter, 1.3 inches thick; line: up to 9.2 feet
- Weight capacity: Up to 22 pounds
- Material: Polished chrome and steel
- Durable materials
- Concealed when not in use
- High weight capacity
- Installation required
- Requires 2 opposite walls or posts
Get the BESy clothesline on Amazon.
Toss this lightweight portable elastic clothesline into a suitcase or carry-on for use indoors and out. The sturdy stainless steel hooks attach the line between indoor fixtures or on outdoor balcony railings or between two trees.
The elastic bungee-cord line is 70 inches long, yet it stretches up to 10 feet. Twelve included clothespins are made from sturdy, rust-resistant stainless steel, while 14 movable plastic separator clips keep the clothespins and wet laundry from sliding together.
Although not intended to dry heavy items like wet jeans, coats, or bulky linens, it’s ideal for drying wet bathing suits, towels, and lightweight clothing.
- Dimensions: ⅙-inch diameter by 70 inches long
- Weight: 7 ounces
- Material: Elastic bungee cord, stainless steel hooks and clothespins, plastic separator clips
- Lightweight and portable
- Included clothespins
- Included clips
- Quick-and-easy setup
- Not permanent
- Not for heavy laundry
Get the Hawatour clothesline on Amazon.
If scaling back on energy consumption is a motivating factor, consider this 100 percent cotton option from Amazon’s Household Essentials line. Its cotton fibers are intricately braided to create a cord that’s 3/16 inches in diameter and 100 feet long.
In addition to drying laundry, this cotton clothesline is a favorite medium of crafters and artists to make macramé and baskets.
- Dimensions: 3/16-inch diameter by 100 feet long
- Weight: 4.5 ounces
- Material: 100 percent cotton
- Environmentally friendly
- Strong, durable
- Ample length
- Clothespins not included
- Mounting surface or hardware not included
Get the Household Essentials rope on Amazon or Sears.
As an outdoor clothesline, this polypropylene rope from Ram-Pro is treated to resist the sun’s ultraviolet rays, and its fibers are braided around a polypropylene core to provide a tensile strength of 2,200 pounds. Additionally, the fibers are torsion balanced to make them stable. It also resists mold and mildew.
Polypropylene (PP) is a thermoplastic polymer that’s considered safe. It’s approved by the FDA as free of Bisphenol A (BPA). One of the safest plastics on the market, polypropylene is lightweight but durable and flexible.
The polypropylene rope is ¼ inch in diameter and 80 feet long. Since it’s weatherproof, the rope is frequently used as a mooring line for tying boats or on flags and flagpoles.
- Dimensions: ¼-inch diameter by 80 feet long
- Weight: 11.3 ounces
- Material: Polypropylene fibers braided around a polypropylene core
- Great tensile strength
- Resists mold and mildew
- BPA-free safe plastic
- Resists sun damage
- Clothespins not included
- Mounting surface not included
- Mounting hardware not included
Get the Ram-Pro rope on Amazon, Walmart, or Ubuy.
We recommend the Honey-Can-Do clothesline as the best overall clothesline, as it can be used indoors or out. For a permanent option, the Best Drying Rack clothesline is our pick; it offers ample linear drying space along with the convenience of rotating arms.
How We Chose the Best Clotheslines
To begin our research into the best clotheslines, we studied what makes a good clothesline. While reading the product descriptions for more than 20 attractive options, we compared versatility, durability, quality of materials, and value. Knowing that readers have a variety of needs, we looked for high-quality clotheslines to suit a range of scenarios.
First, we searched for both indoor and outdoor clotheslines. Then, we considered those that install permanently as well as those that can retract or fold for storage. We considered weight, tensile strength, and linear laundry-hanging space. Additionally, we considered several space-saving options for small-space living as well as portable models for camping or traveling.
Air-drying laundry reduces energy consumption and the wear on fabrics from a hot electric dryer. Moreover, drying laundry outdoors gives clothing a pleasant fragrance.
Q. Is it better to dry clothes outside?
Drying clothes outdoors in the sun and air gives them a delightfully fresh smell and helps save electricity. Fabrics receive less stress when they’re dried outdoors than when dried in a hot electric dryer.
Q. Is it legal to hang washing out in the United States?
Yes, it’s legal to hang washing outdoors; however, consult your homeowners association’s rules or rental agreement as well as state and local ordinances.
Q. What size cord should I use for my clothesline?
Clothesline cord is generally around ¼ inch in diameter. The length varies depending on personal preference and the available linear space to hang laundry.
Q. Is it bad to leave clothes hanging outside overnight?
It doesn’t really damage clothes, but consider the potential for dew, mist, or overnight rain, which would affect drying.
Q. Does it matter if washing gets rained on?
If the clothing is washable, rain probably won’t damage the fabric. If fabrics stay wet for extended periods of time, however, mildew and mold could begin to grow.
Q. Do retractable clotheslines sag?
To prevent sagging, don’t overload a retractable clothesline. A steel line is best.