Clothes Lines

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Traditionally, the backyard was an extension of the laundry and always featured a big rotary clothes line smack dab in the middle. These days, the backyard is no longer an extension of the laundry, it is an extension of the living room. It is where we eat, entertain and have fun. But if you take away the clothes hoist, where do you hang your washing out to dry?

Burke’s Backyard viewers, Dominic and Sandra, had exactly this problem. Dominic sent Don an email to say that he was at a loss to know where to put his washing line. Sandra was having to make do with bits of string tied between the posts of the pergola. Don looked at the options and installed a new retractable clothes line for Sandra. He also showed how to make your own clothes line (see instructions below).

Clothes line options

Don looked at the pros and cons of different types of clothes lines.

Hoist clothes line

The traditional hoist, while sturdy and functional, cannot be moved out of sight if the area is needed for entertaining. Removable hoists are available, but once grit and dirt gets into the sleeve that they sit in they can be very difficult to remove.

Folding frame

These lines fold down flat against a wall or their own posts when not in use.

Crucifix clothes line

These consist of two wooden uprights with a wooden arm across the top. They are single bolted so that they can pivot one way or the other. These beautiful, rustic clothes lines don’t take up much space and they’re very practical.

Retractable clothes line

Retractable clothes lines are handy for small or narrow situations. The line extends out of a metal holding box to a post a set distance away. The lines retract when not in use.

Single cord clothes lines

Either buy one (you often see these in hotel rooms) or simply use screw eyes to attach a line underneath the roof for just a few dollars.

Clothes line tips

Install the line about 50mm (2″) higher than the head of the person who’s going to use it.
Make sure you allow enough line space for the number of people in the family. Ideally you would allow around 40m of line for 4 people, but the size needed will depend on how often you wash, and the space available for the line.
Some manufacturers produce covers for lines, so that they can be used in wet weather.
Covers for hoist-type lines can provide umbrella-like shade for entertaining.
An extra folding line can be installed in a garage or carport and used to dry clothes on a rainy day, or to dry delicate clothes out of the sun.

Making your own clothes line

Don showed how to make an Edwardian-style clothes line with pulleys, which can be raised or lowered to various heights. The cost of materials for this line was around $30.


– 3 lengths of dowelling, 19mm diameter or broomsticks 1800mm long
– 1 metre length of pine (or ply) 190 x 19mm
– 2 eye screws
– 2 hook screws
– 1 single pulley, 20mm
– 1 double pulley, 20mm
– 1 cleat
– 8-10 metres of rope, 6mm diameter

Tools required

– drill and bits, 19mm auger
– saw
– straight edge
– square
– pencil
– glue
– nails

What to do

Using 190 x 19mm pine, cut 2 lengths 500mm long for the ends. Cut to shape and then mark out positions to be drilled.
Clamp the pieces of timber together and saw to shape. Drill holes to suit the diameter of the dowel (or broomstick). In this case Don drilled 19mm holes.
Sand edges.
Insert dowel (or broomstick) into the drilled holes with a little PVC glue on each end.
Hammer one bullet head nail through frame into dowel, to hold in place.
Anchor two eye hooks (approximately 1800mm apart) in preferred position and then hang both pulleys (single pulley furthest away from anchor cleat).
Screw eye bolts into centre of each end of clothesline.
Tie 6mm rope into each eye bolt. Draw rope up and into first single pulley and then through double pulley. Tie off on cleat, appropriately positioned.

Clothes line ideas

There are lots of ideas for drying clothes and Don is sure that many viewers will have their own ideas. If you’ve got a really you-beaut clothes line idea, Don would love to see it. Send your photo to:

Best Homemade Aussie Clothes Line
Burke’s Backyard
PO Box 929
Willoughby 2068

Further information

6-line retractable clothes lines cost around $150 from hardware stores.
Edwardian clothes line kits cost around $60 from Recollections. Visit the website for store locations: Recollection stores can be found in: Leichhardt/Pymble NSW, Richmond Vic, Adelaide SA, Redhill/Springwood/Maroochydore/Cairns Qld, and Nedlands WA.
Single cord clothes lines cost between $15 and $45 from storage shops and hardware stores.