How to make a Solar Clothes Dryer

hanging laundry

My line was sagging until I used a toggle to straighten it, as shown below.

If you are a handy person who has built several houses already, skip this post on how to set up a clothesline. Some folks who search my posts are handyman-handicapped, but it’s not their fault. They are handy-minded people who aren’t handy yet.

So here’s your low tech solar clothes dryer.

clothesline retractor

Retractable clothesline: Notice the round whatsit on top you lock the line around- if you loop it twice it holds better.

Clothesline, pole, hook.  You need a clothesline, and you can buy one with a nice plastic coated retractable line at the hardware store.  That makes it easier to tighten when it stretches and you need to take up slack.

Find a good spot. It will be easier if you can attach one end to a building, so you only need to sink one pole, but make sure it is not an area where people are always coming through. The WWF actually has a wrestling move called a “clothesline,” which involves sticking out your arm while your clearly myopic opponent stupidly runs into it and gets knocked out by a surprising blow to the Adam’s Apple. I have actually been clotheslined while galloping a pony bareback around our house when I was 14. Pretty descriptive reason not to put your clothesline where folks will get injured by it. It should obviously receive full sun and be open to breezes. If you live in a place where people you don’t know are constantly around, you might like to put it someplace less visible, so people don’t see underwear, etc., flapping around in the breeze. My aunt actually asked me not to put my clothesline where she would have to see it. Some of us need reminding….

post for clotheslineYou need to sink a post or two posts thick and strong enough to take the weight when the ground is soft and the laundry is heavy. A 4″x4″x 6′ would be a minimum. You can buy them with a cute finial at a Lowes or Home Depot type store. Would be nice to avoid a Big Box though. Dig a hole using a post hole digger. The link shows a how-to video. You can rent or buy one at the hardware store, or perhaps you have a neighbor who can lend you one. It is a good thing to have.  Lift it up and drop/thrust it hard into  the soil, then push the handles apart to take a bite out of the soil. Keep it going until you have a 12 inch hole at least. If you want to set it in Quickrete it will hold up better. Definitely use a rot-resistant wood like cedar, locust, or a pressure treated post.  Since you want your laundry line to be about 5 feet off the ground, and you know it will sag in the middle, you can’t use less than a 6 foot post. Use a level to make sure you are setting it straight. You should own a level, even if it is a small cheap one. It is quite simple. If you are packing it in dirt, pack it hard and let it settle for a few days. I pushed pieces of broken brick down the hole, and that seemed to work. If you are setting it in Quickrete, which is a ready-mix concrete powder, follow the directions and let it set.

Clothesline post with toggle

Clothesline post with toggle

Get a good strong hook while you are at the hardware store. It has a screw end and a hook end.  Using a power drill, (not too many of us have hand drills any more) drill a pilot hole using a drill bit that is slightly thinner than the screw end of your hook. A pilot hole is a hole that guides your screw in to where you want it to be. It is a bit smaller than the screw so the screw will be secure, but makes it easier than driving the screw into the wood without one. Screw it in by hand, twisting the hook end.

If you do not set your post in concrete, it will tend to lean in from the tension of the clothesline, which will make your clothesline sag.  In this case, get another hook with a threaded shank, drill another pilot hole on the other side of the pole, about opposite where the clothesline is attached. ( Notice I failed to do this.) Get a short, sturdy stake of some kind and pound it into the soil at an angle, using a hammer,  like a tent stake, at least 2/3 as far from the pole at the height of the pole. Not rocket science; just so it will hold. Rather than a rope, which will do, or a toggle bolt with two sections of rope, I used a packing strap of the kind you use to strap things to the roof of your car, with a toggle, so I could tighten up all the slack. It comes with handy hooks, as pictured.

Attach your clothesline by screwing the retracting clothesline housing shown above to the building or other post, tie a loop in the end of the line and loop it over the hook, and lock the line at the retractor. TA DA! Solar clothes dryer.

Clothespins bag

The bag gaps open so you don’t have to fight to reach the clothespins

To use your low tech solar clothes dryer, you will need clothespins. Buy 2 packs of wooden clothespins, a cloth grocery bag, and a double ended snap-on clip. Put the clothespins in the bag, attach the clip to the handles, and snap the other end onto the line. This way it can slide along with you while you hang out the clothes. Don’t leave it out in the rain though, as the bag and pins will mildew.


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