Clotheslines Across America | Seventh Generation
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Clotheslines Across America

Author: Seventh Generation VT

Alexander Lee of Project Laundry List

Did you know that drying clothes outside on a clothesline is illegal in some states? Alexander Lee has spent more than a decade trying to change this. Founder and executive director of Project Laundry List Mr. Lee says, "I have been working to make clotheslines a ubiquitous part of the American landscape, as they are in most other nations. We launched National Hanging Out Day (April 19) in 1998 and in 2007 we made the front page of the Wall Street Journal for starting a green movement. Today, there is legislation that will make it possible for more people to use outdoor clotheslines being considered in seven states from Hawaii to Maine."

Mr. Lee is now on tour, traveling to nine cities and towns including New York, NY; Philadelphia, PA; and Washington, DC. British filmmaker Steven Lake will follow his every move. Project Laundry List is making air-drying and cold-water washing acceptable and desirable as simple and effective ways to save energy when cleaning your clothes.

Over the next year, Project Laundry List seeks to post a picture of a clothesline from every populated municipality in the United States to Clotheslines Across America. The tour is designed to put pressure on the White House to install a clothesline there once again.

Project Laundry List estimates that more than 15% of residential energy gets eaten up by the tumble dryer and by washing with warm or hot water in the median American household.


Sennela picture
So happy to find this site....I am getting a Sunshine clothesline on Wednesday, and can't wait to start hanging my clothes on it. Love the wonderful smell of clothes dried outside, and the crisp feel is so much nicer than the softness an electric dryer gives.
pbosh picture
I did know it was illegal to have a clothesline in some states - I learned this when I began searching online for a solid clothesline with metal poles for my own yard. It is ery discouraging, and I don't understand it - I think laundry hanging on a sunny summer day is one of the prettiest things there is. I live in North Dakota and this winter has been so mild, I've been able to hang laundry throughout December. Let's hope that politicians and policy makers catch on to the benefits of laundry on the line, from asthetics to energy savings!
DeeEllen picture
Living in Arkansas, with 4 great seasons, I can use my line for 3 of the 4 seasons. Granted, with 100+% humidity in the summer, I'm limited a bit, but not much. Love the smell, the feeling of the clothes, not to mention the constantly-shrinking carbon footprint. My husband was skeptical and didn't want a clothesline marring up our yard, so I got one that attaches to the side of our garage and folds out of view when not in use...less footprint there too. I keep it by my rain barrel and water my plants right after hanging laundry. No one has lived until they go to bed on sheets dried in the fresh air..... Love it.
siouxie12 picture
I suspect that as the economic situation matures (gets worse), more rules like this will cry out to be broken. Foreclosed, empty, abandoned houses in the neighborhood are orders of magnitude more serious than whether one of the homeowners puts a clothesline in their own backyard. When it 110 degrees outside, that's not a time to add heat to the household by using a dryer, nor is a time for adding a load to fragile electricity grids staining under the use air conditioners. Imagine being the leader of the homeowners association suing the homeowner to get rid of a mostly unseen clothesline under all of those circumstances! He or she would look like an utter fool in this these economic/energy crisis times.
BarbGary picture
We have lived in a subdivision in Iowa for 14 years, and the covenants do not allow clotheslines. I have had a clothesline at all of my homes prior to this one. Two years ago, my husband and son-in-law put up the clothesline poles in November 2008, and my biggest treat was to hang my first load in April 2009. So far, no neighbors have reported our blatant breaking-of-the-rules! Fortunately, we have a fence that hides it from the front street, and we have a "burm" that hides the back yard! Why NOT put up a clothesline! They are much more subtle than the monster playground equipment and soccer nets in some backyards!!! I can agree with so many of my fellow-love-the-clothesline-posts! The fresh smell, the daily dose of sunlight, no dryer buzz at you when you aren't ready to get the clothes. I am in wonder why the environmentalists don't push the clothesline idea. Change a few light bulbs? Turn off the TV, computer, etc.? All nice ideas, but the biggest change would have to be not using the dryer when you don't have to. Because I am a self-employed artist, I can deduct a part of our home utility bills for my home studio on income taxes. I didn't get real analytical about it, but I compared our 2008 utility bills to 2009 (our first year of our clothesline). Keep in mind that in Iowa, we had a very long and cold winter in 2009. Even with that, our utility bills were $600.00 LESS than 2008. That alone should be a great incentive to installing clotheslines all over our country. I have to laugh at the posts about hiding the underwear. I usually put ours on a fold-out rack in a spare bedroom, just in case the neighbors don't want to look at the scivvies.
oblongata picture
I have been hanging out my clothes for about 2 yrs...just because I love doing so and find there is no aromatherapy quite so euphoric as that air dried laundry smell...especially when laundered using 7th Generation products & a bit of Borax! I strung a clothes line around my big Frangipani tree and thru' the lattice gate and back it's only 2 lines,each about 12 ft. in length. This area is in our back yard,fenced in,so no worries about violating some sort of code. I also made a little thing to hang small is actually the frame of a small sun umbrella...the material was all rotted off and I immediately thought,"aha! I can use this for little items!" a heavy cast iron umbrella stand it works great! Perhaps does not look too sophisticated, but to heck with that! Everyone's heard of the "slow eating" movement?? Well this is "slow laundry"...As is commented on the other post, there is nothing like climbing in a fresh bed made up with those line dried sheets...Nirvana! AND, our gas bill has dropped considerably. Thank you!
youngdi picture
Every home I have lived in since the early 60's I have put a clothesline in the backyard! Not only is it a money / energy saver, it provides me with great smelling sheets, etc. I still iron my pillowcases and when I have time, I iron my sheets. My guests always comment about the fresh smell of my linens but how good it felt to sleep on sheets that reminded them of their childhood! Americans have, for the mostpart, become very lazy. There is something therapudic about hanging out the laundry. I can't think of anything that I enjoy more when it comes to homemaking. Thank you for starting this movement!
siouxie12 picture
There was an article in Monday's Baltimore Sun about this: "...As greening becomes more mainstream and is encouraged through tax incentives - even the Maryland governor's mansion has solar panels - more people are running afoul of their neighbors, associations and historic preservationists. Safety and security are sometimes cited by the opposition, but the main issue with rain barrels, solar panels, wind turbines, new windows and clotheslines seems to be aesthetics. In response, some states, including Maryland, are considering laws to force neighborhood associations into submission. Jeanne N. Ketley, president of Maryland Homeowners' Association Inc., an advocacy group, said lawmakers have taken action in many states because community associations have been slow to modernize covenants and have not struck a good balance between communities' and individuals' needs..." Check it out here.
StephMac picture
I can't believe some states ban the use of clotheslines. What state are they? I couldn't seem to find a list anywhere? We have been hanging stuff on racks for years, and last year we installed a line in our backyard, as well. Seeing laundry blowing in the breeze is therapeutic, and I also find some items do not have to be ironed, that would be, even if put in the dryer. Cotton sheets and shirts are wonderful when dried outside. I do practically no ironing, and only use our dryer maybe once a week in the good weather for certain items that stretch out if you line dry. In the winter here in NE, we do have to break down and use it more. We use cold water all the time, and have a wonderful large new front loader. Our strategy has made a difference both in our energy use, and our water use. My mother used to say that on a perfect drying day, windy, sunny and dry, that clothes hung up at the beginning of the line would be almost dry by the time you reached the end of the line.
Carriellen76 picture
My washer in my previous home was in the basement and it was so convenient to use the clothesline in the basement. I never worried about rain and could use it year-round. If I got too busy the clothes could hang for a few days without offending anyone. I must admit I have been using my dryer in my new home now because the basement is so damp but once winter brings dryness, I'll hang my clothes downstairs again.
staceygluchman picture
Having grown up watching/helping my mom hang clothes out to dry, I am definitely going to start hanging stuff outdoors at my new home. I think this is a great habit to instill into college students' minds. When I was in college and living in an apartment, it was rough to always have enough quarters on hand to wash and dry. Seeing as I didn't have a deck and couldn't use outside space, I used a drying rack, a few tension rods in doorways, hallways, bathrooms (where ever they fit!), and many backs of chairs. If your child is off at college or you know someone at college, send them a drying rack and/or tension rods. They'll love saving even a little bit of money! And who doesn't like getting a little care package?
Liza Alvarez picture
Liza Alvarez
I live in San Diego and am appalled when I hear my neighbors running their dryers out on the back patio because they are not allowed to hang clothes out!!! Come on!! We have an energy efficient dryer...the sun!!!!!
MotherLodeBeth picture
Grew up in a common sense family where drying clothes on the line was the norm, and still is. Come from a homestead albeit educated family, and no matter where we have lived I have fought to make line drying legal. Sad thing is, many whom I would call 'liberal' on many issues often were the ones who had the new nice homes who did not want clotheslines of screen doors in their neighborhood. Its like the Hollywood folks who have jumped on the green living bandwagon who have huge designer kitchens and home, and wouldn't think of living smaller. We need consistency. Either a person is common sense less in more green living...or they are not. ~Beth~
codis picture
I cannot understand why people have such a problem with clotheslines. Some think it looks trashy. I think the more I see clotheslines, the more hopeful I become. I also used cloth diapers and I would hang them outside where they would dry quickly and then if I wanted to soften them I could put them in the dryer for a few minutes. In the winter I could dry them on a rack in the house. Most new homes have very small and useless laundry rooms with very little space for hanging clothes. Make the "great room" smaller and the laundry room bigger!
CondoBlues picture
Summer pollen allergies prevent me from hanging my clothes to dry. My HOA prevents me from having a permanent clothesline. It's OK, I still line dry my clothes I just do it inside with hangers hanging on my shower curtain rod. I honestly like it better than a traditional clothes line because the clothes are already on hangers which saves a step and the wet clothes add humidity to our dry house in winter to keep static electricity at bay and keep the furnace from working so hard to keep the house warm in cool/cold weather.
Grammakk picture
I have been handing my clothes out for a few years now, reverting to my childhood. When I first restarted this practice, two of my neighbors thought my dryer was busted and offered to let me use theirs. When I said my dryer was fine but I didn't want to waste the energy I got a funny look from one neighbor and a week later the other neighbor had a clothes line. I wanted to buy a new clothes pole to heighten my line when it was full and mine was pretty rusty. I found out no one sold them any more so I bought a 1 x 1 piece of pine and put two nails in the top and it works just fine. Grammakk
LUVBUG picture
AtHomeWithFive picture
I lived in a community where the HOA had to approve everything. (One family was fined for having too many plants in the front yard!?!) I strung lines in my garage and opened the door a bit to allow the air to circulate. No one was able to see, or complain, and I still was able to have my clothesline. It also didn't matter if it rained or not, and with living in New Mexico, having the clothes in the garage protected them from sandstorms.
Jbeaupre picture
When we first moved to Los Angeles from northern France 17 years ago, i began in my new home, as I did in France, hang out my laundry to dry. And how wonderful it was, not to have to move it inside when it rained. Soon after, however, i was told by my neighbours, that "we dont hang out our laundry here", however I kept doing, much to there worry, but now the shrubs have grown and they no longer have to see it. For the holidays, i have purchased for all of our children a clothes rack to use in their apartments and dorms, as they too are used to drying clothes on a rack. Yes, please encourage the White House to hang and use a clothesline, and hopefully publisize it as much as their new dog. Rally to make it illegal to prohibit the use of clotheslines. Who would want to miss out on that wonderful smell of clothes fresh from being air dried outdoors. If people are concerned about fluffy towels or permanent press shirts, that do better in the dryer, have them use it only for 10 minutes and the towels will be fluffy and shirts wrinkle free, hang outside until dry. i commend your efforts and only wish things like this would be normal and easy..
dcsanders picture
I grew up in a suburban household without a dryer in the 60s and so did my husband. When we got married in 1971, it never occurred to us to purchase a dryer until we built our first house in 1981. Only then did we install one as it was against the homeowner's assoc. rules to hang clothes outside. I still used my wonderful wooden racks to hang clothes in my then unfurnished living room! When my son was born in 1977, we lived in a rural VA community by the ocean. I washed diapers every night and hung them out early each morning. Even after years of hanging laundry outside, I did not fully realize the sun's ability to disinfect and remove stains until I hung up badly stained (though very clean) diapers!! In a couple of hours, the diapers were snow white again and smelled wonderful. My son had no rashes or skin irritations. We never used chlorine bleach. We now live in an all adult community in AZ, on a golf course, so again, I cannot hang my laundry outside (though I do cheat sometimes with large items like rugs!) I do have a huge tiled living room which, once again has become my laundry room! I have folding racks of all sizes and materials that hold my freshly washed laundry, even my sheets. I place the racks strategically under my powerful ceiling fan. I actually prefer this method for today's fabrics as they do not hold up as well as the old cottons did and the AZ sun can bleach and fade them easily. My tricks for keeping clothes looking like new and not being stiff and board-like are: Put some powdered Vitamin C (about 200mg) in each washload when filling the machine, and in the softener cup (to go in the rinse water). The Vitamin C neutralizes the chlorine in the public water, (if you don't believe me, test it yourself with a pool tester) keeping your colors fresh and reducing fading. Use 7th Generation non chlorine bleach for everything, but especially for whites!! Amazing!! I even use it as a spot remover. It should win an award for best product ever! Oxy-type products do not come close!! Put clothing in a dryer on very low for about 5-10 minutes with a 7th generation dryer sheet. Remove the clothing promptly, hand shape and stretch the item to remove wrinkles and return to original shape, then hang over a wooden drying rack or for pants and skirts, hang up by the waistband on a hanger with clips. My cotton T shirts and my husband's polo shirts are so nice and soft using this method and also keep their colors. This also avoids the shrinkage factor from full drying. I have clothing pieces that are 5-6 years old that still look almost new using this method. I only use 7th generation products for my laundry and cleaning. Even if I wasn't concerned about the environment, I would use them because the are better than any other products out there, especially the laundry products!!
siouxie12 picture
While waiting for various laws to change, you can substitute. Use a metal rolling rack (the kind some of us have for closet overflows) for a clothesline, at least for garment-sized items like shirts, dresses, towels, pillowcases. Just put damp items on hangers and load them on the rack. Use clothespins or hanger clips to secure towels, skirts, and other items. Use a rope (old clothesline?) to loop and tie the necks of the hangers to each other and the rack's rod, which really helps on a windy day. Then roll the whole thing outside. I would be careful if the day is too windy--you might come back and find that your entire wardrobe has rolled into your neighbor's yard. At least secure the rack to something solid, with no wheels. There are no laws against clothes racks, just clotheslines. Nosy neighbors will think you're airing things out. If you have a yard, you can roll it anywhere in the yard to take advantage of sunshine, or you can leave it on the patio, porch or deck. Just don't pack things on too tightly, because air and sunlight need to circulate to dry effectively. And be careful with animal fiber knits, as the weight of the wet fibers may distort the dimensions of a knit sweater, for example, when it is on a hanger. If an unexpected rain comes up, it's easier to run out and push a rack inside than it is to unload a regular clothesline. Another advantage of this method is that when the items are dry, they are already on hangers! Just shake each one before putting it away, in case insects or leaves have decided to rest.
14erhiker picture
The day this bill went into effect I put up our retractable clothesline that I had stored from a previous house since our HOA did not permit them. However, with the passing of this bill, HOAs in Colorado can no longer keep a homeowner from using a retractable clothesline. With as dry and sunny as Colorado is (even in the winter), it only makes sense to dry clothes outside. Way to go, Colorado!
homemade picture
OMG! I can't imagine not being able to hang my clothes. Now that's unAmerican! As a little girl I helped my grandmother peg and remove clothes from the line. Now as a homemaker, one of my favorite household chores is hanging laundry on a sunny day. Just a couple of days ago I hung out 5 loads (yes with the sheets hiding the personal items). I have a photo of one of our sons at age 4 with his thumb in his mouth standing with his blanket in the other hang against his face waiting for it to dry on the line. No clothes lines indeed! Just let 'em try it here! I'd find a way to hang it from the upstairs windows!
twebster picture
Illegal..STUPID! Ok, dryers are easier (LAZY) and in some states such as VA, WI, sure a clothesline in winter might not be the smartest choice but with a few good months of summer sunshine...think of the energy, the gas bill? Somehow I don't think the big electrical companies are going to jump on this SAVE OUR ENERGY quest anytime soon. End.
missdette picture
I guess I am really old because I still remember making a clothes oin apron for my mom for Christmas one year. Everyone knows you can't leave wooden clothespin on the line if they get rained on it marks up your clothes. I hope Home Depot and Lowes and other building supply stores will start to stock the poles and crossbars so people can make clotheslines at home. I don't like the collapsable ones and can't find anything in my area.
ElizabethCorie picture
I recently moved into an apartment in sunny San Diego. In passing I mentioned to the apartment manager (who also lives in the complex) that we should put up a clothesline. She shockingly said, "NO! We aren't in Mexico!" She also mentioned that she had just replaced the washers/dryers with energy efficient washers/dryers, which I guess was supposed to make me feel better about not being able to put up a clothesline. I was shocked at her comments. I never associated clotheslines with Mexico, which is an absurd and ignorant comment for her to make, and I don't think conserving energy is anything to be ashamed of. When you live in a city that is sunny almost year-round, it should be looked down upon and illegal for people NOT to have a clothesline. I'm glad to see an organized movement to bring back clotheslines, however, it is disappointing that clotheslines are illegal in some states at all! picture
I have very seldom used clothes driers in my life, hung out the clothes on the line when i was a kid & do it to this day. In the ghetto we just moved from I hung up laundry on wooden racks in the house - but we moved way out in the backwoods & one of the first things I did was string clothesline up in the yard - still have the wooden rack for rainy days, and I wouldn't care if the neighbors can see our undies or not. better environmentally & saves electricity too. peace on earth kids.
ellalou picture
I was stunned to learn that clotheslines are actually illegal in some areas----how ridiculous is that! Unfortunately, because of my allergies I can no longer hang my clothes outdoors but I do use the drying racks inside the house for most of laundry. And, yes, I do hang the "undies" on the inside of the racks so no one can see them just as sdunlop525 mentioned. I like to have my clothes hanging in a logical orderly fashion even on the bars. I do have a clothesline hanging off the porch that we use for airing out items, hanging rugs, sleeping bags, tents, etc. I can't imagine a home without one.
sdunlop525 picture
I no longer have a "clothesline" but I do have folding dry racks that I love for their portability. Most people probably don't remember the closely held rules that our grandmothers had for hanging out laundry. "Unmentionables" were always...always....hung on the middle lines so sheets and towels hung on the outer lines would block the view. I still use these rules with my dry racks!
sraser picture
I also live in a community with cc&r's, we can not have a clothesline either. I still hang my clothes out, I have a portable line, I hang my sheets over our patio chairs. I have been using a clothesline for the last 10 years. I love the way it makes our clothes smell, especially the sheets. I can not believe that these communities still have this dumb rule. We need to take into consideration our planet!!! Who cares if we see each others panties, we all wear them.
kbettinger picture
Great article! When we made the decision to use cloth diapers, it was mainly for reducing landfill and avoiding chemicals on our sweet babe's bums. We didn't own a clothesline (no one in our neighborhood has one anymore). We quickly realized (with the second load) that our gas bill was going to defeat any green we obtained. We strung an impromptu line across our deck. The tiny colorful diapers sticking out in the harsh winter landscape. 8 months later, we've upgraded the line and have used it for other clothes. Saves energy and the clothes smell like sunshine when you bring them in!
angibarnett picture
When Google Maps made street views available, I was very excited to see the photo of my home when it was finally up. I was at first a bit embarassed that you can see my clothes hanging on the line in my yard - but I looked closely & there were no visible undergarments. I bet if the Google Maps photographers caught my laundry hanging out, that plenty of other homes got caught "green-handed."
lintom picture
I am thrilled to see that someone is bringing this topic to the public. A year ago we put up a clothesline in our yard and I was amazed to see how much it lowered our electricity bill. There is only me and my husband living here so I don't do that much laundry. I hate to think of all the money wasted drying clothes when our children still lived at home. But a couple of months after installing the clothesline, I attended a home owners meeting for our subdivision and learned that clotheslines are not allowed here. It's one of the rules in the CC&Rs. I informed the other members that I would not be removing my clothesline and there was not too much discussion of the topic. But a month ago all the neighbors received a letter for the HOA president pointing out certain rules in the CC&R that some residents were violating. The clothesline restriction was one of those. I'm waiting to see what happens next, but I am prepared to lead the fight to get this provision removed from the CC&Rs. The world is a different place than it was just 10 years ago when they were first written and they aren't engraved in stone.