Green Lifestyle

Published on August 5th, 2020 | by Scott Cooney


Installing a retractable clothesline (and tips for use) for saving money and the planet

Along with the heating and cooling and water heater, your clothes dryer is typically in the top three energy users in the home. And compared to the other two, it’s far easier to eliminate many cycles of clothes drying. You can use a foldable drying rack (and here are some effective tips to hang clothes to dry inside if you decide to go that route). In more humid regions, a great alternative to the foldable drying rack is to have a clothesline…though for many reasons (space, renters can’t usually put permanent fixtures in, etc.), a more subtle option may be best.

Enter the retractable clothesline: a simple, elegant, and really effective tool in your journey toward financial freedom. These little devices can save a family of four hundreds of dollars a year, and over their lifetime, add thousands to your bank account.

Retractable clotheslines

These little devices are kind of like a spool – the clothesline itself is wound up tightly within a housing that protects it from weather and keeps it clean. And like a tape measure, you can pull out the line, and then allow it to coil itself back up when you’re done with it. So you don’t need a lot of room!

There are many types of retractable clotheslines. Some have multiple lines. Installation and use tips are similar, so here I just present a simple one-line clothesline.

To install, you’ll need:

  • drill
  • retractable clothesline package (which includes the clothesline, screws, screw anchors, and the hook, pictured below

The clothesline can be mounted to a wall or a beam. In my case, I put two of these up in my carport, from one end beam to another. Since these are small and tucked out of the way, they don’t impact our use of the carport at all, but have all the room they need for when clothes are on them. This created 28 feet of clothesline with no need for permanent structures!

Step 1 – figure out where you want your retractable clothesline, and line it up. Put the clothesline up on the surface you want to bolt it into. Use a pencil to put two dots on the surface AT THE TOP of the teardrop shaped holes in the metal mount on the clothesline.

Those dots are your screw mount holes

Step 2 – drill holes. Drill a small hole (about half the diameter of the screws you’re going to use) on each mark you made. In this case, I mounted this to a 4×4 piece of lumber, so no need for the plastic anchors pictured in the kit above. But if you’re mounting to drywall or another less stable surface than solid lumber, you will want to drill a big enough hole to get the anchors in. The anchors can be gently tapped with a hammer (notice I didn’t say “hammered”! haha) until they are in the hole. Once in, you can use your screwdriver or drill to insert the screws.

Leave the screw about a quarter inch away from being flush to the surface.

Step 3 – mount clothesline. Slide the metal mount over the screws, and then down into place so that the screws are at the top of the teardrop shaped portion of the holes.

Step 4 – screw the screws in. Once the clothesline is hung, use your drill or a screwdriver to drive the screws as flush as possible to secure the clothesline in place.

Step 5 – Drill a hole for the hook and screw it in. Wherever the end of the clothesline is going to be, put in the hook.

And you’re all set! You can now begin using your clothesline.

Tips for using a retractable clothesline

Most of these will seem intuitive once you’ve done it once or twice, but they weren’t intuitive to me!

  1. Pull the clothesline across and hang the end on the hook, then go back to the spool part, and pull some slack, wrap it around the bottom mount before tightening it up by hand…you may have to force feed some of the line back into the spool after securing it around the bottom. The idea is to make sure the line is tight!  
  2. Use clothespins! I tried without…it was a calm day. I left for work. I got home and clothes were all over the driveway and yard. You can buy wood clothespins in batches for as little as a few cents each. Try to get durable ones, though — my experience is you get what you pay for. Cheap ones will rust, break quickly, and come apart more easily.
  3. When you wind up the clothesline after getting your clothes off of it, guide it back in gently (just like a tape measure, it’ll whip back in, and may injure someone). Also, guide it a little left for a bit, a little right for a bit…just so it doesn’t all spool up on one side and cause a clog.

That’s it! You’re on your way to saving money and the planet. Good job!!

How To Use Your Washer And Dryer More Efficiently

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About the Author

Scott Cooney is a serial eco-entrepreneur including being the solo founder of Pono Home,, and CleanTechnica; author of two books; former sustainability consultant with clients including Johnson & Johnson, Eastman Chemical, Wal-Mart, and Duke Energy; former Adjunct teaching the first course in sustainable business in the MBA program at UH Manoa; lover of local, healthy food and especially vegan nachos. Find Scott on Twitter

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