Mad, Beautiful Ideas
Sub-$20 Apartment-Friendly Clothesline

My wife loves the smell of air-dried clothing. Personally, I don't particularly care, but I also don't have any direct love of machine-dried clothing either (except for the feeling of fresh-from-the-drier pants). However, we live in an Apartment, second floor, and while there is a lot of grass around our apartment (one of the many benefits of campus housing), the University had no interest in putting up a clothesline, particularly since my wife was probably the only person in our complex asking for it. However, our apartment does have a small deck area, and Landlord-Tenant Law always has provisions for tenants making improvements to the property their renting.

So, we had a small deck, covered from above by the deck of our upstairs neighbors. The design, therefore, was simple. Four eye-hooks and some cord is really all you need, but we found a ~$10 USD cinch that, while being half the cost of the project, was completely worth it. At the time I completed this project, I didn't have a power drill, only a Dremel, but for my needs that was plenty.


  • Drill or Rotary Tool
  • Socket Wrench
  • Sharp Knife/Scissors
  • 4 Circular Hooks
  • Clothesline or Rope
  • Clothesline Cinch (optional)

When deciding on Hooks and line, consider how big your space is, and how many clothes you think you'll be able to hang. For us, we went with hardware that would be able to support ~50 lbs. This was seriously overkill for our purposes, as our deck was really small, but if we move, we plan to take this hardware with us, and to be honest, finding line that's much weaker that that is kind of hard. Consider the ratings of what you're buying, and how much you plan to hang up. At least with the ~50 lbs limit on our line, we can air-dry sweaters and stuff in the fall before it gets too cold. Clothesline - DoubleHitch Knot

Installation was simple. Drill very shallow holes for the circular hooks. These need to be big enough around for you to start the hooks into the wood, but the holes are mostly to keep the hardware going in the wall straight. Find a socket that fits the circular hook, and attach that to your socket wrench, and use that to drive the hooks all the way in. The socket wrench will provide you with the leverage you need to drive the hooks all the way in, and will save your hands from trying to turn them directly. Once all four hooks are in place, choose a corner to tie the line down to, and tie it down using a simple knot. I'd suggest either a bowline, or a double hitch.

Once tied down, just run the line through your hooks, until you reach the other side. If not using the cinch, cut to length and tie down reasonably hard using the same sort of knot as on the other side. You don't want to pull so hard that your hooks (or line) fails, but the line should be as taut as possible. If using the cinch, simply attach the cinch with a short piece of line from the eye hook on the wall, then string the line from the opposite side through the cinch and pull it tight.Clothesline - Cinch Hardware

So, why air dry? Well, the California Energy Comission claims that a dryer is typically the second largest energy user in your household, second only the the Refrigerator. That site estimates the operating costs of a clothes dryer at around $85 per year, or $1500 over 18 years of operation. It adds up over time, no doubt. Plus, some clothing items shouldn't be machine-dried, and the clothesline is exactly what these items require.

I'm not advocating completely forsaking the machine dryer. We certainly don't have room for enough line to make that even possible, and nearly half the year, the weather simply isn't compatible with the idea of the clothesline. But, it does save some energy, provides clothing a fresh clean smell you can't get any other way, and it's an inexpensive thing to do. That $20 price tag I put on this project includes the clothespins.