General Question

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

Do houses in the United States really not have clothes lines?

Asked by FireMadeFlesh (14652 points ) June 10th, 2011

A friend and I were discussing energy saving measures such as home insulation etc. recently. He told me that in the United States, everyone uses electric clothes dryers, and no one has clothes lines outside. Is this true?

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55 Answers

BarnacleBill's avatar

Pretty much true. Some of the suburbs have rules against them. Older neighborhoods may still have them. Most people aren’t home during the day, so dryers are more convenient. I did 4 loads of laundry last night. Couldn’t exactly be hanging out clothes at 1:00 am.

Come to think of it, I’ve never seen the old kind of clothesline, the square thing that looks like an umbrella and turns, for sale anywhere. My mom had one of those. My hardware store sells pulleys you can mount between the side of the house and a telephone pole, because I bought one a few years ago for my backyard.

CaptainHarley's avatar

We have them at a lot of homes in the country, but they’re not very prevalent elsewhere.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

Thanks guys. I wasn’t just meaning a rotary thing, but also wall mounted ones etc. I hang my washing inside, because its too cold to dry outside at the moment, but I never use dryers – everything dries within a day or so anyway.

aprilsimnel's avatar

Yeah, I noticed them going away in the city I lived in during the 80s. They were considered “unsightly”.

My guess is that no one wanted to look like a “hick”.

JLeslie's avatar

Some people do have outdoor clothes lines in the US, but it is definitely a minority. Some housing developments don’t allow them in their covenants, but people are fighing back against that in some instances. But, still, it mostly is not because of some rule not allowing it, it has more to do with convenience and habit of using a dryer, and in many housing situations it is impractical to try and use a clothes line.

In the parts of the country that are very humid it can take forever to line dry inside depending on the fabric, outside is ok if the sun is shining.

Probably most people have some garments they are worried will shrink in the dryer and lay those flat or hang them to dry, or put them in the dryer to get partially dry and then finish by air drying.

In the US the term clothes line is only used for outside, you might want to change your question.

JilltheTooth's avatar

I have one that I sometimes use in the summer, my friends don’t even own a dryer, and most of the houses in my neighborhood have a line. True, there aren’t as many as there used to be, but I’ve noticed that more and more are using them these days.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

That is not true.
I am putting mine back up this week :)

filmfann's avatar

We have one, but it’s just because I am that cheap.

laureth's avatar

In my community of townhouses, we’re not allowed to have them: apparently it looks too low-class. We must keep up appearances of looking pretentiously wealthy, and the place looks like Versailles (which is funny, since it’s the lowest-cost neighborhood in town, without an obnoxious crime rate). But I would prefer to have a clothesline. And a big vegetable garden. These are reasons that we’re looking to move away.

janbb's avatar

I started using one again two years ago as an energy saving measure.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

(US here) Both Mom and the sisters have clothes lines and use them. They also have a dryer for back-up. By the time I started living in a dwelling where I could have one, I was just so accustomed to having a dryer that it wasn’t given a thought. As for the neighbors? No clue. The back yards are hidden from view.

The SO (in England) has a clothes line. It is one of those retractable lines, so it doesn’t detract from the appearance of the garden. He doesn’t own a dryer, despite it raining just about every day.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I live in the country, in what most people would consider a cold climate. Western NY. There is so much brush and tree pollen, anything outside gets covered in dust. In the winter we have a lot of snow and ice. there are also all kinds of critters.
I consider the electric dryer almost free. Why? Because I vent it inside my house where it heats and humidifies the incredibly dry air. I only vent it outdoors during the 2–3 months when we don’t need heat.
Warm climate folks can’t do this.

By the way, contrary to what you see on TV and in the movies our phones do not all have the 555 exchange. ;)

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I don’t live in the country, and I have a clothes line. My grandmother has several, they take up a large portion of her yard, and we live in the same city.
Laundry can never smell as fantastic as it does when it is dried on the line. I have an electric dryer, but I much prefer to line dry my clothes. I hang most of them indoors when it is too cold or wet to hang them outside.

LuckyGuy's avatar

You’re a good person Nef. The mere thought of the possibility of a chance that maybe there might be bird poop on my sheets, gives me the creeps.

trickface's avatar

Outrageous to call a clothes line ‘hick’-ish, or too low class. You’re washing your clothes for christ’s sake.

F ‘em!

Cruiser's avatar

I have a line indoors for certain things and have too many trees outside to allow the clothes to dry before the birds get at em.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@worriedguy that’s interesting, actually. It’s never happened to me. (Knock on wood.)
We have a cherry tree, and this time of year the birds are crazy in my lawn… my driveway becomes a birdy bathroom. Never seems to end up on my clothes, though. Will now that I’ve discussed it, I’m sure. :)

JilltheTooth's avatar

Yeah, @worriedguy , I have the bird-poop issue as well, but most of the time only 1 shirt will get poop-sullied, not a bad trade-off for an entire load. I do take issue, however, with the “cardboard” jeans effect. Downright ouchy.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@JilltheTooth I agree with you on that. I hang jeans to dry, but they go through the dryer on a fluff cycle to soften them back up.

john65pennington's avatar

In project areas, clothes lines are still the main item for drying clothes.

My wife still uses our clothes line to dry clothes. She like the smell of sunshine!

JLeslie's avatar

@worriedguy so you just unhook the vent line thingy and let the heat come into the house?

In case the OP doesn’t know “project areas or the projects” is low income housing. Just thought I would clarify what @john65pennington was alluding to.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@JLeslie Basically, yes. I have a 2000 sqft unfinished basement with a wood burning stove so there is plenty of space for the air to go. I put a 4 ft long piece of 4” vent pipe above the drain pipe that goes out to the septic system. In the winter (9 months) I unhook the vent from the outdoors and shove a towel inside to keep out the cold. Then I hook it to the 4 foot piece inside. I put a pantyhose leg over the end to catch the lint. The house smells great after the dryer runs. There is no waste. Every BTU goes into heating my home. Per BTU, the price of heating oil is about the same as the price of electricity here. They sell switching devices that do this but this method is easy and free.

JLeslie's avatar

@worriedguy I love this idea! Is there any danger? I mean does dryer air have any toxins? Is the only reason we vent outside because of the heat?

LuckyGuy's avatar

Yep. Most places don’t need the heat or the humidity. We do.
There is another big benefit to it. In the winter, you are not sucking in ice cold outside air to make up for the air the dryer pumps outside. Why suck in and heat 0 F air?
There are no fumes from an electric dryer. I would be a little reluctant to do it with a gas dryer although theoretically it should be ok.

Oh and you can fluff up your pillows and down jackets with tennis balls as long as you like. It’s “free”!

JLeslie's avatar

@worriedguy I am so going to do that next winter.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@JLeslie Do it during the heating season when you can use the moisture. No need for a humidifier. When you do a light bleach load the house smells so good – like clean laundry.

lonelydragon's avatar

As others have pointed out, many suburbs are governed by HOA’s that do not allow them. With that said, I do know that some people hang them inside on wall-mounted lines or use stand-alone drying racks.

gailcalled's avatar

Here in rural farm land and second-home sustainable chic, it is considered bad form not to dry clothes either outside on a line or inside on drying racks. I have a line stretched between a black and paper birch. If I chew on a black birch twig while hanging clothes, I get the delicious taste of wintergreen.

blakemasnor's avatar

I live in the city, and I dry my clothes on a line.

jonsblond's avatar

We have a clothesline that is at least 12 feet long and it includes 3 lines. I use it all the time, especially this past week with temperatures in the 90s. My clothes were dry in 5 minutes! But I live on a farm.

We did have several neighbors who used clothes lines in the community we recently moved from. I dried my clothes on drying racks outside as much as possible.

sliceswiththings's avatar

What? Of course we do! I hang my laundry outside as much as possible, and have everywhere I’ve lived.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

We live in NYC and are a big fan of clothes lines. Some people have them here and some don’t. It’s second-nature to me becuase I grew up on a farm in Russia.

FluffyChicken's avatar

Some do, most don’t. You see them a lot more in poorer communities. In the town I grew up in, you can actually get fined for doing it.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I went without a dryer for three years. I had a clothesline. Or 6. It was kind of a PIB during the winter, but we managed.

asmonet's avatar

My sister has one at her house, she lives in Los Angeles. I had one at most houses while growing up in Florida and some in Virginia. I would say most homes do not have a clothesline, but there are certainly a sizable minority who do.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Clothes dried on a line smell soooo good. No fabric softener can touch that smell.

blueiiznh's avatar

For the most part homes do not have them.
I have one for the following reasons:
save money
fresh smell
less stress on clothing

DominicX's avatar

I’ve seen them in the Bay Area in poorer areas, but for the most part, no one in the Bay Area has a clothesline. I can’t really speak for other places, but I’d assume they’re not common here. It seems ridiculous to have rules against them, though, that’s absurd.

What’s interesting is that when my boyfriend’s family moved into their house there was an odd T-shaped metal pole at one end of their yard and it was realized that it was once part of a clothesline; the other end had been removed decades ago.

Allie's avatar

We have one (I’m in Northern Cali). We mostly use it for things like sheets, towels, old t-shirts, etc. I tend to put my regular clothes in the dryer though. I don’t really like how they feel when they’ve been dried on the line – they feel stiff.
@BarnacleBill That’s the kind we have. The “square, umbrella” kind.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@DominicX you didn’t know what it was when you saw it??

@Allie That’s because you let them over dry. Take them down sooner and you won’t have that problem.

Nullo's avatar

Some do, some don’t. A lot of neighborhoods have banned them as unsightly.

sakura's avatar

I really can’t understand this notion of clothes lines being unsightly! I just don’t get it. Isn’t America hot? Here in the UK clothes lines are everywhere and it rains here HEAPS!! I love having clothes that have been air dried, they smell fantastic and it is sooo much better for the environment!
We have a rotary line
I have a tumble dryer in my garage but to be honest I have probably used it 3 times at the most in the past 3 years! We have a clothes maiden that we hang our clothes on in the kitchen if it’s really wet outside, plus we use our radiators, especially in winter, when the heating is on anyway!
Once again I really don’t understand the unsightly aspect?

It’s clean and paid for, washed and care for, so if you don’t like it what do you stare for?

JilltheTooth's avatar

@sakura : The USA is just so damned big that we have every kind of climate, but yes, it’s silly not to have more clotheslines in use.

Nullo's avatar

Neither the warmest day nor the freshest breeze can get terrycloth towels fluffy the way that a dryer can.

sakura's avatar

I quite like towels that have been lined dried, even if they are a bit scratchier than those that have been in the dryer, but to be honest the fabric softner that I use tends to keep my clothes soft, even if they have been lined dried.

tinyfaery's avatar

Call me an energy sucker, but I’d rather use the dryer so I don’t have to iron. And yes, my clothes need to be ironed.

TexasDude's avatar

They do where I come from.

GracieT's avatar

When I was growing up in north western Ohio we (and most of our neighbors) had them. We used them often and I thought everyone had them. Now, though, I’m married and we have a house in a newer neighborhood. We
have no trees in back, so no clothesline in the trees and we can’t put up anything else. I really miss it, and I think that I took it for granted.

Dutchess_III's avatar

It was so fun to run under the sheets….anybody ever got their happy butts clothes-lined??!!

prioritymail's avatar

Many houses in Hawaii have clothes lines, but many do not, too. It’s considered an eyesore by some, a nod to the good ole days by others.

jerv's avatar

They don’t work in the rain, nor any place with lots of people. My apartment complex in Seattle doesn’t have any place to put them, and it wouldn’t do much good most of the year if it did and I didn’t have to worry about losing my wardrobe. The houses around here also lack clothes lines for two of those three reasons.

Rule of thumb; if locking your car won’t stop meth-heads from stealing your radio and pawning it, you don’t want to leave your clothes out where people can (and will!) steal them.

DarlingRhadamanthus's avatar

Americans have clotheslines. They just don’t use them that much. And honestly, I just wish that people would be more considerate of their neighbors when they do use them. I cannot tell you how frustrating it is to look across the wide expanse of lawn, with the birds chirping and the garden blooming to see another big old pair of bloomers waving in the breeze like a ship’s sail come into port. So much for the lovely garden party you were planning. Can’t people just put their clothesline a bit hidden from view, perhaps?

What I find a bit annoying about the UK is that no one has CLOSETS IN THEIR HOUSES OR APARTMENTS. You have to purchase wardrobes and they are so small, nothing fits into them, usually, even when you get large ones. Nothing beats a US closet…which is partitioned off a main bedroom. I miss huge closets or walk-in closets where you can stack your boxes and your clothes. Here you have a wardrobe with one hanging rail and good luck with all your shoes and places to store your folded clothes. There isn’t any space left. Even new houses (newly built) don’t have built-in closets. It makes no sense. Wardrobes are extremely expensive and if you have paid for a new house, shouldn’t it have storage in it??

Why do I mention this? Because while the Brits might have clotheslines….after you dry your clothes….there are no places to put them away.

An alternative to an outdoor clothes line is a clothes rack you can put by a radiator and/or they now make electric ones that will speed up the drying process.

This is one of the only things I find really, really frustrating about living here. Lack of built-in closets…walk-in closets.

sakura's avatar

I lived in nz and had walk in wardrobes I miss it now I’m back in uk, we had to fork out for fitted wardrobes…very expensive…I do have an airing cupboard though for all my sheets and towels. my clothes are hung sooo straight by my hubby they often don’t need ironing!!

blueiiznh's avatar

I also hang things on a drying rack inside year round.
Some people think that drying clothes is unsightly.
It’s somewhat nostalgic to me.
To each there own.

DarlingRhadamanthus's avatar

I didn’t mean to be “anti-clothesline”...it’s much better for the environment. I have a clothesline, but placed it so that it is hidden from view and my neighbors don’t have to stare at my unmentionables when they are sipping G&T’s on their patio!

(I wish they were as thoughtful.)

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