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7 Easy Steps to Install a Clothesline with Pulleys

A clothesline is the perfect way to dry your clothes the natural way – and a pulley clothesline is even better! With a pulley clothesline, you can hang your clothes from one location, making it easy and convenient to get your laundry done. Plus, your wet clothes will be moved further away from you as they dry, giving you more space in your back yard. Follow this guide to learn how to install a clothesline in your own backyard.

Are you looking forward to the warm weather and sunshine-filled days of summer? That sunshine can do more than just warm your skin and give you a daily dose of vitamin D. It can also dry and sanitize your laundry.

There are many benefits to line dried clothes. They smell great, last longer, and are gentle on your clothes. Plus, you can save money on your energy bill by using a clothesline. Here are five reasons why you should consider hanging clothes to dry this summer:

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  1. It’s cheaper than using a clothes dryer.
  2. It’s better for the environment.
  3. It’s healthier for your family.
  4. It’s relaxing.
  5. Line dried clothes smell great!

A clothesline is a very simple way to reduce energy usage and lower your budget. My family has seen an average savings of $50 per month on our electric bill since starting to use a clothesline. Even if weather or time constraints prevent you from hanging every load of laundry, it will help you save money.

A pulley clothesline is an easy and convenient solution to hang clothes to dry. While a fixed clothesline requires you to walk the length of the line, a pulley allows you to hang clothes from one location with your laundry basket while your wet clothes are moved further across your back yard.

This tutorial will show you how to install your DIY clothesline in your backyard. It’s an easy project with a few simple steps.

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install your own pulley clothesline

Purchase Your Clothesline Supplies

Outdoor clothesline kits are available for sale online, but I’ve found that there is always some component to pre-made kits that are cheap or just not a product that I prefer. I’ve listed below the products that I recommend and use for my own outdoor pulley clothesline.

You will find several opinions when it comes to the clothesline supplies that you should use. In particular, people will either be for or against the use of a cotton clothesline.

I prefer the cotton clothesline, mainly because it provides more traction to hold my laundry in place.

Wire clothesline may work for a stationary clothesline, but they allow the clothes to slide too much when pulled on a pulley clothesline. I also don’t think a wire clothesline holds as well when used with a tensioner.

I’ll explain clothesline tensioners or tighteners more in-depth in a moment.

The biggest advantage of a wire clothesline is that it will not stretch, which is a common problem with cotton clotheslines. It will also last longer since the cotton clothesline tends to break down in the sun.

However, the plastic coating on wire clotheslines also tends to break down and crack over time.

I typically need to replace my cotton clothesline once a year. They are fairly inexpensive to purchase, so I still see it as a bargain.

Here is what I recommend for a 100 ft pulley clothesline:

You may be able to find all or some of these supplies at your local hardware store, but I’ve noticed it has become more difficult for me to find clothesline supplies locally. Line drying clothes isn’t as popular as it was 50 years ago, so most home improvement stores have stopped carrying the supplies.

Where to Put Your Clothesline

Selecting the proper location for your clothesline is a critical part of your installation. A popular and convenient location is a back deck, where the elevation will make it easy to keep the line off of the ground to prevent dragging clean laundry through the dirt.

Consider also how far you need to travel from your washing machine. You don’t want to carry a heavy laundry basket of wet clothes several hundred feet to get to your clothesline. Again, it’s a bonus if your laundry room is adjacent to an elevated deck or step for easy use of a clothesline.

You will also want a location that receives enough full sun to sufficiently dry your clothes. If you typically hang laundry in the morning, you’ll want to make sure the area gets morning sun. The same is true if you typically wash laundry in the afternoon.

Avoid overhanging branches to prevent accidental bird droppings from soiling your clean laundry.

Will your neighbors be able to view what is hanging on your clothesline? Would you rather choose a more private location?

Once you have determined approximately where your clothesline will be located and where you will stand to hang your laundry, consider where your second clothes line pulley will be located. This will be the end of your clothesline.

Is there a tree or pole where you can attach a pulley? You’ll need to be able to hang your second pulley level or higher than the first. The higher you can place the second pulley, the better your chances for keeping your laundry out of the dirt.

white and black plastic pulley for clothesline

How to Hang a Clothesline

Hanging your clothesline is an easy process, but it does require the proper installation. It’s important to ensure it is convenient, but not in a high traffic area of your back yard since it will often have clean clothes hanging on it on nice days.

Hang Your Pulleys

Determine where you will hang your pulleys. You will have two anchor points to your clothesline. Most pulley clotheslines are less than 100 feet in length.

Your first pulley should be just above your head at the location where you will stand and hang laundry. You’ll want to anchor the screw hook into a stud on your house. This is the beginning of your clothesline.

The other pulley should be 10 to 20 ft above the ground. Utility poles are a good option for hanging pulleys because you don’t have to worry about tree branches hanging above or shadowing your clothes.

You’ll want to use an electric drill to drill holes for your hooks. Then, angle your long screwdriver in the hook to act as a handle as you twist the screw into the hole. Once your hook is secure in your clothesline supports, you can attach the pulley.

pulley clothesline outdoors hung from a tree

Setting Up a Clothesline

Run your cotton clothesline through both pulleys, forming a loop.

This can be an easy process if you already have a clothesline and are replacing the rope. Tie one end of the new clothesline to your old clothesline, and pull the old clothesline through the pulleys until the new end comes back to you.

Stringing a new clothesline may require two people. You can string the line after your pulleys are hung on the hooks, but you may find it easier to run the rope through your pulleys before hanging them.

Make sure the lines are straight and will pull easily.

clothesline tensioner for pulley clothesline

How to Install a Clothesline Tightener

Do you notice that your clothesline sags after use? Cotton clotheslines will stretch as more heavy wet laundry is hung on it.

To keep your clothesline from sagging, you’ll want to make sure the line is as tight as possible. This is difficult to do when you’re hand tying a knot.

A clothesline tensioner or tightener uses bearings to help you put tension on your clothesline. It will allow you to tighten your clothesline as the rope begins to stretch with use, even while clothes are still on the line.

With the loop end of the tightener facing away from the top of the clothesline, tie one end of the clothesline to the clothesline tightener with a secure knot. Thread the other end through the middle, between the bearings.

If you have any trouble threading the clothesline, try wrapping a little bit of duct tape around the end. Now grip the tightener with one hand and pull the clothesline with the other hand until taut.

When you’re using your clothesline, you’ll stand at the top pulley and load the clothesline starting at the tightener. Your clothesline is full when the tightener stops at the bottom pulley.

You will have to tighten the clothesline for the first several uses as it stretches. This is completely normal. The clothesline tightener will make it much easier for one person to do this by themselves. You can also tighten the clothesline while it is full of wet clothes.

Our first clothesline did not have a tensioner. Hubby and I could barely tighten the line with the two of us, especially while clothes were hanging on the line. I cannot recommend this device highly enough.

modern cloth diapers on a pulley clotheline

Hanging Clothes to Dry

Before hanging your laundry, wipe the clothesline down with a clean rag. I don’t recommend a washcloth because the clothesline tends to rub a hole in the fabric.

You’ll want to have some type of clothespin bag to keep your clothespins easily accessible.

When pinning the laundry, fold some of the fabric over the clothesline before adding the pin. This will give the fabric a better grip on the clothesline and prevent it from falling to the ground when the wind blows.

You can also overlap your clothes slightly so they can share pins, and allow line space for more clothes.

Pants and shorts are easier to pin from the bottom with the waist hanging towards the ground.

Shirts should be buttoned and hung from the bottom.

Dark-colored clothes should be turned inside out to prevent fading.

Blankets and sheets should be folded in half over the line and pinned to prevent dragging.

Dealing with Stiff Laundry

Many people comment that they have a problem with stiff laundry after it has been hung on the clothesline. First of all, try running a cup of white vinegar during the rinse cycle to help rinse out any extra laundry detergent.

In addition to the vinegar, I also run my laundry through the clothes dryer for 10-15 minutes after I take it off of the line. This helps to make the fabric softer while also knocking off any dust and allergens that the clothes may have picked up outside.

This step is completely optional because I realize not everyone has an electric dryer. You may find it helpful if you do have a dryer available. You’re still saving money compared to running a full cycle in the clothes dryer.

How Do I Install a Clothesline Separator?

Install a clothesline separator between clothing items every 10-20 ft to keep the clothesline from sagging too much. A long clothesline that is allowed to sag will cause the laundry to drag the ground, especially when it is wet.

Towels and jeans, which are heavier when wet, will need separators closer together than diapers and t-shirts.

A clothesline separator has two ends, one with a small pulley wheel, and one without. There is no “right way” to use a clothesline separator, but I find it’s easier to place the wheel over the top clothesline, then place the bottom line of the clothesline through the opening on the bottom of the separator. The separator will move with the clothes as the line is pulled.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Will screwing a hook into the tree damage it?

Most screws won’t hurt it. The only metal that could kill a tree would be copper, but you aren’t going to find too many hooks made from copper.

Where do you put the tightener in the line so that it doesn’t get trapped by line separators or pulleys?

On the bottom line. Start with the clothesline tightener at the end and put 1st line separator next to the tightener. When finished, it should be at the far pulley and the bottom line will be full of clothes.

Installing the line tightener on the bottom line will also make it easier to tighten the clothesline when it stretches.

You’ll only ever use the bottom half of your line.

Hang your clothes with the tightener nearest to you, then place a line separator next to the tightener and start hanging.

Add another separator about every 10-20 feet or as the line starts to sag. When the tightener gets to the furthest pulley, put another line separator next to the tightener to keep the line balanced.

What is a line separator?

Serves the dual purpose of holding the clothesline together and keeping it spaced apart. It prevents the line from getting twisted and deters the drying items from wrapping around the line.

By connecting the top of the looping line to the bottom, the line separator also reduces sag.

Is there a risk of a heavy line pulling from the house and making holes or worse?

When you hang the pulley, you need to make sure the hook is anchored into a wall stud.

Our hook on the house is pretty heavy and goes through the siding into a stud. It’s been able to handle a decent amount of wet laundry without pulling out.

What is a clothesline tension adjuster?

The clothesline tension adjuster keeps tension on the clothesline to adjust for stretched lines and prevent sagging that could soil laundry. It is install within the line, so it can be tightened without taking down the clothesline.


I hope that I’ve been able to answer your questions about how to hang a pulley clothesline. It can be challenging to hang your laundry out on a clothesline, but this article has helped outline some of the best ways to do it right!

We’ve covered how to install and maintain your own pulley system for hanging clothes as well as tips for drying clothes on a clothesline.

Now go grab something cold from the fridge while you put up these sheets!

How to Install a Clothesline - Clothesline pulley

How to Install a Clothesline with Pulleys

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Active Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Difficulty: Easy
Estimated Cost: $60

This tutorial will show you how to install your own DIY clothesline in your backyard. It’s an easy project with a few simple steps.


  • 2 Steal Screw Hooks
  • 4″ Clothesline Pulley
  • 200′ Braided Cotton Clothesline
  • 1 Clothesline Tightener
  • 100 Clothespins
  • 5-6 Clothesline Separators


  • Electric Drill
  • Ladder
  • Long Screwdriver


  1. Selecting a sunny location free of overhanging branches where privacy will not be a concern.
  2. Drill holes where you want to hang the the pulleys for the top and bottom of your clothesline. Use a long screwdriver to help screw the hooks into the holes. Hang the pulleys onto the secure hooks.
  3. Run the clothesline through the pulleys, forming a loop.
  4. Tie the clothesline tightener to the end of the clothesline coming from the bottom pulley. Pull the clothesline coming from the top pulley through the bearings in the center of the tightener. Pull the clothesline tight. Tie off the end of the clothesline. You can trim the clothesline if there is considerable excess.
  5. Use clothespins to hang wet laundry on your newly installed clothesline. Utilize clothesline separators every 10-20 ft to keep the clothesline from sagging.

Did you make this project?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram

Are you looking for more ways to reduce your reliance on disposable products, save money, and be more self sufficient? Check out: 8 Ways to Become a Producer Instead of a Consumer

You may also be interested in saving money by making your own laundry detergent. Check out my recipe: Borax Free Powdered Laundry Detergent


Sunday 25th of June 2023

Hi! I am considering trying this out of a window. The back of our house is second story and I think it would work well elevated off the ground. The issue I’m curious about is would it be too uncomfortable to hang the laundry on the line put a window? Do you have any experience with this? Thanks!


Monday 26th of June 2023

It's doable, but I don't know how comfortable it would be. It could be difficult to do with any laundry longer than your arm, such as blankets. And I'm afraid of heights, so there's that factor. LOL


Saturday 3rd of September 2022

I hope you still see this comment so many years after the original post! I’m DYING to hang a clothesline between two of my trees, I have the perfect spot. But. I must be incredibly challenged as I am totally confused when it comes to your the line tightener installation, running through the pulleys etc Well basically all of it haha I am a high level visual person and am totally disheartened trying to understand this. You don’t happen to have pictures of installing the tightener, how it “falls” on the clothesline, but he separators or anything to help a dumb gal out do you? Thanks so much!


Thursday 22nd of September 2022

I get it, and I'm sorry it's taken me so long to create videos for this blog post. If it doesn't rain today (crossing my fingers), I'll get a video hanging my laundry on the clothesline so you can see how everything works together. I'll be sure to embed it here and post it on my YouTube channel.


Monday 10th of May 2021

My pully system was installed so that the nearest pully is attached to a metal pole. The gismo attached to the pole has a rope which can be pulled up the post to raise and lower the level of the pully. I need to re-install a new line, but cannot snake it through, as the line (not the pull rope) came out when it broke. How do I string this contraption?

Lisa Bachiller

Tuesday 11th of May 2021

Hi Sheila. We can't seem to picture out your question. Could you send a photo or something to show us what you are talking about on this email: [email protected]

dave hillis

Saturday 12th of September 2020

Excellent instructions......I appreciate your efforts on this.....


Sunday 29th of March 2020

I really need to start hanging clothes! We live in the sunshine state and are a family of seven, so I imagine this would really help with the electric bill. A pulley system just makes everything seem like less of a hassle.

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