Are you looking forward to the long, 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.

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 offer you a significant savings.

A pulley clothesline is an easy and convenient solution for drying your clothes. While a fixed clothesline requires you to walk the length of the line, a pulley allows you to stand in one place while your clothes are moved further across your yard.

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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.

How to Install a Clothesline with Pulleys

  1. Purchase Your Clothesline Supplies
  2. Where to Put Your Clothesline
  3. Hang Your Pulleys
  4. Run Your Clothesline
  5. Install a Clothesline Tightener
  6. Hang Your Clothes to Dry
  7. How to Install a Clothesline Separator

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Install a clothesline with pulleys - cloth diapers drying on a clothesline

Purchase Your Clothesline Supplies

You will find a number of 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.

Personally, 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 with 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 tend 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:

2 Steal Screw Hooks – Amazon | Home Depot
4″ Clothesline Pulley – Amazon | Home Depot
200′ Braided Cotton Clothesline Rope – Amazon | Home Depot
1 Clothesline Tightener – Amazon | Home Depot
100 Clothespins – Amazon | Home Depot
5-6 Clothesline Separators – Amazon | Home Depot

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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 basket of wet laundry 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 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.

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The pulley for your clothesline should be anchored to a secure location like a stud on the house, tree, and/or telephone pole.

Hang Your Pulleys

Determine where you will hang your pulleys. Your first pulley should be just above your head at the location where you will stand and hang laundry. This is the beginning of your clothesline.

The hook is screwed into a stud and the pulley is attached to the hook. 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 pre-drill the hole for your hook. 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.

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One end of the pulley clothesline should be anchored higher than the start of the clothesline, so clothes don't drag the ground.

Run Your 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.

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A clothesline tensioner helps to keep the clothesline tight even after the cotton line stretches.

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 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 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.

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Laundry is hung on the clothesline with clothespins. The fabric can be overlapped to fit more laundry on the line.

Hang Your 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.

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 space on your line 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 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.

Now, 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 detergent.

In additional to the vinegar, I also run my laundry through the drier 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 a drier. However, you may find it helpful, and it still reduces the energy costs of running a full drier cycle.

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How to 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 really 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.

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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.

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Clothesline Pulley Frequently Asked Questions:

1.) Would screwing a hook into a 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.

2.) 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 it at the end and put 1st line separator next to the tightened.
  • When finished, it is at the far pulley and the bottom line is full of clothes. If you’re starting with it on the top by the far pulley, it should be a similar concept.
  • You’ll only ever use the bottom half of your line. With the tightener at the far end, put a line separator next to the closest pulley and start hanging your clothes.
  • Add another separator about every 10-20 feet or as the line starts to sag. When the tightener gets to the closest pulley, the first clothes you hung should be at or close to the far pulley.
  • Put another line separator next to the tightener to help hold the line up.

3.) What is a line separator?

  • Serves the dual purpose of holding the clothesline together and keeping it 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, it also reduces sag.

4.) 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.

5.) What is clothesline tension adjuster?

  • If you wanted the clothesline tensioner to be where you stand when you’re finished hanging laundry, then you would need to install it on the top line of the clothesline.
  • It would be at the bottom pulley when you start hanging laundry and end at the top pulley when you’re done.

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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

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