Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.
Although the image of freshly washed items fluttering in the breeze on a backyard clothesline might conjure up a bygone area, there are plenty of reasons to buy a clothesline in modern times—for one thing, you don't even need a backyard to own one.
A clothesline might be a necessity if you're traveling and need to wash items on the go, or if your dryer breaks down. You might also just love the feel and smell of clothing and linens (especially sheets!) that have been dried in the sunshine. Some articles of clothing, especially delicate items, can't be placed in the dryer. Finally, clotheslines save energy and money: According to the eco-focused nonprofit Green America, if a family stopped using their dryer completely, they'd reduce their carbon footprint by up to 2,400 pounds and save about $100 on their electric bill.
You don't have to abandon your dryer completely, but you might think about upping your air-drying game with a new clothesline. When you're shopping for one, you'll need to make a few decisions ahead of time. The most crucial one is, obviously, figuring out the ideal location—this is especially important if you're planning to install it permanently—as well as how much space you have and what type of surface you might use for support.
You should also consider the materials: Metal brackets may withstand the test of time better than plastic ones and help prevent wet clothing from sagging towards the ground. For the actual line, some prefer the strength of steel, while others like polypropylene rope, which is lightweight and resists mildew but may be slippery. If you're going for old-school cotton rope, make sure you'll be able to swap it out once it starts to get funky or fray.
Here, the best clotheslines to consider for a mix of different situations.
Best Overall: Honey-Can-Do 5-Line Extendable Clothesline, White
Length: 170 feet | Material: Steel | Style: Retractable
Can be used indoors and outdoors
Doesn't come with a pole or post
With lines made from tough, galvanized steel, this five-line setup is a true workhorse. It can be set up indoors or outdoors (many people attach it to a side of their home), and the lines can be locked at any length, making it completely customizable. Each line can extend for a maximum of 34 inches, giving you a total of 170 linear inches of drying space. It's also not an eyesore: When not in use, you can easily retract the lines, so they're tucked out of sight. You'll get all the installation hardware you need, although some buyers also opt to mount it on a wooden strip for extra support. Note that it doesn't come with a pole or post, but you can purchase one separately.
Best Budget: Room Essentials 12ft Retractable Clothesline
Length: 12 feet | Material: PVC with a nylon rope | Style: Retractable
20-pound weight limit
Must be screwed into the wall
This unobtrusive, hotel-style clothesline is so affordable, you could scoop up several and add them to your laundry room, basement, bathroom, and patio. It offers 12 feet total of hanging space as well as an impressive 20-pound weight limit. It retracts when not in use, and the length can be adjusted to fit your space. It's made from PVC and has a nylon rope that will resist mildew, though you'll probably want to let it dry fully before putting it away. You'll get all the hardware you need for installation.
Best Outdoor: Brabantia Rotary Dryer Lift-O-Matic
Length: 6 feet | Material: Steel | Style: Umbrella
Holes for clothes hangers
Pricier than other options
If you have a spacious backyard and love the idea of a rotary-style clothesline, this one from Brabantia is a popular option. The height is adjustable from about 4 feet to 6 feet, and when it's open, the dryer will spin if there's a gentle breeze, which will help clothing dry more quickly. The circular design means that the lines will stay taut, so you won't have to worry about sagging, and at the lowest setting, you can use it to air-dry bulkier items like cushions. The arms have holes that are meant for clothes hangers, and this is a good option for delicate pieces that you might not want to hang on the metal lines. It comes with the ground spike you'll need for installation, a bag of clothing pegs, and a protective cover that can be used when it's folded down (picture a patio umbrella).
Best Retractable: Minky 30m Retractable Reel Clothes Washing Line
Length: 98 feet | Material: Polypropylene construction with PVC coating | Style: Retractable
Easy to clean
Prone to sagging
This retractable double clothesline, which can be removed from its mounting mechanism during the winter months, is both wallet-friendly and effective. It has a suggested weight limit of 55 pounds. At maximum extension, it offers 98 feet of drying space across two lines, but you can adjust the length based on your preferences. The line is coated with weatherproof PVC that can be easily wiped clean and dried. All installation hardware is included. If you choose this clothesline you'll be in good company, as UK-based company Minky also has a Royal Warrant to supply products to both the Queen of England and the Prince of Wales.
Best Foldable: Crate & Barrel Large Folding Drying Rack
Length: Not applicable | Material: Epoxy-coated steel | Style: Foldable Rack
Comes fully assembled
Doesn't hold as much as other options
If you're pressed for space, a stand-alone drying rack is a smart, space-saving substitute for a traditional clothesline. This one, which comes fully assembled, is made from rust-proof epoxy-coated steel and can hold up to 40 pounds of laundry. It's lightweight but also sturdy, and the top bar locks in place so your clothes won't end up in a damp pile on the floor, which is a risk with less expensive models. It folds flat, so you can easily store it under a bed or next to your washer.
Best for Sweaters: Rebrilliant Three-Tier Hanging Sweater Wall-Mounted Drying Rack
Length: Not applicable | Material: Mesh | Style: Wall-mounted rack
3 cubic feet of space
Mesh shelves for quick drying
Only holds 10 pounds
Sweaters can be tricky to dry: If you drape them over a classic clothesline or drying rack, they may lose their shape. This cleverly designed piece fits over a shower rod and has three mesh shelves that allow sweaters and other delicate knits to dry flat. (Of course, you can also use it for lingerie, face masks, or other small, delicate items.) It only holds 10 pounds, so you'll need to choose your clothes carefully, but the convenience makes it a worthy trade-off. The rack itself weighs less than a pound and offers 3 cubic feet of drying space. It folds flat and down to a very compact size (just 10 inches by 10 inches).
Best for Hotel Rooms: Lewis N. Clark Latex Travel Clothesline
Easy to secure
No need for clothespins
Prone to sagging
Length: 6 feet | Material: Latex | Style: Adjustable
Want a packable option to stash in your suitcase? This 6-foot adjustable option can be secured using either suction cups or velcro straps. It weighs only 2 ounces and comes with its own nylon pouch and carabiner, making it ideal for travel. The straps add major versatility since the clotheslines can hang between tents at a campsite, around a hotel room doorknob, across the shower, or anywhere you need to hang wet stuff. The line itself is made from triple-braided latex tubing, so you won't need clothespins—you can simply tuck in the clothing, and you're good to go.
Best Splurge: George & Willy Hanging Drying Rack
Length: 4 feet | Material: Wood and aluminum | Style: Ceiling rack
Doesn't take up floor space
Simple pulley system
Might need to have it professionally installed
Beautiful and useful, this gorgeous clothes-drying rack hangs from the ceiling and is crafted from timber and aluminum. You'll use a simple three-pulley system to raise and lower the rack, and you'll get all the hardware needed to set it up. (The company recommends hiring a handyperson for installation since it hangs from the ceiling.) It measures roughly 4 feet long by 2 feet wide, so you'll have plenty of overhead drying space. George & Willy is a New-Zealand–based company known for their Kraft paper rollers and letter board signs.
Our top pick is the Honey-Can-Do 5-Line Extendable Clothesline, White (view at Amazon), which can be set up inside or outside, wins big points for being roomy, is retractable, adjustable, and not outrageously overpriced. If you just need a simple clothesline that won't blow your budget, the Room Essentials 12ft Retractable Clothesline (view at Target) is a solid option, with 12 feet of drying space and a 20-pound weight limit.
How much weight can a clothesline hold?
The clotheslines and clothes dryers above have a wide range of suggested weight limits, from 10 pounds up to 55 pounds. How much weight your clothesline will be able to hold will depend on several factors, including installation, the number of ropes, and the distribution of items across the line.
How do you keep a clothesline from sagging?
Most clotheslines will start to sag over time. The simplest fix is to undo the mounting hardware, pull the rope taut, and re-install. If that doesn't work, you may need to add another item such as a clothesline tightener, a ratchet, or a turnbuckle. During daily use, you can prevent sagging by hanging items properly and using several clothespins to prevent drooping. For extra security, some people also mount a piece of plywood and then secure the clothesline onto that.
Can you line dry all clothing?
Some items, such as sweaters, may have care instructions that say "lay flat to dry"; these should never be line-dried as they may stretch and lose their shape. Other reasons to skip line-drying? If you have especially delicate or vintage fabrics, you may wish to dry them inside, as they may be more prone to ripping if they're upended by a sudden wind. Some items are also extremely heavy when wet, so you may want to keep them off the line or tumble dry them for five to 10 minutes before hanging them up. Finally, remember that the same sunlight that bleaches whites can also fade your colorful clothing—keep those precious, brightly-hued items either inside or in the shade.
Why Trust The Spruce?
Lexi Dwyer has written about clothes hampers, dryer sheets, and eco-friendly laundry detergents for The Spruce.