Clothesline Bans and Laundry Outlaws (part one of a short series)

My mother-in-law told me that clotheslines are against the law in Salem, Oregon, where she lives.  I checked it out, and it’s true!  Clothesline bans persist in many US cities, and parts of Canada and Europe.  Thousands of homeowner associations prohibit line drying, including the 55+ community where my own dear parents live.  Hmm.  Clothes dryers use 6-10% of household energy, just behind refrigerators and lighting.  Unlike fridges and lights, though, there is an obvious, simple, free alternative.

Well, they ARE a bit shocking.  I am sure my mother would want me to point out that these are not my scivvies, not hers.
Well, they ARE a bit shocking. I am sure my mother would want me to point out that these are my pretties, not hers.

People all over the country are  agitating to overturn clothesline bans.  Meanwhile, when clotheslines are outlawed, only outlaws have clotheslines. My renegade little mom went ahead and strung herself a retractable line across the back deck, and now her scivvies dry happily, waving in the breeze as is only proper.  If you live under one of these ridiculous bans, we hope you’ll become a laundry outlaw too.  If the Clothesline Police arrest you, we’ll hold a bake sale, raise funds, and bail you out.  Promise.

For the rest of us, one of the best things we can do in support of the Laundry Outlaws is to hang clothes out ourselves, cheer for one another’s efforts, and make line drying so NORMAL that the bans will seem as ludicrous as they are. Are your neighbors shocked by the glaring presence of your oversized underthings?  Be nice about it.  Right though you may be, see if you can hang your necessaries a little out of their line of sight.  As Benjamin Franklin put it (he was talking about laundry, wasn’t he?):  “We must all hang together, or assuredly, we will all hang separately.”

For more information, and to take further action, join the good folks at Project Laundry List in the Right to Dry campaign.

For more on line-drying, see my previous post on subterranean clotheslines, and also this peek at the beautiful art in my new book.

This is the first in a short series on laundry.  Next: simple outdoor lines (suitable for those, like me, with an irrational fear of power tools).


  1. Karen

    Our cousins, who live in a subdivision in Wheaton, IL, were actually threatened with fines when they hung out their laundry after their dryer broke. They weren’t making an environmental statement, they have four kids and needed clean clothes while waiting for the dryer to be repaired later in the week. But the financial distress caused by rogue clothers lines on neighboring property values? The humanity.

    1. lyanda

      Thanks Karen. Interesting. Of course, most of the people in the world who use clotheslines don’t to it for ecological reasons, but because they live without power.

  2. Nancy Stillger

    I crawled into my yummy, air-dried sheets last night. There is nothing like it! Yes, we must hang together! (My neighbors in Seattle roll their eyes at us and our chickens. They are afraid a goat is coming next. I am afraid I love my garden too much to go that road though.)

  3. Susan

    Since my parents had the largest clothes line in the neighborhood I was always somewhat embarrassed at our laundry out to dry. She did conceal our unders by hanging them on the middle rows and sheets or towels on the outside rows. I still love the smell of sheets that have been hung to dry. Surprisingly, here in Eastern Washington where we get 300 days of sunshine a year I don’t know a single person with a clothesline.

    1. lyanda

      Oh my goodness, I remember that clothesline! I also remember making little forts and camps between the sheets while they were hanging to dry. Maybe you can start a clothesline movement there on the sunny side of the mountains!

  4. Running through the sheets on the clothesline was a regular part of my summer ritual growing up, and nothing was so good as falling asleep in sheets fresh off the line after playing outside all day. I think the whole fiasco boils down to people being worried about their status. I have a neighbor who actually thinks it makes the development look poverty stricken. I love my air dried clothes for so many reasons, and saving on electricity is a bonus too.

  5. Pingback: Simple (and Beautiful) Outdoor Clotheslines (part two of a short series)

  6. Ed

    What a great post. So many of our political and economic decisions reduce to our sense of aesthetics, what we think is beautiful.

    Clotheslines are beautiful.

    Thanks, Ed

  7. Mary

    It rains so much in Wales where I live, and I always find it strange and a little depressing when I see people pegging out their clothes in the rain… I have come to learn that it might not dry all the way through, but it definitely smells better than washing hung up inside.
    Whenever we get a sunny day here, we put several loads through the washer. I am always reminded of something I heard on the radio, of the mother of the British artist David Hockney who had moved to California. She would have spent decades hanging out clothes in the Yorkshire rain. One of her comments about California: All that sunshine… and not a single washing line!

  8. Pingback: The Stockings Were Hung…On Winter Clotheslines

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