High on my laundry list of things to do has been, well, laundry.

We’ve been going to the laundromat weekly, which has been a) time consuming and b) expensive, costing us from $60-$80 per month, depending on how many turtle-catching pond adventures Giovanni’s pants have been on that week.


I’ve been working on getting our handwashing system set up, starting with a clothesline. It sounds awfully backwoods of me, doesn’t it? But I figure that in the time it takes me to get to the laundromat and back (at least an hour), plus the time at the laundromat (easily two hours), I can wash at home in a much nicer setting without adding carbon emissions. Besides, I’m no stranger to handwashing. I did it for two years in the Peace Corps, and it became just one of those things you gotta do. It even had a certain Zen to it.


Because I think clotheslines can be an eyesore, I had in mind to get a clothesline along the lines of this one, which contains the aesthetic in somewhat of a geometric pattern, as well as in a smaller space. I even found one used, which is how I try to get most of our stuff if we have to buy.


But even used, it’s almost a hundred bucks, and that’s just ridiculous for a clothesline. So we decided to try to make one without spending a cent. I love that challenge–one we’ve been taking on more and more recently. It really changes the parameters and forces you to get creative.

We were going to take a scrap piece of 4×4 post, dig a hole and pour some concrete in it (all things we had left over from the dome construction). But then, while looking for the best location to put it, I beheld this in a whole new light:


This birdfeeder was here when we got here. I had put sunflower seeds in it, but the birds haven’t discovered it yet, so there it sat, just begging to be turned into a clothesline.

One of the permaculture principles is to integrate instead of separate, finding multiple functions for things. By using a structure that’s already existing and finding another use for it fits right into this principle. The bird feeder is right by the garden box, so attracting birds to our eventual garden oasis will help with pest control. On top of that, the water dripping from the clothes will go to the ground that needs it most. Eventually, the greywater from the clothes washing will be routed underground to water fruit trees. Like I said, I have a long laundry list.

Of course, before we could build anything, Mauricio had to do a complete architectural drawing from multiple views.


After I got the picture, we started by gathering up scrap materials from around our site. We created a base by cutting out a hole in a block of wood to put around the pole.



We used struts left over from the dome construction, drilled in holes in the top of the pole, and attached the struts with threaded bolts and nuts, leaving them loose, so they could pivot.




We cut scrap 2x4s at 45 degree angles and then screwed them to the other end of the strut, again leaving wiggle room in the screw for pivoting.





Since we didn’t account for the base also needing to pivot, Mauricio came up with the idea to use paracord left over from the survival bracelets the kids have been making to sell.








We drilled holes every six inches in each of the 2x4s, taped the ends of our clothesline so it would go through, and then threaded the clothesline. We knotted each square to maintain the tension on the line with clothes on it.




Finally, we propped up the base with the right length of 2×4. Removing it lowers the line to be able to hang laundry, then you can push it up for tension. And voila! Our free solar-powered clothes dryer/bird feeder/plant waterer.

Though now that I think about it, maybe I should hope the birds don’t find it. Bird droppings + clean clothes. Hmm.


One thought on “How to Make a DIY Rotary Clothesline

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