Rotary, Retractable and Folding Clothes Lines – What Type of Clothes Line is Best For Me?

There are two main types of clothes lines, Outdoor and indoor. Indoor clotheslines come in basically three different types, Wall mounted, Ceiling mounted and Free Standing frames. Outdoor clotheslines come in four types, Folding Frame or Fold down, Retractable, Fixed Head Rotary and Folding style Rotary.

Outdoor Models.

Fixed Head Rotaries at a glance.

  • Strong and robust.
  • Massive line space.
  • Galvanized wire lines.
  • Good space between lines.
  • Aluminum winders.
  • Needs a lot of yard space.
  • Can be unsightly.
  • Permanently fixed.

Fixed Head Rotary. Fixed head, means that the clothesline can rotate around but cannot fold down and away. Traditionally, Fixed Head Rotary clothes lines are the clotheslines of choice being found in many homes. They are the old style galvanized types with four permanently extended arms that usually wind up and down. You may find that your parents once had or still do have one of these styles. All though these clotheslines have traditionally been the most popular in times past it does not mean that they are the best choice for today. For example more styles of clotheslines have been invented since your parents day and backyards and family needs have changed since then.

The negatives.

Fixed Head Rotary Clotheslines are best suited for yards with a lot of space. The typical Fixed Rotary can have an average of a 4 meter diagonal span with at least an extra 1 meter needed around its revolving perimeter for laundry to blow about. Fixed Rotaries can blow and rotate around a lot in strong winds so you don’t want your expensive laundry items getting snagged on fences or rose bushes etc. Homes these days are usually much smaller in the yard space than the old days and sometimes trying to fit one of these lines into your yard can be a very difficult task indeed. Fixed Rotaries can also be a very unsightly view either with clothes on them or not. So if you live in a neighborhood with prying eyes or you are a very house proud person then take this on board. These days, modern Fixed Rotaries can be purchased specially colored to help make them a more attractive feature for your yard. Because the lines get shorter and shorter as you move closer to the middle of the clothesline, this means that if you wash a lot of sheets then you can only use the outside lines as the inner ones will not be wide enough.

The positives.

Strong and robust are words that they are usually described as. Fixed Rotaries normally have no plastic parts, but sometimes the gear case can be plastic. Usually the gear case which winds the clothesline up and down is made from aluminum which is weather proof and strong. The winder is a help full tool that allows the user to raise the line to help sheets clear the ground, and to lower to aid the user in removing or adding laundry. Folding Rotaries also have this feature. One of the biggest reasons to use one of these lines is because of the massive capability to handle large amounts of laundry at one time. So if you have a lot of people in your home, more than 4, then a rotary will handle your loads. In addition to this, the wire that the clothes are pegged to are made from galvanized steel and so they are much longer lasting than the cord type of the folding or retractable styles. The lines are usually spaced much further apart from each other allowing plenty of air flow between sheets or larger laundry items. This aids drying times. Most Fixed rotaries are available from 4 meter spans up to 6 meter spans with the 6 meter having around 60 meters of line space. Wow, you will probably need to live on acres and have 20 or so kids to justify using one of these. They are usually used in blocks of units or flats nowadays.

Folding Rotaries at a glance.

  • Folds away.
  • Removable.
  • Good line space.
  • Winders.
  • Fits in smaller spaces.
  • Less space between lines.
  • PVC cord.

Folding Rotary. These are basically a modern updated version of the Fixed Head Rotaries but come with features not seen on the old style Fixed Head Rotaries. Such as, the ability to fold the arms away and the complete clothesline removes from a ground socket (usually has a safety cap) and can be stored away to add space to the yard or to remove unsightly clothes lines from a visitors view.

The positives.

The obvious one here is the fact that they foldaway and can be removed. This great feature style usually has a smaller head diameter span, ranging generally from about 3 meters diagonal span to about 4 meters. This is great news for people who need a lot of line space but don’t have enough yard space to fit a Fixed head version in. The line space is still quite large being usually between 40 meters of line space and 50. This is great for families, especially those with youngsters who love playing in the mud. Folding Rotaries usually come with a winder as well to help the user reach the line and yet still raise the line up to keep sheets from dragging on the ground, just like the Fixed Head Rotaries. Most higher quality Folding Rotaries will come with sheet separators on the outer lines to separate a sheet while hanging to allow more air passage to speed up drying times. Some even come with coat hanger hooks so that you can more aptly dry expensive clothing to help minimize creasing in the garment. Every Folding Rotary that i have ever seen is colored in a powder coat, usually green but they are available in many colors to suit your home decor. As an out door clothesline they are usually galvanized underneath the powder coating for long lasting protection from the elements.

The negatives.

All Folding Rotary clothes lines these days come with only a PVC winder as opposed to aluminum ones that are found on the Fixed Rotaries. The reason for this is so that the total weight of the clothesline is minimized to aid the user to remove the clothesline from its ground socket and store. These winders are usually pretty maintenance free though and easy to wind up and down. For a Folding Rotary to actually fold, they need to have the PVC cord style lines in order to be flexible enough to enable the clothesline to fold up. These lines don’t last as long as the more durable galvanized steel wire lines and they can stretch as well. Most higher quality Folding clothes lines have a line tension lock to help keep lines tight. Another negative is that the lines are closer together than the Fixed models. This does not allow drying to be at its optimum compared with the fixed models. The reason they are closer together is to allow for maximum line space and minimum head diameter. A lot of cheaper versions of this style have a lot of plastic components which are totally unnecessary. Choose a higher quality line if you see this kind of feature too much as plastic deteriates in the sun. Black plastic usually has the best UV protection.

Folding Frame clotheslines at a glance.

  • Most popular line style used today.
  • Many variations.
  • Great space saving.
  • Lines close together.
  • PVC lines.
  • Smaller line space.

Folding Frame or Fold Down clotheslines. These are the most popular and modern looking of all types of clotheslines. A fold down is exactly that, it is a rectangular framed clothes line that folds down when not in use. Usually mounted to a wall they also come with optional ground mount kits for use where no suitable wall space is available.

The positives.

These are very discrete clotheslines which, when not in use are not very noticeable especially when they are purchased in the color of your choice to match your surroundings. There are so many different sizes and formats of Fold Down clotheslines that there is one for virtually any conceivable place that you want to put them. Some are big enough to suit a whole family, some will fit on a unit balcony or inside in a laundry, some will fit in narrow passageways of about 1 meter wide. When folded away, which is a “one click” operation, the Fold down takes up virtually no space whatsoever This is why they are so popular because the average space outside in the average home is shrinking. Most higher quality lines come with sheet separators for aided drying times and line tension locks for nice tight lines. Folding frame clotheslines have one advantage over Rotary style lines in that they have the same length lines from outside to inside which is great for lots of sheets. Some manufacturers Fold downs cannot fit queen size sheets on them so make sure that you buy a model that can if you need this.

The negatives.

Folding Frame Clotheslines don’t always have enough line space for large families but if chosen carefully they can full fill the requirements of the average household. The biggest Folding Frame clothesline with the most line space that i have seen is the Austral Addaline 35, with 35 meters of line space which is usually adequate. Some times two Fold Downs are needed to make up enough line space for the users needs. Fold downs don’t have metal wire lines, they use the PVC cord style lines which can stretch and don’t usually last as long. High quality brands usually have a tensioning device for tightening the lines. The lines are closer together than a Fixed Head Rotary and Folding Rotary.

Retractables at a glance.

  • Good line space.
  • Long and Narrow.
  • Out of sight.
  • 4 configurations.
  • Can droop.
  • Max/min length req.

Retractable Clothes Lines. Retractable clotheslines come as a cabinet with usually 4-6 cord style lines inside that retract out and attach onto a hook at the receiving end. Retractables can be used in four different configurations, A. Wall to Wall. B. Wall to Post. C. Post to Wall. D.Post to Post.

The positives.

Retractables are great for hiding the clothesline when not in use as they retract back into their cabinets and some higher quality units come with removable posts as optional and color co-ordination. Its always easy to find a spot to use a Retractable as they are generally only about 800mm wide and so wall space or garden space is usually in abundance. Retractables can pull out from their cabinets from just 1 meter up to about 10 meters. Some cheaper models have restrictions on the minimum and maximum retracting length requirements so make sure you research your product first to make sure that yours will do as you want it to. Retractables are great for narrow passageways and small areas. The line space varies obviously as the distance retracted is customizable to the users requirements. When fully extended, most quality Retractables have a line space of between 30 meters and 50 meters.

The negatives.

You really need to do your research on the brand you buy as their are literally hundreds of cheap nasty retractables around. Make sure you purchase one that has a metal cabinet as this is usually the first sign of quality. After this you will need to check on the Retractable minimum and maximum line extension capabilities. You don’t want a clothesline for a 4 meter span if it retracts a minimum of 4.5 meters or the other way around. Over larger distance the line tend to droop a bit and sheets can drag on the ground. Tip, always put your larger, heavier laundry items at either end of the clothes line rather than the middle.

Indoor Clothes Lines.

Indoor clotheslines are usually used for those rainy days or when you are living in an apartment block. These clothes lines are available as Free Standing Units, Ceiling Mounted and Wall Mounted. Some outdoor styles such as small fold downs can be used in laundries and garages. These are the most popular and are usually of a higher quality than the other styles. Ceiling mounted clotheslines are great for space saving as well, usually retracting back up to the ceiling when not in use. Free standing clotheslines usually collapse away to be stored when not in use and can be used outside as well. Most indoor clotheslines are very small in line space, light in construction and generally not as useful as an outdoor clothesline. The exception is the Fold down clothesline. Almost any size Fold down clothesline can fit in your garage providing excellent line space and out of sight drying.