Beware the Illegal Clothesline

The other day I was skimming through Facebook and saw an article about a bill being passed to allow people to dry their clothes on a line outside. I was floored. “Is this for real?” I asked myself. As usual, I went into research mode and was shocked to find that there are numerous places all across the country where drying your clothing outside in the sunshine is illegal. Beware! The Illegal Clothesline!

Beware The Illegal Clothesline

I couldn’t believe it. This is right up there with it being illegal to catch rainwater in certain states. The concept is ludicrous to me and I struggled to see the issue from the other side. What is so horrific about drying clothes in the sunshine? Is the line going to suddenly spring free and strangle someone? Will wearing clothes dried by the sun turn you into a diabolical villian? Sure, I could understand how it might be less than pleasant to see your neighbor’s boxers on the line but we all wear underclothes so what’s the big deal? I decided to delve deeper into this and learned that there are now “right to dry” states, along with the bans.

What I learned was that the bans are mostly in HOAs (Home Owner Associations) and the reasons cited for the rules are because it is “unsightly, pose a strangulation threat, and lower property values.” Some lump line drying clothes in with rules that also pertain to ‘trash, junk, and litter,” therefore it is against their rules to dry a blanket or pair of jeans over the railing of your porch, let alone a proper drying set up. Beware, the illegal clothesline enforcers come and common sense is tossed out the door!

Thankfully, at least 19 states have put laws on the books that override silly HOA rules like these. Yes, I called them silly. It is ridiculous to me that people would actively object to clothing drying on the line. Especially…especially when the big draw and mission statement for the HOA is that they are ‘green.’ They make sure people recycle, provide ‘natural trails’ for people to walk on, maybe have a nice little ‘natural pond’ and encourage people to be active in all things ‘green,’ yet fail to allow people to dry clothes using the sun’s power. Others that tout their green superiority ‘allow’ clotheslines so long as they are not visible from…well anywhere. They have to be effectively boxed in so they don’t offend anyone’s view.

In my research (sources listed below), I found something that gave me hope. Back in 1978, the Solar Rights Act  was put into place regarding using the sun and solar power, specifically barring HOAs from doing what they are doing now. Solar access law is something that is not common knowledge to the average American. The fact that you are using the sun’s warmth to dry the clothing by effectively trapping it inside the fibers could technically fall under the laws that govern the “ability to harness the sun’s power” and override HOA rules.

Consider one of these line drying set ups that can easily be taken down if needed!

I also came across a one hour movie called “Drying for Freedom” that looks to be a real eye opener about the energy cost savings our country would enjoy, let alone the impact it would have on the environment from a lack of burning coal and fossil fuels to produce the electricity it takes to dry clothing. Though I was unable to find it for free, it’s just a $1.99 to rent on Amazon. It is also on Vimeo according to the site.

I also came across some old footage about Americans being sold the ‘electric dream,’ as was also mentioned in the trailer for the movie. It intrigued me and I went digging further. Ronald and Nancy Reagan  were part of General Electric Theatre which made sure the media was used to their advantage. It also made ol’ Ronnie quite wealthy. That did help to answer some of the questions I had – “When was the turning point? What made drying your clothes outside in the sunshine filled breeze so deplorable to the point of actual scorn?”

To me, the question of being able to dry your clothes is on par with whether or not you can breathe air. The more we are getting into this homesteading gig, the more I am learning that all the things I want to do, things that were once considered normal behavior, is under fire and there are people actively trying to make it illegal to do just about anything that could be considered self reliant. From growing your own food, to catching rainwater, to being prepared for a natural or man made disaster, it is all coming under fire. I can’t stop myself from questioning everything about how things work now.

I know I am not the only one! Chime in below with your thoughts, suggestions, and opinions! We love to hear from you!

 

Sources

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  1. I always dry bed sheets on the line, weather permitting. Nothing better than climbing into bed and smelling those sheets. Love it. Some clothes also. Drying outside will not shrink your clothes like the dryer. I’d never live anywhere that told me I couldn’t.

    • There really is no comparison to sun dried sheets. Plus, your clothes will last longer than in a dryer!

  2. Clothes lines are great! The clothes smell wonderful, saves electricity, and all the bending and pinning slims the waistline. Also, when using dryer in the summer your air-conditioner works harder. What is not to like about clean sheets blowing in a gentle wind on a warm summer day!

    • In my opinion, there is nothing to dislike about line dried clothes! I look forward to drying on the porch next summer, at the least. If we get enough land cleared out, I will put a line up, too! Thanks for the comment. 🙂

  3. I am almost 69 an i have always hung my clothes out. my daughter and i break out in a bad skin rash from clothes dried in the dryer and besides they stink. give me sun fresh clothing any day.

    • I am finding that clothesline drying is almost a luxury anymore. Well, except for those who look at it with disgust of course. Thanks for the comment! I hope you find more you enjoy reading here, too. 🙂

  4. I live in Vancouver BC, Canada and live in a town house……we are not allowed to hang and clothing outside and if we disobey this rule we can be fined $50. for each offense…………….I hate condo living, can’t wait to move…

    • I can relate to that! We couldn’t wait to move out of the complex we were living in because of their rules and lack of enforcement on everyone but us. I hope it is soon that you can move and thanks for the comment!

      • I also live where I can’t have a clothesline, garden, or rain water collection. We have now bought property and are in the middle of building so that I can have all of the above and chickens and so on.. And the greatest feeling from all of it is teaching my nieces the old ways so I know that they can always make it.

      • I also live where I can’t have a clothesline, garden, or rain water collection. We have now bought property and are in the middle of building so that I can have all of the above and chickens and so on.. And the greatest feeling from all of it is teaching my nieces the old ways so I know that they can always make it.

  5. Nice article with some wonderful resources. About a decade ago (pre-blog days) I wrote a speech describing my enjoyment of doing the chore of hanging laundry outdoors on the line to dry. I actually titled it “Doing Laundry Online”. I have been meaning to transcribe it into a blog post. Your excellent post has given me motivation to do so soon. I’ll visit again when it’s up and let you know. Looking forward to watching “Drying for Freedom”, hadn’t heard of it before. Thanks.

    • Isn’t there? The sun shining on you, green LIFE everywhere around you and breezes tickling as they flicker across your skin. The scent of the clean cloth and watching as nature takes care of your needs. Ahh, it’s magical indeed. Thanks for the comment!

  6. I get really depressed when it becomes to cold to hang my clothes out. When that does happen, I use an indoor drying rack that I set up over a furnace floor vent. Doing that helps add moisture to the dry furnace air and dries the clothes.

  7. You absolutely hit the nail on the head when you said it was about stopping self reliance. We are like the proverbial frog in boiling water, as little by little we have our rights taken from us to increase government interference and control.

  8. I don’t blame a Reagan tho. He believed in Freedom. It is the progressives who want to regulate everything in our lives. I also live with an HOA, but found a shorter umbrella clothesline that I can take down when I am done. Love clothes dried on the line!

    • Please don’t do the political thing when it comes to laundry. Really..?

      In my little progressive world of friends we are all about self-sufficiency, drying clothes outside, homeschooling our children, growing our own food, keeping chickens, riding our bikes, living simply etc. etc.

      Many people on both sides of the political fence ascribe to these values. Perhaps it is the one place where we can agree and come together instead of being nasty and intolerant.

      • Reagan started this for GE and we are living with the results. There are endless laws to take away our right to live without the Company Store. The refusal to allow us to build a home and provide for ourselves is very corporate. I have not used a dryer in over 20 years. I lived in Texas and it was hot! I live in fry New Mexico and my laundry dries fast.

  9. I live on the West Coast, temperate climate, and the ability to line dry my clothes aprox. 9 months of the year. I am the third generation to live in my home, and am proud to say I line dry, heat with wood, preserve much of my food, manage an apple orchard (I started this orchard 16 years ago), and grow 10 varieties of berries, and various greens. All food grown is organic. Concerning sun dried sheets, there is nothing in this world like climbing into a freshly made bed and smelling the sunshine caught within the sheet fibers. Oh boy! Not too mention, the UV light waves also serve to kill many harmful germs. Energy is saved, comfort is increased, and potential germs are taken care of, all by the SUN! This is definitely a win-win situation ♥

    • Homestead dreamer, I can’t believe that this is true! But, it also doesn’t really surprise me! I grew up with a clothes line and just recently started using a dryer cause where we live now is snowy most the year! I’m curious if we have those laws around here…
      I was wondering how long it would take for the big guys to go against being green and like Apple of my eye said, and as I’ve heard before, the sun is one of the best ways to ensure that you’re ridding your linens of germs and believe it or not BED BUGS TOO!

  10. we left usa to Australia and now collecting rainwater and drying clothes on a hills hoist..the norm down here.

  11. I live in a small house and do not own a washer or dryer. I wash smallish items in the kitchen sink then use a ‘Laundry Alternative’ spinner to remove most of the water from the clothes the spinner takes only 3 mins, it’s great, they have them in Europe. I found this one on Amazon. I then hang them outside on the line to finish drying or put them on a collapsible air dryer inside with the fan blowing on them. They are dry in minutes. I take my larger items to my son’s house, however I only need to do this around once a month. I’ve kept my electric bill down and my clothes last longer and smell fresh. Note: White vinegar will soften clothes, help them to last longer and once they are dry there is no vinegar small. Just thought someone might want to know this. ~Drying clothes without the use of a dryer is good for the environment!

  12. I just moved to southern California in the spring and found the “no clothesline” clause in the HOA where were purchased a home. Also the “no diverting rainwater” too, but I did manage to get a rain barrel approved with our landscape plan. Was told, when I asked about the clothesline, just wait till I do my inspection and then put it up after I’ve been here. And hope the neighbors don’t complain. People need to get real with our need to conserve energy and use our natural renewable resources when we can.

    • I find it odd that in a state where much is made of stopping pollution and where every big shot is an environmentalist that such things are forbidden. So much for walking the walking. Sounds like they are all talk.

  13. Besides the energy savings, it’s also very sanitary. The sunlight kills all kinds of germs and bugs from our clothing and bedding for free, with no artificial chemicals.

  14. I hang all my clothes out on the line year round. I live in Colorado so in the winter I definitely rely one the sun to dry them. Most of my clothes have never been dried any other way.
    Nice article and nice to know there are other “old-fashioned fools” who are with me!

  15. ” It also made ol’ Ronnie quite wealthy. ” Your bias is showing.
    Actually one of the least wealthy presidents.

    • That was actually part of an article I sourced. Reagan was the first president I remember as a kid and I recall the general feeling about him as being well liked, even if people didn’t agree with him. So, my bias is not exactly presented here. Thanks for the comment!

    • He did what he did, I see no bias in saying it. It is time for Americans to be more realistic about our leaders and who puts them in office. Most of our worst laws are put in the exact same way. I worked 24 years for the law firms that wrote these laws (paid for by big corporations). Please try not to criticize someone for telling the truth. In this case, Reagan sold Americans to GE. He was an actor and quite amiable while doing it.

  16. I can only hang clothes/sheets out on the line if the wind is blowing the right direction and as long as the hog farm “next door” isn’t running the incinerator. Since it’s a family owned farm that my husband happens to work on I told him to text me first thing in the morning if they’re going to have to run the incinerator that way I’d know not to hang on the line. Otherwise I love hanging bed sheets and those “no drier” clothing items out on the line. Plus I have a honey suckle bush not too far from my clothes line so if the wind is blowing right I get a hint of honey suckle on my sheets! Love it!

    • When SHTF, that last thing you will care about is line drying clothes so I guess no one? This affects the here and now. I don’t know many people sitting around, waiting for S to HTF! 😉

      • No one is sitting and waiting for the Shit to hit the fan. If you don’t prep that’s your business but try not to look down your nose.

        • OK look pal, stop being so defensive. I am not looking down my nose at anyone here. You mistook and misunderstood the ‘tone’ of the reply comment. I DO prep, via homesteading. We are on the same team.

  17. Title is a little misleading. The ‘government’ is not trying to ban lin drying. HOAs generally have these covenants in their contracts, so it falls on the homeowners to READ before signing. Personally I’ve always thought it consistent that if one values their freedom, they would avoid HOAs, since freedom is an anthem to any HOA. Complain after the fact or avoid HOAs.

  18. My family is a bunch of oak trees, so nothing fits if it’s been put in the dryer. I LOVE hanging clothes outside, so they’re not hanging on the shower curtain rod for someone to smush together while they shower (and forget to spread them afterward, then they nearly-permanently-sour).

    Would love to figure out a sure-shot way for 7-10 mph wind to not knock them down off the line.

    • I live in Northern Nevada and line dry my clothes, by necessity. We have had zero luck with dryers and after the heating element went on the last one, we just went back to line drying!

      In reply to your question about wind, I have dried my clothes on the line with the 8-10mph breezes that are the norm around here, in the full-force winds presaging a storm, and everything in between. I have found the best thing to do is fold the clothes over the line to give them balance against the wind. Unless it’s winter (and we get below zero here as well as with snow), the wind will sometimes dry the clothes more quickly than the sun, lol. I also add more clothespins to better anchor the clothes. There is something I love about seeing my sheets at “full-mast” as they dry. Although Nevada is one of those states that prohibits the collection of rain-water (which has to be one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard in a desert state!), clothes-line drying is alive and well (at least in the rural and non-HOA areas!

  19. I don’t ever dry my sheets in the dryer. I hate the dryer smell.. another advantage to having a clothes line is being able to make clothes tents with your kids … grankids or just the neighborhood kids

  20. Great article. We live in WV and are interested in maintaining and learning more about traditional arts that were used when we and our ancestors had self reliance, instead of being babysat by the government.

    We plan to keep our conveniences from day to day, but have started setting ourselves up for when something happens like the couple of extended water system contamination problems we had recently.

    Besides this, we LIKE cooking on a wood stove and over a fire outside, and plan to get better and more practiced with other skills. Thanks for a great article and a great site!

    Jeff Holbrook, CoHost
    The WV Podcast

    • Thank you for the comment! We rather enjoy cooking over a fire, too but don’t have a woodstove. We just bought a duplex and the plan is in about 6-7 yrs to move out and build the dream home (which is rather small, we want lots of land, small house) and live off the rental income. Hopefully it works out. I look forward to having a wood stove again.

  21. Don’t feel bad. My mother lives in a condo. Rules that only certain flowers can be planted. Limit on patio flower pots with NO veggies allowed. No bird feeders. Of course no clothes on railings or shaking out clothes.

  22. Life without a clothes line? I think not…having raised 6 kids, well, that’s a massive amount of linen alone. I cannot get my head around people who have the time or the desire to outlaw something as simple and practical as a clothesline (HOA’s). Line dried sheets will always be in my top 5 best smells in the world!

  23. We live in an area that get a lot of rain, although not as much as Southern Alaska, so I can’t hang out as much as I like. But because of concerns about dryer softeners, laundry detergents and aditives I changed our life; make my own detergent with people friendly stuff, use dryer balls in the dryer and rinse in plain old vinegar. My sheets and towels smell clean, not flowery and our itchy skin has lessened. When I can I dry outside, love it.

  24. We live in the Pacific Northwest and get a lot of rain, although not lide southern Alaska. Because I can’t dry outside as often as I like I deided to do the next best thing. I quit using any additives in my wash (except borax and washing soda), make my own washing liquid, use dryer balls in the dryer and rinse in plain old vinegar. My cloths smell clean not flowery and the whites are white and the colored cloths bright colors. It’s not easy but not one told me life was going to be easy or fair.

  25. Of the practices you mentioned I think the only thing we didn’t do as a family when I was growing up in the 60s & 70s, was to catch rainwater. Of course back then everybody had well water unless you lived inside the city limits. Whether one chooses to recognize the God of creation as our provider or “mother nature”, the idea that it could possibly be illegal to enjoy the earth’s bounties is ridiculous & ludicrous. That kind of thinking, whether just because someone thinks it is visually unattractive, or for any other reason, is just as stupid as thinking that so-called climate change is the cause of terrorism. Anybody who thinks that could be possible is dumber than an empty box of rocks.

  26. Totally absurd… I do understand when its condo living…however there is nothing to stop anyone from using drying racks in their home, open up a window and enjoy! Save electricity etc.!

    I have always used my solar dryer outside in my yard. Just try to stop me! I dont tell you what kind of car to drive, dont mess with me and my solar dryer!

  27. I highly recommend the Drying for Freedom film. I helped organize a community showing when it first came out.

    The main point that I remember from it was when they were interview people who didn’t line dry, was because they felt line drying was a sign of poverty. Why would they hang out their clothes when they had fancy machines and could afford the electricity! They just couldn’t get over the fact that appearance was the only thing that mattered.

    Its ridiculous that we needed it in the first place, but I’m very proud to have Gov. Brown lead my state.

  28. It is ridiculous. Too many rules over pretty issues. I could actually see it in a home associatio, but glad there are laws against it. While we all want to fit in and not offend anyone, there is a limit. Water, air and sun,should be anyone’s rights to have. To be self sufficient is the way it all began. We need a change in lawmakers and get out and vote for those who stick up for our rights. Stop voting in the same people who don’t live by these rukes.

  29. When we went house-hunting we made sure to NOT have an HOA! I wanted to be able to hang my clothes out! When I was at the peak of doing my whole family’s laundry (the kids do their own when they hit age 13) I was saving about $50/month in electric!

  30. Just as an experiment for my own curiosity, several years ago, for a month starting from the after my electric meter was read until it was read again, I did not use my electric dryer. It dropped my electric bill by 1/3. Haven’t used it since. 🙂

  31. If I didn’t live where the air smells weird about half of the time I’d probably line dry big things… sheets, blankets, towels etc. But being so close to the gulf of Mexico where we have lot of fish boats around and in an area where we have a ton of plants that produce oil or petroleum…. I’d smell more like a chemical than using a drier!!

  32. What are your thoughts about a neighbor who leaves his old torn shirts and sweatshirts in his back yard for 3 or 4 days. He ties a rope around two trees near the property line and places dirty old shirts over the rope. He also throws old shirts over tree branches?

    • Hello Curious! Thank you for the question. You asked my thoughts and here they are:

      His property, his prerogative. Part of being in a ‘free’ country is learning to coexist (within reason) and it takes all kinds of people in this world to make it what it is. How would you feel if he said he didn’t like how your dirty, rusty, old garden tools are always laying around? Wouldn’t you be telling him “Tough! Don’t look at it!” and “It’s my property, deal with it.” ??

      Maybe those t shirts are used as rags or something. Who knows? Does it really affect you? How does it harm you? They are his trees in his property. It’s not like he is coming over and putting them on your trees, right?

      My neighbor across the street has a bunch of busted down cars in their yard, a personal pet peeve of mine. I abhor old junked rusting cars laying around, bushes and trees growing up through them (unless it’s a junkyard of course). But that’s their property. It doesn’t affect me, not really. It doesn’t hurt me in any way or impact my life, not in the slightest. Sure, it sucks to look at but I’m not about to think I’m so utterly important or have the authority to demand someone else live to my standards so I can be comfortable. There has to be a reasonable line drawn and the gods know that this country already has plenty enough of people (not to mention the government) up in other people’s business on stuff that really doesn’t matter at the end of the day.

  33. Wow… we hear “rumours and myths” here (in Australia) sometimes about it being illegal to hang out clothes in the US, but we always brush them off as just that… rumours and myths. It hard to believe they’re actually true! I don’t know anyone who would machine dry all their clothes, a washing line here is such a normal site in someone’s yard you notice if it’s not there! I actually live in an area which invented its own sort of washing line… We have a 30-year-old clothes dryer at the bottom of our garden which we use only emergencies. (Like only once this year).

  34. I live in a town home community and feel I paid a lot of money for a home where I wanted to live. It has a pool, tennis courts, golf course. The grounds are kept very nicely, etc. I am an end unit and have a privacy screen on half of my deck.
    Just a few feet yards away there is another end unit – my next door neighbor. They do not have a privacy screen. I live in Maryland, so we have winter. The neighbors moved in in February and as soon as spring hit – they were hanging their clothes outside on a large metal structure as well as over the deck. They dry all of their clothes this way.
    I was going to have a party on my deck on a beautiful evening, but I decided to have it indoors as they had sheets and blankets over their deck, as well as clothes hanging on the hanging structure. It has been this way every weekend when I would like to have people over and sit outside. To me it is unsightly and not conducive for entertaining. No one else does this in the community. Pretty much all you see is nice furniture and plants, grills, etc. I have a call in to the HOA and decided to go online and look to see if I could find out anything. I have seen that states have outlawed clothesline bans in communities. I’m hoping they have to put up a privacy screen and cannot hang laundry over the deck. We do not live in the country – I grew up in the country. We live in a tight community where I not only see their laundry while I’m on my deck or coming out of my house, I can practically reach over and touch it.

    • What’s “unsightly” about clean clothes? It’s not like your neighbors are waving their bare asses at your guests. Get a grip.

  35. What stAtes? Also. What stAtes ban the6 rain water collection? How do you find this information? Thank you

  36. I’ve used clothes lines before and they work fine. However, in my current location, I’ve tried repeatedly and my clothes pick up a musty smell. There’s just something in my area that makes clothes smell unpleasant. But it’s good that I have the right to do it.

  37. It all comes down to taxes. Towns, County’s, States, power company’s and the Government all lose money. The more green the people are the less money we spend the more money the all lose.