The Best Basement Clothes Line Ever




Introduction: The Best Basement Clothes Line Ever

About: JerseyHat is a career architectural drafter, CAD jock and lifetime hobbyist woodworker. I am one of the volunteers at our community makerspace, an analog guy learning how to apply digital tools.

We hang our laundry to dry whenever we can, year round. Why spend money on natural gas or electricity when evaporation is free? You can do the same quickly, inexpensively and easily.

And: it doubles as a closet rod for storage or drying clothes on clothes hangers. Here's how...

Step 1: Using What? Using EMT for Your Clothes "lines" and Rope for Hanging It

EMT (Electrical Metal Tubing) is the key. EMT is inexpensive metal tubingusually used to protect electrical wiring inside buildings. It makes a great "clothes line". They come in 10' lengths for about $6 US each. 3/4" EMT won't sag when loaded with laundry and they hold both sides of big items like sheets and blankets apart to dry faster.Forget the clothes pins with this arrangement!

The EMT might come from the store with a very light oil coating on them that you don't want on your clothes. One thorough wiping down with alcohol is enough.

If you cut EMTs with a hacksaw, file the cut end smooth inside and out. Who wants an exposed sharp edge?

Step 2: Hang Them Where?

In a typical basement, look up to find the floor joists (the wood framing that holds the floor up). Hold your EMT up to find a good place to hang it at each end. The rope does not have to be at the very ends of the tubing. Some of mine are; some are not. This system works best when the rope hangers are straight vertical.

Put them where you want them, thinking ahead to when they are loaded. Hang multiple tubes about 6-10" (150-250mm) apart for air circulation.

If your basement is "finished", individual ceiling tiles can be lifted up to see the floor framing above. You might have to cut or drill a hole in a ceiling tile to accommodate the hanger ropes, or just remove tiles as necessary. It's your laundry.

Step 3: Something to Hang From

Once you've decided on a spot, all you need is one big nail or screw for each end. Hammer a nail in (I use16d nails - called 16 penny nails in the USA) about 2" (50mm) or more above the bottom of the floor joist. Slant the point of the nail slightly down to keep the rope hanger snug against the wood. (What rope? Keep reading.) Some places will be hard to reach or the wood might be very dry and hard to hammer. Drilling a slightly smaller hole for starting the nail is just fine. The nail only needs to be strong enough to not bend under the weight of your damp laundry; it's not holding up a car engine. Bend the nail up if you didn't have room to nail it in pointed down. The nail just needs to be secure in the wood and holding the rope snug against the wood.

Measure the location of the first nail from a nearby wall or similar straight object if having the EMT parallel to your walls is important to you. Again: it's your laundry. Repeat for each tube you will hang.

Instead of a nail, you could drill a hole through the joist just big enough to easily slide the rope through.

Safety Note: don't hang from existing wiring or pipes! Those utilities are not made to hold up laundry or anything else. You can find a better way.

Step 4: Hanging the EMT (Part 1)

Ordinary rope will work fine. I like 1/8" (3mm) braided nylon rope: it's strong, flexible and reasonably priced. And it's great to have the leftover rope in your parts box. I used tubular nylon webbing for my first tube. That was overkill. Suit yourself.

Make a long loop and knot the ends together. An ordinary square knot is enough, but suit yourself. Pull the knot tight. Loop the rope twice or more around the nail and a couple of times around the tube at one end. The weight of the laundry will keep it from slipping off. Leave the other end of the EMT on the floor for now.

Adjust the height by looping the rope around the tube or nail again if it is too low, or shorten the rope. The tube should be a comfortable height for hanging laundry and above your head. More about that later.

Step 5: Hanging the EMT (Part 2)

Do the same for the second end as you did for the first. But now you want to make the tube level, so step back when it's hanging and just take a good look at it. Long objects immediately look crooked if they're not level. Adjust the second hanger line until you're happy with the level at the other end.

Repeat as necessary. Believe it or not: you're done!

Step 6: Options and Pro Tips

You might want to put protection on the exposed ends. I did on my first and have not bothered on the next three. Again: it's your... you know.

I wipe the tubes down with a damp rag about once a month to clean off any accumulated dust. There never is, but I do it anyway.

Pro Tips:

A couple of minutes of air fluffing (no heat) in the dryer is usually enough to take care of any unwanted wrinkles, pet hair and lint in your clothes. After that, hang the shirts and pants on clothes hangers to let them finish drying. Everything else goes on the EMT. Really.

Our laundry always dries overnight, but you can hurry the process with a fan. It's still way less expensive than running the dryer.

1 Hour Challenge

Participated in the
1 Hour Challenge

Be the First to Share


    • Make It Bridge

      Make It Bridge
    • Game Design: Student Design Challenge

      Game Design: Student Design Challenge
    • Big and Small Contest

      Big and Small Contest



    3 years ago

    EMT is a great idea for the bars! I've had wooden rods and tension rods break under the weight of sweaters but this looks perfect :)


    Reply 3 years ago

    Thanks. In truth, I've had them develop a very slight sag over a matter of years (mostly depending on use), but a half turn of the bars periodically will correct that. A 3/4" EMT is remarkably stout..