Most efficient way to load a rotary clothesline.

Hi Dopers, just found myself wondering about this the last few times I’ve hung washing out, so figured it’s about time I asked the experts once and for all!

Talking about using rotary clotheslines, outside. and making a few presumptions, namely constant wind speed and direction, and also that all washing consists of uniform sized towels. The washing line in question has 6 seperate, concentric lines, broken into segments of 4 that can hold from inside (smallest) outwards, a maximum of .5, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 towels respectively.

Obviously the innermost line is pointless with this load, but let’s say I had 20 towels to dry, what would be the best configuration?, and generate the most rotational speed, effectively drying them quicker?

Should I concentrate them all on to one quadrant? with a remainder on another? Or should I go all around the outside? Or load up one half evenly to act like a sail?

I hope someone can understand what I’m trying to ask!

I know exactly what you mean and when I was doing a whole family’s worth of washing I gave great thought to permutations and configurations for best drying. I tended to believe in maximum spacing to improve airflow and accommodate access to the sunshine. So I aimed to maximize the stuff around the outer perimeter. Except of course if winds were light and uni-directional with areas of deep shade that could trap wet washing.

I guess I am assuming that faster rotations equals faster drying, which may not be the case… but lets stick with it anyway! best way to load clothesline for maximum rotational speed.

Stop the clock! We had one of those types of clotheslines at the house I grew up in on Long Island in the 70’s. They were supposed to rotate? How so; due to the wind? Ours could be manually rotated but I never, ever saw it rotate by itself. This is astonishing.

I’ve never used a rotary clothesline, but my impression is that the rotating action is to facilitate all of the clothing receiving even exposure to the sun and wind (over time). The effect on drying, whether this happens 80 or 100 times over the course of several hours, I believe would be small. It’s not like the dryer applies a significant centrifugal force, separating the water droplets from the towels.

The biggest variable you can control is to maximize the unblocked exposure of each individual towel to air and sun.

Let’s make the following clarifications:

  • Assume the sun is directly overhead, +/- 3 hours
  • The rung which holds 0.5 towels is rung#1, the rung that holds 5 towels is rung#6

Therefore, I would suggest:

  • Pinning the towels to the lines, rather than draping over the line.
  • For any given quadrant, placing (2) towels on the outermost edge of rung#6, (2) towels on the outermost edge of rung#4, and (1) towel centered on rung #2. This will maximize the distance between all towels, which maximizes air flow. It will also minimize shadows, so all towels can maintain exposure to the sun.

I wouldn’t suggest:

  • Placing 5 towels on each of the 4 longest sides. This would cause the “leading edge” (relative to the prevailing winds) to be the driest, and subsequent towels to be less dry. This would be the best configuration for minimizing shadows, but, my expectation is that the crowding of 5 towels on rung#6 would more than offset this benefit.
  • Placing all towels on one quadrant, or any other unbalanced configuration. Unevenly loading the pivot point will increase friction, slowing rotation. I could also foresee a scenario where the towels “bounce” back and forth between two angles, or, stops completely.

Now I’m tempted to buy a rotary clotheslines so that I can try!

I always assumed the rotary action was to facilitate easy loading of the washing onto the line. You stand in one place and rotate the hoist as you peg the washing in place. In my experience, you need a wind speed that doesn’t often happen around here to make the line rotate by itself, especially if it is evenly spaced around the circumference.

Taking that as a given, then peg the towels on the longest sections. That way the flat surfaces of the towels are most exposed to unimpeded airflow, the edges are adjacent to each other.

This. IMO anyway. I seriously question the Wiki entries claim that they are designed to rotate in the wind. (especially after the kids have been swinging around on them a few times :smiley: )

If you find pictures of them from the 50’s through the 70’s almost without fail there will be a single narrow concrete path leading out from the house to the hills hoist, allowing you to place the washing basket and the peg bucket on the concrete and rotate the line as you hang the clothes.

Personal anecdotes only I know, but in the thirty odd years of living in houses with a hills hoist in the backyard, any rotation with the clothes out on the line appeared purely incidental to me, certainly it was never at a speed that I could see would have any impact on the drying.

In regards to the OP request for a layout, my personal pattern was to maximise airflow, and doing that by only using every second row, (unless you need to use them all) and particularly with towels, don’t crowd the outer ring, leave spaces between the towels. Hope I’ve explained that properly.

Maybe that’s because you weren’t loading them efficiently? :smiley:

I beg to differ though. The line, when at it’s lowest point is sat onto a “Latching Bush”
that contains 1 wind brake, as seen here:

Whilst correct that the user can load the line from one standing position, this latching bush setup is what allows that, stopping the line from spinning in the wind until the line is completely loaded, then the user cranks it up into the air, removing it from the collar and allowing for free, wind driven spin assisted drying, hence the “Hoist” part of the iconic brand name, and the crank handle on the front of the crown wheel.
I am thinking that maybe a capital “I” shaped layout, with five towels on two opposite outer lines, 2 towels spread out on each of the next two inner lines , and 1 on the line that can only accommodate 1 might give the best design for continual rotation given a constant wind speed and direction.
Or maybe 3 or 4 " L" shaped hooks, looking from above along the lines of a swastika, or fan blade arrangement makes more sense? :confused:

[quote=“Jesta, post:8, topic:745038”]

Maybe that’s because you weren’t loading them efficiently? :smiley:

I beg to differ though. The line, when at it’s lowest point is sat onto a “Latching Bush”
that contains 1 wind brake, as seen here:

Oh, is that what the latching bush is for :slight_smile:
Like the other, 40 years of rotary-hoist clothes drying, and they never spun in the wind. Especially after the kids etc etc.

But before the kids bend them, they do rotate like a wind-vane, which is inconvenient when you are loading, which I assume is why they latch into position in the lowest setting.

I would have thought that if the wind was strong enough to rotate it, you would soon be having to retrieve your washing from neighbour’s gardens.

We used one for years and the advantage was always that you could load it without having to drag the basket of wet washing along a clothesline, and you could get a lot of washing hung out in a relatively small area. A straight washing line is much more efficient.

I don’t think the USA version of this clothesline was intended to rotate freely in the wind. This one’s main features were that you could stand in one place to hang clothes and that they could be closed like an umbrella. Note the ad at the bottom of this page:


If you’ll accept the Hills Hoist operating manual as a reliable document, it says:

Well there you go.

If it helps your original question any, the manual had this to say about clothes placement:

The ones here (UK) may be of a different design to the US ones but mine rotates in the wind - also when loading as there is no latching mechanism for it.
Never had any clothes blow off, unlike a straight line.

The downside is that they eventually wear through at the top of the holder sunk into the ground so gradually get lower, bit by bit (6" at a time).

It does take a few years though and they are usually rather decrepit by then anyway.
I do sometimes ponder the best way to load them but always put smaller stuff in the middle, larger stuff (sheets and towels) on the outside.
With towels I think this may be a mistake as they can be very heavy when wet and place additional stress on the whirlygig but in practice doesn’t seem to have a particularly detrimental effect.