How to Choose The Best Retractable Washing Line
A lack of drying space is a common problem in many households, but there are several styles of washing line available that work in smaller areas.
Wall mounted lines save on floor place regardless as to whether they’re retractable or not; but retractable wall mounted lines really ensure not to encroach on the space when they’re not in use.
There are advantages and disadvantages to each different type of retractable line, as well as other information worth knowing. All of this is detailed in the following guide:
Benefits of a Retractable Washing Line
Retractable washing lines are a great option for those who don’t want a washing line permanently strung across their garden. They can look a lot neater than other lines, and once retracted they often become virtually unnoticeable.
These lines are also compact enough to be hung indoors, in laundry rooms or bathrooms, and can therefore be used to dry washing even when the weather is bad outside.
Certain retractable washing lines can be placed above radiators, making it easy to dry washing without the help of a tumble drier in the winter.
On a similar note, using a retractable line can also save you money. If you currently rely on the tumble drier because you don’t have enough space for an airer or washing line, having a retractable line will give you an alternative method of drying clothes.
Different Types of Retractable Line
The main types of retractable line on the market are as follows:
- Covered units that contain a spool of line. The line is pulled out and secured on hooks, creating a temporary washing line. After use, the line winds back on to the spool.
- Units that have a similar appearance to standard rotary washing lines but are wall mounted and fold up neatly against the wall when not in use.
- ‘Concertina’ style lines that have solid bars and pull out from the wall to create a horizontal rack.
Spool Washing Lines
These washing lines can offer a large amount of hanging space. Whilst some units only have one spool inside, other models can have two. The length of the line will depend on the model, but it’s possible for each spool to hold approximately 15 metres of line. If there are two spools in one unit, this will give around 30 metres of hanging space.
This is one of the primary benefits of a spool washing line. The other main benefit is how compact the main unit is, and how little space they take up. Buying a spool line that is housed in casing is a good idea to keep the line clean and dry, even if it does make the wall unit slightly bulkier.
These lines need to be attached to a strong wall because they can be put under a lot of strain. Attaching to strong fence posts will also work, but anything too flimsy may result in the unit pulling out of the wood. Hooks to loop the line over are attached to the opposite side of the garden.
The biggest disadvantage of spool lines is that they can sag under the weight of heavier items. In the ‘troubleshooting’ section below there are some tips on how to stop this from happening.
Wall Mounted ‘Rotary’ Lines
Whilst these lines aren’t technically rotary lines, because they don’t rotate, they bear an aesthetic resemblance when open.
They often have around 24 – 26 metres of drying space, which is generally suitable for one load of washing.
Some designs are stronger than others, and it all comes down to the quality of their construction. They tend to be made of aluminium because it is light and helps the retractable mechanism work well without weighing down the line. However, aluminium isn’t as strong as steel, and often these lines can struggle to hold lots of heavier items like wet towels.
When open, these lines can be quite large, often with 100 cm + space on each side. Therefore, they tend to be big enough for hanging larger items like sheets, if folded once.
The main disadvantage of these lines is their strength, and the other is that they require quite a lot of wall space. Although they don’t use much room when retracted, they require quite a lot of clearance space along the wall once open.
Concertina-Style Retractable Lines
A lot of concertina-style lines can be surprisingly strong; they are often made of a combination of metal and plastic. Of course, it’s often hard to tell how strong a line is without actually using it first-hand, which is why it can be useful to read customer reviews online before purchasing a specific product to see how it performs.
For the most part, concertina lines can extend outwards up to around 60 cm, and often they remain reasonably sturdy even when items are hung on the bars furthest from the wall unit.
Because of their horizontal design, this style of airer works well when positioned over a radiator inside. They’re often made from aluminium and plastic-coated steel, which also makes them suitable for use outside.
One of the main advantages of a concertina-style dryer is that it can be used at any extension length; it doesn’t need to be fully pulled out if you’re only drying a couple of clothes. Therefore, it only takes up the necessary space required.
However, these units do take up the most space when not in use. They require around 1 metre of horizontal wall space and often protrude to around 25 – 30 cm even when fully retracted.
Choosing a Line Which is Large Enough for Your Needs
Check the capacity of the retractable clothes line to make sure it can hold as much washing as you need.
Washing lines and airers state their capacity in metres and kilograms so this will give you a good idea if it will meet your requirements.
Those with between 25 – 30 m of drying space can hold one large load or two small loads. Those with 50 m of drying space will be able to hold multiple loads at once.
On a concertina-style line, or a rotary-style line, you should check how much space there is between the arms. If you’re hoping to hang out larger items like sheets, this measurement will give you a good idea of how much room there will be, and how many times you’ll have to fold sheets when hanging them.
Troubleshooting Your Retractable Line
Occasionally, certain styles of retractable lines can come up against specific problems. Below are the most common problems that come up for spool lines and wall mounted ‘rotary’ lines, as well as how to combat them.
Troubleshooting Spool Lines
Spool lines can sag which can make them frustrating to use, especially if clothes start to drag on the floor. Here are a few tactics that you can employ to stop your spool line from sagging:
- Don’t position the wall unit and hooks at the maximum distance away from each other. Even if the line can stretch to 15 metres, using a shorter length like 8 – 10 metres can prevent how much it sags.
- Install cleat hooks underneath the wall unit. Wrapping the line around these large, metal cleat hooks, after pulling out the amount that you need, will prevent more line from being pulled out unnecessarily.
- Hang heavier items like wet towels and jeans at either end of the line, not in the middle.
- Use a wooden post to support the line in the middle and keep it from hanging too low.
Troubleshooting Wall Mounted ‘Rotary’ Lines
One disadvantage of retractable wall mounted ‘rotary’ lines is their appearance when folded up against the wall. They can be a bit bulky if they don’t come with a cover.
Buying a cover for your wall mounted ‘rotary’ line can give it a much more subtle appearance, and also stop the lines from getting grubby if it’s positioned outside.
If the line is sagging or bending, you may need to reconsider what you can hang on it. These lines don’t always cope well if a lot of heavy, wet items are hung on them. You may need to be careful with where you hang things like wet towels, positioning them as close to the wall bracket as possible, and avoid hanging too many.
Retractable Washing Line FAQs
My retractable washing line sags in the middle, how can I fix it?
Presuming that you have a retractable washing line with a spool design, there are a couple of things you can do to help prevent the line from sagging.
- Use a wooden post to support the line in the middle and keep it from hanging too low.
- Position the wall unit and hooks at a shorter distance from each other, instead of at the maximum length of the line.
- Attach cleat hooks to the wall underneath the wall unit for the line. Once you have pulled out the length of line that you need, wrap some of the line around the cleat hooks to stop more from coming out of the reel.
- Be careful not to hang heavier items like wet towels and jeans in the middle of the line – only hang these nearer the hooks or the wall unit, or avoid hanging them on the retractable line altogether.
How do you install a retractable washing line?
The first thing to do is work out where you want your retractable washing line. Regardless of the type of line, it will need to be positioned on a strong wall or fence, nothing weak or flimsy.
Determine the desired height of your line, too. You want it so that you can reach it easily, but it is high enough that large items such as sheets are clear of the ground. Ideally, make sure the washing is not in the way of paths as this means the washing will get in your way and also the path could be slippery from wet washing dripping on it.
The line will likely come with fixings, otherwise you will need to provide your own, usually Rawl plugs and screws. Mark the position of the fixings then drill a pilot hole. If you don’t have a drill, you may be able to start a hole in wood with a bradawl, but you will definitely need a drill if you are fixing one end of the line to a brick or concrete wall. Once you have drilled the holes, insert the Rawl plugs and then attach the line bracket with screws.
Depending on the type of retractable line you have, you may need to also fix hooks for the line to attach to on the other side of the room or garden.
Can I attach a retractable washing line to my fence?
Whilst a wall will be the most stable place to attach a retractable washing line, you can also attach one to a fence. However, it needs to be a strong fence which is well reinforced and won’t break easily. Attaching the unit to the fence posts is the best idea, as this will be the most structurally sound part of the fence.