A simple way to save money and cut the carbon cost of your clothes washing

Game Changers: It dries the clothes using a combination of solar and wind power - it’s your washing line

As a lover of washing lines, there’s a cartoon that makes me smile. Two women (of course) are looking at a full line and one tells the other: “It dries the washing using the very latest technology, a combination of solar and wind power.”

Before I bang on about the flap and snap of an air dried sheet, let’s be clear. This should not be your first or only climate action. Air-drying your smalls over an oil-fired range may look green and comfortably old-timey, but it won’t cut it. We have to remove three chunks from our carbon emissions and they are our transport, heating and diet choices. Think buses, boilers and burgers (veggie ones). These shifts will give us our big wins and we need to begin to win big.

So it’s a smaller carbon saving, but who doesn’t love the joy of sun-dried clothes? And yes, those “great drying out” days have been mostly absent this summer. It’s probably why an indoor washing line called the Sheila Maid has become what Claire Graham of The Old Mill Stores in West Cork describes as a “nifty piece of kit which is fast becoming our best-seller”. This maid is having her moment. They are selling an average of 10 per week, as the combination of higher energy prices and higher rainfall bites the hard-pressed launderer.

When I was a kid we called ours the pulley line. It could be lowered gently (or plummeted swiftly if you were a bored teen looking for kicks). And it had a particular squeak, which grew louder when loaded with washing. Hot air rises, so the pulley line takes advantage of convection by drying damp washing in the warmest area of the house, freeing up floor and radiator space. They range in price from €140-€185 (including delivery) but they are built to last. Unvarnished heat treated pine slats fit into the cast iron brackets and you attach the whole kaboodle to a pulley wheel, or wheels, screwed into the ceiling joist.


When we flap out our clothes and hang them up to dry, they need less ironing. They don’t get as much of a hammering as they get in the tumble drier, so they last longer. For full Instagram bonus points, you can use your pulley line to dry herbs as well as socks. It’s important that indoor drying doesn’t cause damp and mould, so hoisting up the load to the warmest air in the building makes sense.

For smaller spaces with lower ceilings, Ikea Boaxel wall-mounted drying racks are an updated version of an old string and timber model we installed 15 years ago, and continue to use today when the solar power in the great outdoors is on the fritz.

Catherine Cleary

Catherine Cleary

Catherine Cleary, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a founder of Pocket Forests