The Best Washing Line (is it Unbreakable)?

There is nothing worse than all your nice clean washing ending up on the floor, when your washing line breaks. Time and time again I’ve installed an ‘off the shelf washing line’, only to have it break a year or two later. You purchase a thicker stronger washing line, it may last a little longer, but it still breaks…

How can we get round this?

Broken Washing Line - Tying a Knot
Broken Washing Line – Tying a Knot

Let’s Make an Unbreakable Washing Line:

Forget the ‘off the shelf’ washing lines. Let’s make one that’s never gonna break! This article shows how I made a washing Line, and why I chose stainless steel wire. I’m going to use a straight, traditional washing line as an example, but the method I use here can be applied to any other washing line…

Things to consider:

Let’s Get straight to it:

Washing Line – It’s Got to be Really Strong:

Well not that strong? We’re not going to use it to do pull ups from, or use it as an engine hoist. However, wetsuits full of water (while you wash them down) can be very heavy. How heavy is a full load of wet washing anyway?

Calculating the Unbreakable Washing Line Breaking Load:

A typical washing machine capacity for a medium to large family is about 10 Kg (22 Lbs). But thats when dry! The wet capacity could be double that, 20 Kg (44 Lbs). So four loads of washing (to cover for all eventualities, or four wet wetsuits?) would weigh about 80 Kg (176 Lbs). Buildings commonly use a factor of safety of 2.0. So if we use this, then our washing line needs to be capable of holding 160 KG (352 Lbs). So this is our minimum breaking load.

Here’s a breakdown of how I worked out an ‘Unbreakable Washing Line’ minimum load.

Item Condition Factor Cumulative Weight
Kgs Lbs
Washing machine capacity (Medium to large family): Dry 10 22
Wet x 2 20 44
Four loads (to cover for all eventualities): Wet x 4 80 176
Safety factor: Wet x 2 160 352
Total: 160 352
Table, Unbreakable Washing Line – What is the Minimum Load

Notes:

  • I note (in my research), many of the ‘off the shelf’ washing lines don’t quote their load capacity. They just say ‘extra strong’, or ‘long lasting’…

It Has to be Flexible (to go Around Pulleys and Things):

To be flexible, a washing line has to be made of wire, rope (natural), or plastic rope (nylon, etc). Or, a combination of these. Most washing lines appear to be steel wire with an outer plastic coating. Natural products can rot and dirt can become ingrained within the fibres.

It Has to be Easy to Install:

Rope or wire is not usually difficult to install, it’s their ends that are the problem! We either have to be good at knots, or have a suitable clamp to hold the ends in place.

It Must not Rust, or Rot:

Unfortunately, many natural products will rot. Part of the circle of life (“Nants Ingonyama Bagithi Baba” which doesn’t mean ‘the circle of life’, but “Here comes a lion, father…”) Disney has a lot to answer for…

Whereas, steel or nylon may last a bit longer. Steel, will rust and break eventually (unless treated).

It Has to be Low Maintenance ‘fit and forget’:

OK, so…

  • Natural products will probably rot:
  • Steel will rust.

So, that leaves Nylon..? Nope, because we have stainless steel wire (which doesn’t rust). Horah!

Stainless steel wire and nylon are both good materials for a washing line. They both have their place, but I’m going to go for stainless steel, as it is less stretchy and will probably harbour less dirt between the interwoven strands.

It has to be Reasonably Priced:

It is. It may be twice the price of an ‘off the shelf’ washing line, but you only need to install it once…

It’s Gotta Work!

Stainless steel has been used in marine environments for years. It is a good tried and tested product.


How to Make a Stainless Steel Washing Line:

A stainless steel washing line should be no different to any other washing line. As with an ordinary washing line, the correct size and type of wire needs to be selected.


The Stainless Steel Washing Line and its Components:

We have to consider what components are best to create the washing line. This basically boils down to what type of stainless steel wire do we use and how do we fix the ends?

The Wire:

There are different types of wire with different properties, therefore we need to choose the best wire to match the needs of a washing line. We need to consider…

  1. The Breaking Load:
  2. The Bendiness (or Flexibility):
  3. The Price:

Notes:

  • Beware of wire with frayed ends. It can snag and stab you. Wrap with tape or something similar to protect yourself.
  • You may need to consider the minimum thickness of the wire. The clothes pegs clamp, or ‘hang off’ the wire. Smaller wire may allow the clothes pegs to more easily ‘accidentally’ slip off the wire.

1. The Breaking Load:

The breaking load is often dependant on the physical size of the wire. You can see how I calculated the ‘Unbreakable Washing Line Minimum Breaking Load‘ in the section above…

The table below shows the strength of stainless steel wire (7×19 strand), dependant on the wire diameter.

Stainless Steel Wire Rope (7×19 Strand)
Wire Size (dia) Breaking Load
mm Inches Wire Guage Kgs Lbs
1.5 0.0591 15 130 287
2 0.0787 12 230 507
2.5 0.0984 10 360 794
3 0.118 9 520 1,146
4 0.157 6 930 2,050
5 0.197 4 1,450 3,197
6 0.236 3 2,090 4,608
Please note you may need to consider the minimum thickness of the wire. Smaller wire may allow the clothes pegs to more easily ‘accidentally’ slip off the wire.
Table, Unbreakable Stainless Steel Washing Line – The Breaking Load

2. The Bendiness (or Flexibility):

Why am I using 7×19 strand wire?

The flexibility of the wire is often dependant on the size and number of wire strands. As an example, 7×19 is 7 groups of 19 wires (133 strands). To gain more flexibility, you lose a little strength (see the table below).

Having flexibility is a good idea if you intend to raise and lower the washing line. Plus it also helps on windy days (a tree will bend in the wind to help stop it getting blown over). A slight loss in strength doesn’t matter, as long as it’s taken account of when selecting the wire.

The table below shows the bendiness (or flexibility) & strength of the wire, dependant on the number of strands.

The Bendiness (or Flexibility) – The Number of Strands
Strands No. of Wires Flex Strength (3mm)1
1×19 19 Stiff + 35%
7×7 49 Medium
7×19 133 Flexible – 6.5%
Note 1. 3mm wire is used here as an example.
Table, Unbreakable Washing Line – The Bendiness (or Flexibility) & It’s Strength

3. The Price:

The price tends to go up, dependant on the size and type of wire. In this case we’re using stainless steel (rust prevention), and a larger number of wire strands (to make the wire more flexible). However, the benefits outweigh the slight increase in overall material cost.

The Components:

  1. Wire (see above):
  2. Grips or Clamps:
  3. Connections:

2. Grips or Clamps:

Wire, grips or clamps can to be used in place of tying a knot (as it’s not so easy to tie a knot in wire). There are various grips and clamps available. Some do a better job than others, and some have a better aesthetic appearance (please see the notes below).

In my case, I’m going to use all stainless steel to ensure the components are long lasting and require little (if any) maintenance.

Things to consider:

  • How many grips or clamps are required (for each end).
  • The size of wire being used.
  • Their strength (breaking load).
  • Individual cost.

The table below shows the different grips & clamps that can be used, their cost, strength and how many are required (for each end).

Stainless Steel Grips (for wire)
Item No.
Req’
Fits Cost
(1 is low)
Load Failure
(Breaking load)
Wire Rope… mm Inches Guage
Grips: Wire Rope: 3 2 to 25 0.0787 + 12 + 2 (x3)
Simplex : 1 2 to 6 0.0787 to 0.236 12 to 3 1 50 %
Duplex : 1 2 to 6 0.0787 to 0.236 12 to 3 2 80%
Egg Shaped 1 2 to 6 0.0787 to 0.236 12 to 3 8
Clamps: Loop: 1.5 0.0591 15  4
Loop: 1 1.5 0.0591 15 5 ?
Loop: 1 1.5 to 3 0.0591 to 0.118 15 to 9 6 ?
Loop: 1 2 to 3 0.0787 to 0.118 12 to 9 6 ?
Table, Unbreakable Washing Line – Types of Grips & Clamps

Notes:

  • When searching for grips (clamps), beware of the search terms you use. Grips and clamps are slightly different things, plus make sure you also use wire in the search term to get the correct type.

For safety:

  • Always use a proper grip or clamp that’s designed for use with wire.
  • Some specifications require more than one clamp on each end.
  • Beware of wire with frayed ends. It can snag and stab you. Wrap the ends of the wire with tape or something similar to protect yourself.
  • If using wire for lifting or pulling, always read the component specifications, as there are specific safety requirements for lifting and pulling.

3. Connections:

There are two types of connections. Each may use a different set of components:

  • Permanent:
  • Removable:

Permanent Connections:

Things to consider:

  • Wear and tear. Is there any part of the connection that could chafe and wear?
  • To make a connection, the wire is often ‘looped back’ on itself. Will there be a load that causes this’ loop back’ to become tighter? (this may cause the twisted wire strands to splay out and the wire could lose some of its strength)?

Removable Connections:

Things to consider:

  • Wear and tear. Is there any part of the connection that could chafe and wear?
  • To make a connection, the wire is often ‘looped back’ on itself. Will there be a load that causes this’ loop back’ to become tighter? (this may cause the twisted wire strands to splay out and the wire could lose some of its strength)?
  • How can the wire be easily connected and disconnected from the washing line supports?

Washing Line – How Long do I Need?

The famous phrase “How long is a piece of string” can also be applied to washing lines…

When measuring the length of a washing line, additional length needs to be added for:

  • Looping the wire back at the ends.
  • Any pulley systems.
  • Raising and lowering the washing line.

How to Put it all Together:

It’s fairly straight forward. Dependant on the wire grip or clamp used, you may need a small spanner, or an allen key.


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