An Indoor Clothes Drying Rack

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The finished indoor clothes drying rack in use.
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Diagram shows parts and assembly of the indoor clothes drying rack.

One of the worst energy gobblers in any home–aside
from the dwelling’s heating system and water
heater–is the clothes dryer. Not only are such
appliances power hungry, but they’re also incredibly
wasteful: All the nice warm, humid air they produce is
usually blown outside!

In the summer, of course, it’s easy to avoid the energy
waste by relying on solar power to “fuel” that old standby:
an outdoor clothesline, However, you may have wondered,
what can a person do on those all-too-frequent rainy spring
(or snowy winter) days when the weather refuses to

The answer may be an indoor clothes drying rack. My dad has been building
the devices for our family’s use since 1949. My Mom
depended on the handy racks for 30 years without
the backup aid of an electric dryer. The “granddaddy” of
our present indoor clothes dryer was made of wood, but that
early model eventually fell apart … but only after almost 12 years
of continuous use!

Dad was, I think, a tad disappointed that his original
design didn’t hold up better, so he came up with an
all aluminum model that is sturdier, is relatively simple to
build, hangs over the top of any door in the house, and
stores easily. The homemade dryer is also a natural
energy-saver, since it uses no fuel other than the warmth
already circulating through the house (while allowing
humidity to transfer from the wet clothes to the often dry
indoor air). The sturdy frame can handle anything from
diapers to blankets and it’ll usually dry a full load
of wash within 24 hours.

Drying Rack Construction

Basically, the portable clothes rack is nothing more than
four parallel bars riveted to two end pieces to form a
square frame … plus three hanger units that secure the
contraption to the top of a door. Clothespins are then
attached–using nuts and bolts–at regular
intervals along the crossbars. To make your own
over-the-door dryer, you’ll need 22 feet of aluminum flat
bar (the best size is 1/8″ X 3/4″), 42 one-inch-long bolts
and 84 nuts, 26 rivets, and 42 clothespins (I recommend
wooden pins with large springs, because I’ve found
that plastic fasteners–and those with small
springs–just don’t last as long as do the
“old-fashioned” kind).

Before you can put your drying rack together, you’ll have
to divide the aluminum into several different lengths.
First, cut four 33 1/2″ pieces, and bend the
metal–using a vise–to a 90° angle … at
points 2 inches from each end of every strap. These will
become the crossbars, from which you’ll hang the wet

Next, cut two 29 1/2″ lengths ( don’t bend these
sections) to serve as the ends of the frame. To fashion the
hanger bars, cut three 12 1/4″ pieces. On one
end of each of them form a 90° angle at
the 2-inch mark, and another at 3 1/2 inches. (If
necessary, you can modify these measurements to make the
rack fit the dimensions of the door you’re planning to

Finally, you’ll need two short supports, which will attach
the end hangers to the frame. Bend each 17″-long piece, at a point 1 inch from
one end, to an angle that will allow the support to be
riveted flat against its hanger. In addition, use your vise
to twist the metal into a 90° “turn” so that it’ll rest flat against the horizontal

Drill holes for the clothespins at regular intervals along
the four crossbars and the end bar which will
not be attached to the hanger units. Make the
first hole in each section four inches from the bend in the
bar  to allow for clearance at the edge that’ll be closest
to the door, then make eight more holes spaced 3 inches
apart. Attach a clothespin at each opening–by running
a bolt through its spring–on
the inside of the aluminum bar.

Next, drill the necessary holes and rivet the frame
together. The rivets which secure the
hangers to the rack should be flush, to avoid scratching
the door … but you might want to go ahead and drape a
towel over the top of the portal before the rack is hung
up, just in case. (You can provide further protection by
simply gluing strips of felt to the underside of each
hanger unit.)

That’s really all there is to it: You can make one of the
racks in a couple of hours and use it for years!
Although the dryer can serve as a household’s only
means of drying clothes, I like to combine the capabilities
of my over-the-door helper with those of a modern electric
dryer. First, I just tumble a load of wet clothes in the
dryer–on low heat–for five to ten minutes,
then switch to air only for another ten minutes in order
to use up any heat that may be left in the clothes, before
hanging the laundry. My system removes wrinkles
(eliminating the need for ironing) and saves

Those “Wash Board” Roads

If you live in a rural area–but make an occasional trip to town–you may be able to wash your clothes for free… by using this alternative energy tip sent to from Samuels, Idaho’s Harvey Berman. Load a cleaned black 55-gallon drum into the back of your pickup truck, fill the barrel with water, and park the truck in the sun. Once the liquid’s been Sol-heated, throw your dirty clothes and laundry soap into the container and head to town for your regular errand run Any typical country road will provide plenty of “agitating” for your homemade clothes washer … so by the time you reach your destination, your garments will have been washed clean!

Then if you empty out the sudsy liquid at a friend’s place and refill the drum with clean water, your duds will get rinsed on the way home!