simple stuff: drying racks.

July 20, 2017

Simple Stuff: A new series devoted to talking about the stuff that might prove useful or helpful or otherwise necessary while making a home in a small apartment or anywhere. Its aim is to provide a bit of inspiration for simplifying your space sustainably and stylishly. Its contention is that what’s useful can be beautiful, and that you might already have everything you need.

Nary a day goes by when I don’t see someone or another photographing their aesthetically pleasing drying rack and uploading it to Instagram. It’s a thing, I promise. And while I won’t delve into the semi-problematic nature of too much romanticizing of domestic labor, I will say that I get it. (E.B. White got it, too.) There is something nice about seeing clean laundry hanging to dry. And Instagrammers hardly invented the subject. Search any great museum’s art collection and you’ll find laundry—painted, photographed, and otherwise recorded for posterity. 

In our tiny apartment, I can tell you that the lived-in reality is less romantic than the photos. Between drying diaper covers and drying spit-up covered bibs and drying tiny rash guards post romp through the splash pad, there’s a lot of wet laundry to be dealt with. Without an outdoor spot to string a line, our little laundry rack gets an awful lot of use. 

Our rack is perfectly serviceable but it’s not anything special. In fact, it’s probably the definition of not special: It’s thin and stapled together in places and the plastic-coated rods have started to bend and warp under the weight of drying clothes. I can’t tell you where it was made, or by whom. I’m hazarding the guess that I bought it at a local hardware store, but I can’t even recall the moment of purchase. What matters is that it’s skinny enough to slide into the closet when it’s not in use and it hasn’t broken yet.

But if you you’re on the hunt for a laundry drying solution, there’s no shortage of options for small apartments or otherwise. There are many-armed hanging contraptions for keeping above bath tubs, there are accordion racks, and pulley racks, and wall-mounted racks. Particulars of space will dictate what works best where, but some of them are really quite lovely. Dare I say, you might even want to photograph them.

Here are a few ideas for folks not looking to invest in a rack, and a few ideas for folks who are:

Non-rack drying racks:

In a small space, or anywhere, not hauling out the whole drying rack can be a laudable goal. When we only have a small diaper cover or two to dry, we rely on a hanger to stand in for the whole rack. We keep a single hanger on the closet rod above our hamper, but a hanger on a shower rod never hurt anyone either. (Just a friendly reminder that shower rods are notoriously a little grimy, so double check yours before you swing your favorite white dress atop the rod itself.) If you need to hang multiple small things to dry, a few clothespins suspended from the bottom of a hanger will work wonders without you needing to invest in a dedicated contraption of questionable aesthetic merit.

Drying racks:

For moments when you have more to dry than a simple washcloth or rag, more options:

+ If you cannot abide by the thought of crafting your own hanger contraption but you have only limited drying needs, a streamlined alternative could be a wall-mounted towel rack. One like this Iris Hantverk three-prong rack could, for instance, hang discreetly on a small wall (or above a tub as a reader recently mentioned doing in her space). (Also available in a five-prong size.) If you’re willing to do a little hunting, vintage ones, like this beauty, also abound. Scour the internet and yard sales and ye shall receive.

+ These racks are all little more hefty than would fit easily into most truly tiny spaces, but if you have a little more space, Amish-made, solid-wood drying racks from Lehman’s are some of the best folding drying racks out there and they come in a variety of sizes. My parents have a big one that we always manage to fill up when we’re visiting.

+ If you have a bare wall for it, a larger wall-mounted dryer might also come in handy. This steel and wood one has a surprisingly slim profile and manages to look both rustic and modern. Alternately, this Dryp Clothes Drying Rack from Skagerak isn’t wall mounted, but it can be folded in half or leaned against a wall to gain a bit of height (and to take up a little less floor space).

+ Where wall and floor space is limited, but vertical space is abundant, a ceiling-mounted rack on a pulley is still another option. The Sheila Maid is a classic British drying rack that’s been in production for more than a hundred years. Colors and size options abound. Alternately, there’s this all-wooden hanging clothes dryer with a similar shape that comes in a range of sizes and ships worldwide from England. For a rack with a more modern edge, this George and Willy hanging drying rack comes in white and black.

+ Finally, the accordion style wooden drying racks are some of my personal favorites, but for some reason they’re nearly impossible to find stateside. If you’re across the pond, I really love this leather-hinged wooden clothes horse from Aerende Shop. The larger Wooden Clothes Horse from DeVol is another beauty (and their hanging laundry maid is worth at least a gander, too).

What about you guys? A favorite drying rack or drying solution you’re itching to share?

You Might Also Like


  • Reply Mama Squirrel July 20, 2017 at 8:36 am

    We moved to an apartment a couple of months ago that has an in-unit small washer and dryer, but I like to hang clothes when possible. We bought two coated-metal drying racks at one of the everything-to-store-things stores. One stands up on the bathtub but can be used flat as well. The other is free-standing, and can stand in the bathtub if it has to. They both fold up very small, which is the biggest bonus.

    When we’re lazy or just have one thing to dry, we hang things over the backs of chairs, or over the shower rod (on a towel to avoid the above-mentioned hazards).

  • Reply Summer July 20, 2017 at 8:58 am

    I have the same wooden one in your first photo, but it wasn’t holding enough since we hang most of our laundry to dry (workout clothes, undergarments, sweaters…). So I bought a large metal foldable drying rack from Ikea, which is not as attractive but holds a LOT of clothing.

    • Reply jane July 20, 2017 at 1:29 pm

      We use two of these Ikea racks as well. We line dry all of our family’s (there are four of us) laundry on them (except for sheets + towels). I love them, because they are very sturdy + fold quite flat.

      • Reply Suzanne July 20, 2017 at 5:12 pm

        Jane, we use this one as well. I am amazed at how much laundry it can hold.

    • Reply Kirsten July 20, 2017 at 9:38 pm

      Triple seconding how amazing this rack is. We have two of them and they can hold so much! Definitely not as cute as some of the options above, but unbeatable as far as price and functionality.

    • Reply Sarah July 24, 2017 at 11:05 am

      We use one of these as well! Plus a couple of the octopus-looking dudes for diapers and undies.

      • Reply Virginia October 10, 2020 at 3:39 pm

        An old post, but still coming in handy! Just ordered a Lehman’s drying rack. Thank you for always having such thoughtful suggestions! 🙂

  • Reply Rebecca N July 20, 2017 at 9:10 am

    I have an old dilapidated drying rack I bought at a garage sale years ago. I have been wanting an Amish made one for years. Right now we make due with the old drying rack and a shower rod extended over our laundry area from which we can hang clothes on hangers. I have a clothesline outside, but it’s too humid to use in the summer and clothes never dry. I do love the smell of line dried sheets though and am anxiously awaiting fall and cooler/dryer weather!

  • Reply Priscilla July 20, 2017 at 9:40 am

    In our neighborhood, we’re not allowed to have an outdoor clothes line, or else THAT’s what I’d do. As it is, we use the wire shelf and hanging rod combination that the previous home owners creatively installed. At first, I complained because it’s so high I can’t reach it without standing on my tippy toes, but then I realized that’s a good thing because my long-legged husband’s jeans can hang there without collecting fur from the passing dog!

  • Reply Ellen Anderman July 20, 2017 at 9:42 am

    For sheets, I lay a towel over the top of a door and hang them down. Not too wet, though, or the paint will start to go.

  • Reply MissEm July 20, 2017 at 9:52 am

    I cannot believe I never thought of the hanger + clothespin combination. Total face palm. Re: the romanticizing, maybe we can make a distinction between that and beautifying/honoring? There’s a balance, I think, between romanticizing and demonizing as “shackles”. I tend toward the former, but do enough laundry, bum wiping, and practical cooking etc. to temper that tendency!

  • Reply Cynthia July 20, 2017 at 10:16 am

    This contraption allows for great air circulation and can hold a whole lot of clothes!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 20, 2017 at 10:57 am

      Lots of vintage versions of those umbrella dryers around, too!

      • Reply Maura July 20, 2017 at 1:12 pm

        Oh my goodness, the umbrella shape might change my life for the better — thank you Erin and Cynthia!

      • Reply Amy Essay August 18, 2021 at 10:47 am

        Just purchased a vintage umbrella rack. Thanks for the recommendation! I think the shape and compact fold will be perfect.

  • Reply Jessica July 20, 2017 at 10:16 am

    I’m not short on space and have the luxury of a full basement, so I have the same retractable laundry line hanging in my basement that I have outside in my backyard. Our house has a lot of layout issues that frustrate me, but being able to have such a large laundry line in my basement is one of the things I do love about it!

  • Reply Kelly July 20, 2017 at 10:33 am

    I hang dry most of my clothes which saves money at the laundromat and helps keep the quality of my clothing.

  • Reply Sarah E July 20, 2017 at 10:36 am

    We have a metal drying rack from Target that looks much like yours. Having moved into a rental house over the winter, we fiiiinally have our own washer/dryer, but while we save on quarters, we spend on electricity. In the interest of saving energy, saving money, and reducing the wear and tear on our clothes, I try to hang as much as we can.

    Since we’re renting, I’m not about to put a clothesline out back (though I long for one), but I’m considering getting a retractable clothesline and some sturdy eye hooks to create a zigzag line between studs in our laundry space. It might make some bigger holes in the wall, but I’d be thrilled to hand even more stuff to dry.

    • Reply Rachael July 23, 2017 at 3:57 pm

      We rent a house, too, and since I couldn’t permanently install a clothesline, I got this portable guy. We can only use it about six months of the year but it’s going on 3 summers without problem. It’s been known to blow over if it’s off balance or full of sheets, but my in house engineer used tent stakes to secure it and it hasn’t tipped since!

      In the winter, I use the same big IKEA drying rack as several other commenters, and bought two of the shorter tension shower rods for shower stalls and installed them high up in the hallway. I can hang dresses or suspend sheets for drying. It can be a little bit of an obstacle course when those two rods are full, but the added moisture in the house from drying g clothes is much appreciated.

  • Reply Kaelie July 20, 2017 at 11:03 am

    I made a drying rack out of pvc pipe, arguably not the most beautiful option, but has the benefits of being durable and lightweight, it won’t harbor mildew, and it’s easy to work with. I hung it up with pulleys in my basement near the laundry machines. I don’t like using the dryer I believe it wears fabrics out faster and is an unnecessary money waster because air is free! After years and years of using cheap floor rack, where clean laundry would inevitably dangle on the floor, I decided to make something big enough to accomodate queen sized sheets. It’s perfect, and it only cost me about $30 for all the supplies. If the space is ample, use it well 😉

  • Reply Dawn July 20, 2017 at 11:36 am

    Never thought I would romanticise laundry, but the UK seems to have it figured out much better than we do! We had a ceiling-mounted pulley system drying rack in our apartment in Glasgow, and a washing machine in the kitchen ( it seems to come standard there, or at least as common as dishwashers here). Another genius thing they have that I’ve not been able to find here are drying racks that hang off the radiator. In a NYC apartment your clothes would be dry in no time in the winter.

  • Reply Kaitlyn July 20, 2017 at 11:44 am

    I’ve been purposefully not buying a drying rack, in lieu of the many doors and kitchen table chair backs I have at my disposal. It has dawned on me that flinging one of my wet delicates over the top of an open closet or bathroom door is probably not the best for the wood or the paint over the long term. And of course there is the mad dash to gather all of my articles lest a neighbor stops by for an impromptu cocktail here at our ground-floor Austin-based apartment. I grew up without a dryer on the CT coast, and I desperately miss the smell of laundry after it has been hanging on the line, but there is no outdoor space in the complex for my unmentionables to fly. 😉

  • Reply Lisa July 20, 2017 at 12:07 pm

    I’ve always been one to just drape clothes over the shower curtain rod or radiators, but finally last winter bought this ( flat drying rack for sweaters. It’s not the most beautiful thing at ALL, but it’s the perfect size for drying wool sweaters flat, it hangs in the otherwise unused shower space, and when not in use, it’s made of circular bend-y plastic (technical term) so it collapses into a teeny little package that fits underneath our hamper.

  • Reply SEM July 20, 2017 at 1:43 pm

    We are dedicated drying rack folks over here (also add doorknobs, lamp shades, and the exercise bike to the list of places we regularly ‘hang’). Our unit has a shared basement drier, but I air dry most of my clothes to keep them from shrinking. We liken our space on cleaning day to those Jacob Riis tenement images of laundry hanging from every protruding object. We used our similar wooden dowel rack (like yours) until it became a battle to keep it together with repeated gluing. We found a similar, albeit much sturdier one, at Crate and Barrel outlet. It’s very similar but the entire rack is plastic coated and the hinging points much more substantial. We purchased two and they have been working well (no bowing )for ten years. The slim profile when closed was a selling point.

  • Reply Meghann July 20, 2017 at 1:52 pm

    Homestead drying racks are a great, quality product. A family-run business, too.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE July 20, 2017 at 1:57 pm

      Thanks so much! Just like the Lehman’s ones! Glad to know about these folks, too!

  • Reply Anna July 20, 2017 at 2:05 pm

    We have a metal one in the same style as the one in your pictures. I got it at Canadian Tire. It collapses nicely and when not in use, fits into a space between the wall and a bookcase. We’re also fortunate enough to live in a place that has a permanent clothes line in the backyard. When it’s sunny, I use that whenever I do laundry.

  • Reply Janean July 20, 2017 at 2:28 pm

    We have the same wooden rack you do. However, it regularly filled up and the overflow of clothes ended up on every available chair back and doorknob. Not so great to the shape of shirts and if you’re having company over. So I installed something special. Twenty dollars spent on eye hooks, a caribiner, a cleat & clothesline and we have a 3-tiered line that spans the full width of our bay windowed room. It takes two minutes to string up and the hardware is hidden by the curtains. Life changing!

  • Reply Jen July 20, 2017 at 2:57 pm

    I have a wooden drying rack like yours (scavenged on the street and repaired!). Plus it does double duty to block the couch at night so my dog doesn’t sleep on the couch. 😉

  • Reply Norma July 20, 2017 at 6:33 pm

    We have an all wooden one for indoors and lines outside but years ago Martha Stewart had a DIY one. Here’s all I could find.
    Recently saw this in a magazine and thought this would be good in the laundry room where the furnace is and could be used in winter.

  • Reply Brittany July 20, 2017 at 6:50 pm

    I have this one and am so in love with it.
    It replaced a legit delapidated one that was barely hanging on. I bought the XL one and it’s taller than me. It holds a ton of laundry, made of hardwood in the USA, and I can dry queen sized quilts over it! Highly recommend!!

  • Reply Gigi July 20, 2017 at 8:44 pm

    I’ve been looking for a post like this! Quick question: with the wooden racks, is there a concern that they will mold or give over time due to wet clothes hanging over them? I am trying to understand the moisture level that the wooden racks can tolerate; otherwise, it seems like something functional and beautiful!

  • Reply Milou July 20, 2017 at 11:26 pm

    We are in a 850 square foot East Village apartment and I put jeans on kitchen chairs/top of doors, button downs on hangers on all of the door knobs and throw my undies and workout clothes on our bookshelves. I miss drying clothes on an outdoor clothesline!

  • Reply Alyssa July 20, 2017 at 11:29 pm

    I use to have a little wooden drying rack and then I found a larger one for the yard from Ikea. When we bought our fixer upper a year ago one of the biggest items on my “honey do” list was a full size clothes line outside. Most of my friends think I’m nuts to spend time hanging out my laundry but there is nothing more fulfilling to me then smelling sunshine in our clothes. 🙂

  • Reply Tyra July 21, 2017 at 12:05 am

    I’ve had this tab open on my phone for a few months now, but we are not in the market for a new airer (and getting something like that shipped to Australia doesn’t make sense). It’s really nice though!

  • Reply MelD July 21, 2017 at 3:03 am

    Entertaining, as I have just put my granny’s “clothes horse”, as she always called it, ready for removal to our house now we are clearing her house. My grandad made it, it has great patina though only six bars to hang things off from the days before washing machines (late 1930s); it looks a bit like a gate hinged in the middle. The cool thing is both my mom and I remember using it draped in a blanket to play houses, and my grandchildren will, too…!

    In Switzerland the most common way of hanging laundry is the famous Stewi:
    Many Swiss households either never had tumbledryers or if they did, have stopped using them for ecological reasons, and this frame holds a LOT of laundry! Not so pretty, I grant you. The idea of not being allowed to hang laundry outdoors seems ludicrous to me (many places do still forbid it on Sundays, however!).

  • Reply Rosie July 21, 2017 at 8:50 am

    We have a metal drying rack, it is foldable but it is a very rare occasion that we have nothing to dry, so it very rarely gets folded up. A hotel we stayed in in Canada had a pull out clothes line in the bathroom which attached to the wall on the other side of the room. I thought that was a nifty little invention.

  • Reply Jessica July 21, 2017 at 9:04 am

    We have a house built in the 1920’s and have old fashioned radiators. I hang clothes or towels on the one in the bathroom. In the colder months clothes dry fast since they’re warm.

  • Reply Heather July 21, 2017 at 10:38 am

    I’ve been dropping in here on and off over the last year and a half, and I’m still surprised by the fresh perspective you manage to bring to the simplest of everyday objects. I, too, have a drying rack….one that keeps falling apart (and I recently calculated has been with me longer than my husband) and yet I’ve been hanging on to it, jabbing the pieces back into place because I just love the simplicity of it. Thank you for not only validating my thoughts on the simple objects in my home but, perhaps more often, giving me a new way to view and appreciate them.

  • Reply Carreen July 21, 2017 at 11:48 am

    I used to use the shower rod (turn on the bathroom fan and your clothes dry overnight!). Now we’ve moved into a house with the laundry in the basement (the furthest possible point from the shower or deck, for sun-drying), I’ve taken to using a wooden ladder I bought at a yard sale for three dollars. It’s leaned against the wall now, but I have plans to suspend it from the ceiling.

  • Reply Drew July 21, 2017 at 6:25 pm

    Hi Erin!

    Thank you for these tips! I love the idea of having a single hanger for when you don’t need the whole folding drying rack.

    I am also wondering what type of diaper cover you use? The one that is hanging from the hanger, is that a Flip diaper cover? And what color is it? I am 38 weeks pregnant and planning to do cloth diapers and am looking for the best option for diaper covers 🙂

    Thank you for your help!

  • Reply Manuela July 23, 2017 at 3:42 am

    I was looking for a similar option to yours Erin, but the only ones I could find were 100% wood, and a friend scared me by saying the wet wood might stain my clothes. I’d love to hear from anyone out there about their experience with that – it’s the only thing that’s holding me back! (And similarly to Gigi higher up, I’m curious as to how well the wood holds up with the moisture)

  • Reply Kim B. July 23, 2017 at 6:59 am

    We have a kind of grody old system installed on the ceiling in our bathroom (where our washer is here in our Paris apartment), a stand-alone accordion dryer that I can pull out, and then this piece from Muji that I just love – I hang it from an over-the-door-hanger on our second bedroom door, or can hang it from a suction cup in the shower/tub. I love that the shape gets the things to be dried AWAY from the door/wall so the items can dry. It adds much-needed versatility to my drying repertoire!!

  • Reply Lauren July 24, 2017 at 5:34 pm

    I am a huge fan of the racks from Lehman’s. They last forever and hold a full load of laundry. They may be more expensive than some of the others but they are sturdy and durable.

  • Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    Comments are moderated.