Hello Umbra!

I’m a college student working to make my school greener and would like to purchase a few relatively sturdy, high-volume clothes drying racks to place in our laundry rooms so that students have an alternative to using the electric dryers. I know these racks exist because I just got back from studying in Italy for the semester and saw them all over, but I haven’t been able to find anything good in 45 minutes of searching the net. The best I could find are those giant umbrella racks, but those are meant to be placed outside. I also don’t need (or want?) the racks to be collapsible — these are a permanent deal!

Any suggestions? Price isn’t too important as my school will be paying. Thanks!

Chelsea H.
Claremont, Calif.

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Dearest Chelsea,

You have a great idea, and I have some finds I hope will be helpful. And kudos to your school for coughing up for this worthy cause!

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Tip 1: Wash, then dry (or just bring it
home in May).

Photo: iStockphoto

First, a moment for how odd the internet can be. It’s incredibly useful, but how can one person spend 45 minutes and find nothing, while another can spend five minutes and get some good leads? Speaking of said dilemma, do any of my fair readers know anything about pearl production? I have sought definitive information — even simply leads to an organization that might be paying attention to pearls — for one of you for hours, and can find nothing substantial enough to satisfy.

But back to racks: Laundry drying racks are one of my favorite objects this winter. I’m living with a wood stove right now, and wet jeans will dry in a couple hours on the rack. Why pay and pollute twice for heat and drying when you can just pay and pollute once?

I found a variety of racks on the internet by going back to one of my old columns about buying exterior laundry lines, and to a source I suggested then; I learned the search terms at that source and hunted around from that point. I share the practical bounty below.

Wall-mounted drying racks, which fold up to the wall when not in use, seem to me the best dorm laundry option. Several types are available. For you, Chelsea, there are metal ones that look durable and hold one load of clothing; the pictures show them folded out, I think they hinge and lie against the wall when not in use. Price is really no object? Gaiam carries a metal collapsing wall dryer with 82 feet of drying space for $230. Many of the vendor sites I mention below also carry wall-folding lines. (As an aside for other readers, there is a very cute small wooden one that collapses into a sort of geegaw shelf and is meant to dry dishtowels, mittens, and other small wet things. One could also use it to dry fresh pasta. It’s too small and nice looking for a dorm laundry, but would go well next to my stove.)

An even more thrilling option if the room has ceiling space: ceiling racks. I’ve wanted one of these (and high ceilings) since I first laid eyes upon one, in Budapest. Lehman’s carries a wooden one, but alas, it won’t hold a full load. Stenic makes two aluminum ceiling dryers that look appropriate for a dorm environment (i.e., very durable). Some of the ceiling racks are pulley-operated, but I did see one with a hand crank such as you might use for an awning. Urban Clothes Lines has a wide range of fancy indoor and outdoor drying racks at great expense and great temptation.

There are also floor racks, of course. I’ve found large versions of the wooden one, and an odd metal one. I’m concerned about clothing theft, honestly, and if I were a student I might try to remove the collapsible floor rack up to my own dorm room, where no one would steal my clothing. Then I might forget to bring it back down. Another laundry-dedicated site, Eco Washing Lines in Britain, carries a giant floor rack big enough for bed sheets (plus a lovely range of ceiling and wall mounted lines) that perhaps wouldn’t be so portable. Gaiam carries a pile of racks too, including a large wooden one with 50 feet of drying space.

Lastly, have you considered a retractable clothesline? I do see some drawbacks: It would require clothespins, unfortunately, and those might get lost. Plus, it would be (hopefully) in constant use and hence ne’er retracted. But it could be the tidiest solution to this common-area conundrum.