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How to Build a Clothes Drying Rack at Home

How to Build a Clothes Drying Rack at Home - Grow and Make

By Contributing Editor

Kristina Strain

Clothes dryers are energy hogs. Big time. In the average American household, twelve percent of the energy used goes into the clothes dryer. TWELVE PERCENT! That means, next to the big important things like your furnace and your hot water heater, your clothes dryer is the number-one biggest energy consumer in your house.

On average, it costs about 50 cents to dry a load of laundry. That might sound like a pittance, but believe me, it adds up. I punched some numbers, and turns out, my little household of two spends over $175 yearly just drying laundry. That’s an awful lot, for an appliance that isn’t even necessary.

Using the instructions below, you can build your own folding clothes drying rack for about $30 in materials. It’s a sturdy piece of apparatus that will easily last for years– and save you hundreds, perhaps thousands of dollars in its lifetime.


14 3/8″ birch or poplar dowels, 36″ long

1 piece 1/2″ oak plywood, at least 35 x 16 inches wide

Wood glue

A pocketknife, for whittling the dowels

A circular saw, for cutting the plywood

A power drill with a 1/4″ drill bit (This article will help you decide which is the best drill press to buy)

Miter box and saw, for cutting the dowels (This article will help you decide which is the best miter saw to buy)

An extra person, for holding things in place as you glue it together.

If your dowels aren’t already 36″ long, cut them to that length using the miter box. Next, whittle both ends of the dowels down to 1/4″ in diameter. On four of the dowels, you want to whittle the end half-inch down to 1/4″; on the rest of the dowels, whittle the end inch down to 1/4″. It helps to have a comfortable place to sit while you’re doing this. Take off little shavings at a time, and enjoy the process.

Cut your plywood as follows:

4 35 x 1″ strips
4 28 x 1″ strips
8 11 x 1″ strips

In the eleven-inch-long pieces, drill a hole at each end, as shown in the picture.
In the 28-inch-long pieces, drill four holes: one in each end, one at nine inches, and one at ten inches.
In the 35-inch-long pieces, drill four holes: one at eleven inches, one at nineteen inches, one at 27 inches, and one at one end.

Set your plywood strips aside.

Now for assembly. This is where having an extra person really comes in handy. In the finished product, each side of the rack will look like this, with 14 dowels connecting the drilled holes. I found it easiest to begin with my four 35-inch pieces of plywood, and my four 1/2″ whittled dowels. These dowels fit into the holes drilled in the 35″ pieces at 11 inches up and 27 inches up. Add a dab of wood glue to the joints, and let dry.

Using the photos as your guide, continue fitting dowels into holes and applying glue where needed. Stay conscious of which joints will be static (i.e. which ones require glue) and which ones will be movable. Try your best to keep glue out of the movable joints: waxed paper will help if you need it. It’s best to give yourself lots of time in between phases of construction. Time spent letting glue dry will definitely make the process go more smoothly. When the final pieces are in place, leave the rack to dry for forty-eight hours before using.

Now, bring it over to your laundry area, and be sure and invite your cat to investigate. If you cat is like my cat, it should meet with his approval.

Choosing plywood for this project has one main advantage: price. I considered buying strips of oak, of the kind you might purchase to trim out your newly remodeled dining room. Besides being expensive, I couldn’t justify using pristine, beautiful wood for something strictly utilitarian. Plywood is composed of thin layers of wood and milled scraps, sandwiched with glue. Though not the prettiest, and sometimes splintery, it’s a lot more economical and ecological than solid wood.

This clothes drying rack provides 36 linear feet of clothes-drying space. It’s enough to handle an average-sized washer load, and can be folded up and stored in a corner when not in use. Be wary of loading the rack down with heavy items, such as wet towels or blue jeans. The dowels aren’t made of steel, and they will snap with too much pressure.

Using these instructions, you should be able to construct a home clothes drying rack, and free yourself from dependence on your clothes dryer for good.

Related Articles:

Green Laundry Tips

Cold Water Laundry Tips

Make Cloth Diapers