Robotic Laundry Line Reels You In

It may not be a laundry-folding robot, but this robotic launders line build by [Radical Brad Graham] is pretty neat. He has a 75-foot hanging laundry line from his house to a woodshed, and decided to roboticize it using some bits that were lying around. The result is a simple build that adds push-button control to pull the line back and forward, making it easier to hang everything out to dry. It’s a simple build, but [Brad] did a great job of documenting what he did and why, from mounting the posts that support the line to wiring up the control buttons.


The heart of this build is an old motor from a wheelchair. Although the motor is over 20 years old, it still works well and was ideal for this sort of slow-speed, high-torque requirement That’s especially true when you consider the weight of the 75-foot line loaded with wet clothes. [Brad] decided to undervolt the engine so it would run off a 12 V battery. At the moment it is running off a car battery, but it is built to run from a smaller battery that is charged from a solar panel. After all, this will be used when the sun is out, so solar power makes perfect sense.

22 thoughts on “Robotic Laundry Line Reels You In

  1. Agree that this isn’t exactly a robot, but it is certainly handy. That being said, I wonder is some type of foot pedal could be used to make operation hands free. Either way, a very utilitarian build worth appreciating.

    1. Nicely built but I too think a foot switch would make it even better. Then just put the basket table outside the railing under the line and something flat like a thin horizontal board between the lines to clip the pegs to and even I might hang the laundry. ;-)

  2. Adding a moisture sensor and a small roofed section so the motor can feel in all the clothes under the roof if it rains would be a good addition. Just add something on the line before the motor wheel so the stuff on the line isn’t eaten by the motor.

    1. This is actually what I mistakenly inferred from the title, a system that would move the line under the cover of the wood shed when it rains.
      But it is a nice solution, especially just being able to step outside the house and access the line. How to avoid dropping any pegs from the height sounds like a challenge.

  3. Nice hack indeed. +1 on a foot pedal or knee bump switch to free your hands (so they can be dedicated to hanging clothes).

    And once a year the motorized laundry line can be used for flying a spooky Axworthy ghost. Or hang a basket on it and use it for the good of mankind by delivering cold beverages out to the shed.

    – Thomas

  4. Now add some mumbo jumbo psuedo science enviro-centric ‘Green’ literature posing as study , black box ‘controller’ , and charge 400$ for it. 900$ with 50W Solar panel, 20AH SLA and Charger controller(diode and resistor in black box. ).
    Not as bad as
    Forgot to use the words ‘Turbo’ and ‘New enhanced Ultra’ with misused Robotic .Should probably add ‘Now with Advanced A.I ‘ in there too.
    It is a good idea to motorize. Im all in for lazy, cheap, and I use clothesline too. Clothes drying by electric or gas tumble dryers big waste of money. Machines arent cheap either. Those machines do remove lint and are faster in addition to not being reliant on sun being out. There is some sanitizing due to high static temperature.
    Then again i dont have huge family with lots of girls to change clothes five or more times a day.

  5. I expected something more when reading the word “robot”… and as I suspect that many more people expected more we may consider the word “clickbait” regarding this article/video. However, it’s good to see the automation of the humble clothes line. It perhaps a revolution that started with a recycled motor and two buttons.

    Though, I wonder if a simple crank would have resulted in a more reliable setup. If the arm of the crank was long enough no gears would be needed, just a matter of adding a stick with a handle to the existing pulley.
    But I fully understand that when it’s time to “install” a clothes line and you have a spare motor lying around, that it’s hard to resist no to use it. Robot, no. Interesting, certainly.

  6. Thanks for posting my project!

    I had a nice sunny weekend and decided to add the motor…. well, just because!
    For me, the definition of a robot is anything that makes life’s chores easier, and this sure does.

    I will probably expand on it again, perhaps some machine vision and auto reeling of the line.
    As we know, “complete” is never a word to be used with anything DIY!

    Radical Brad

  7. Now if I where to take the task to build something like that, I’d just add a distance sensor next to the end of the line and let it move itself. For example when taking things down the line: if (distance == infinite) then (move line until distance == [actual distance between line and sensor]).
    THAT would be a kinda robot..

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