Clotheslines, very necessary but controversial

Clotheslines, very necessary but controversial

Heritage & Traditions

By Colette Laforet

A clothesline, also known as a string or rope, is a line on which freshly washed clothes are hung to dry and lose moisture in contact with the air.

Clothing and sheets or towels can be spread on the clothesline, or they can be held with artifacts that in Cuba are called "pins”.Hanging garments outside of houses formerly had an additional purpose. The bedding ware is spread out with the intention of maintaining and increasing its whiteness thanks to the sunlight.

One of the risks involved in hanging outside was that the so-called “snow thieves” would seize the clothes hanging from the racks.When hanging indoors, it was normal to use a wooden support that was placed in front of the fireplace to speed up the drying process.

The easel was a simple structure composed of two or three pieces of wood that had horizontal bars to support the garments and were joined together with canvas, ropes or leather strips.

Currently, in countries where it doesn’t rain much, clothes have been hung outside houses, in patios or gardens on ropes secured by means of stakes, trees or other supports.

Meanwhile, in areas where it rains frequently, or in interior apartments, they usually use metal or plastic clotheslines, structures which can be placed in any space of the house.

When washers come with dryers included, clotheslines can be reduced. In many cities, communities and urbanizations, especially in European and some Latin American countries,, it is forbidden to hang clothes outside. However, recent green currents and growing awareness of energy saving are leading to a resurgence of clotheslines.

In Cuba, it could be said that it is tradition, since the normal thing is that when clothes are washed, although they are mechanically dried, they are laid out in the sun, so that the heat eliminates any stain on the fabric or possible bacteria.

Precisely, singer-songwriter, Gerardo Alfonso, composed a song, by the way very popular and widespread, that illustrates this custom: Sabanas Blancas (White Sheets) which also refers to other Havana traditions.

Here are some verses from that song:

Havana, my old Havana,

Lady of history, of conquerors and people

With their religions, beautiful lady…


The long wall along the coastline, the Capitol and the Prado

With her lions, her visions.


White sheets hung on balconies

White sheets hung on balconies