Clothes horse

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A clothes horse
A drying rack
Modern hanging clothes horse with pulley system

A clothes horse, sometimes called a clothes rack, drying horse, clothes maiden, garment donkey, drying rack, scissor rack, drying stand, Frostick[citation needed], airer, or (Scots) winterdyke,[1] is a frame upon which clothes are hung after washing, indoors or outdoors, to dry by evaporation. The frame is usually made of wood, metal or plastic. It is a cheap low-tech piece of laundry equipment, as opposed to a clothes dryer, which necessitates electricity.

Types of drying racks[edit]

There are many types of drying racks, including large, stationary outdoor racks, smaller, folding portable racks, and wall-mounted drying racks. A drying rack is similar in usage and function to a clothes line, and used as an alternative to the powered clothes dryer.

A pulley clothes airer can be loaded and unloaded at a convenient height, and hoisted out of the way to ceiling height while the clothes dry. The racks are also used in kitchens, to hang utensils out of the way.

A pulley clothes airer is sometimes also described as "Victorian", "Edwardian", or "Lancashire" and then comprises two iron frames positioned as far apart as desired to provide a suitable length, with wooden laths, typically four or six, passed through holes in them. The frames are suspended from the ceiling by a system of rope and pulleys. The result is a hoistable rack with several parallel bars on which clothes can be draped out of the way, or hung, extending further down, with clothes hangers.[2][3]

A modern development uses a wooden frame with seven to eleven continuous clothes lines which increase the capacity of the clothes horse. The frame uses a clam cleat to tighten the clothes lines and hangs on four ropes. This increases the necessary installation effort, but also improves safety by increasing redundancy of the suspension. It uses a pulley system (block and tackle) which reduces the required force to lift the loaded frame.[4]

Figurative usage[edit]

Used figuratively, the single-word term clotheshorse describes men and women who are passionate about clothing and always appear in public dressed in the latest styles. From 1850 the term referred to a male fop or female quaintrelle, a person whose main function is, or appears to be, to wear or show off clothes.[5]

In this context, the term is similar to "fashion plate," which originally referred to a lithograph illustration of fashionable clothing in a book or magazine.


  1. ^ "DYKE, DIKE, n. and v." Dictionary of the Scots Language. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Retrieved 8 January 2013.
  2. ^ Typical parts available commercially to assemble a pulley airer
  3. ^ Images found by Google image search for "pulley airer"
  4. ^ A modern design of the clothes horse
  5. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed., documents use of "clothes horse" in 1807, and "human clothes horse" in 1850