Clothes horse

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A clothes horse

Clothes horse is sometimes used to refer to a portable frame upon which wet laundry is hung 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 requires electricity to operate.


Other names for this device include a clothes rack, drying horse, clothes maiden, drying rack, scissor rack, drying stand, airer, or (Scots) Winter Dyke.[1]


A drying rack
An overhead clothes airer with pulleys

There are many types of clothes horses: large, stationary outdoor ones; smaller, folding portable racks; and wall-mounted drying racks. A clothes horse is similar in usage and function to a clothes line, and used as an alternative to the powered clothes dryer. An electric alternative exists, usually known as a heated clothes airer.

An overhead clothes airer can be lowered by its pulley mechanism to a convenient height for loading the wet laundry, and then hoisted out of the way to ceiling height while the clothes dry.

Figurative usage[edit]

The term clothes horse 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.[2]

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. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed., documents use of "clothes horse" in 1807, and "human clothes horse" in 1850