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. It also served as an alternative to an airing cupboard. In cold, damp seasons and in the absence of central heating, a clothes horse placed by a fireside or a kitchen range provides a place to warm clothing, especially infants' and children's, before putting it on, and to allow freshly ironed items to dry completely. The practice of airing, once ubiquitous in Great Britain, for example, in the constant battle against damp and mold, has become far less common with the advent of central heating and affordable clothes dryers.
Other names for this device include a clothes rack, drying horse, clothes maiden, drying rack, scissor rack, garment donkey, drying stand, airer, or (Scots) Winter Dyke.
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 with pulleys
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.
- ""Airing" clothes - necessary or just extra work? | Mumsnet". www.mumsnet.com. Retrieved 2021-07-31.
- "DYKE, DIKE, n. and v." Dictionary of the Scots Language. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Retrieved 8 January 2013.
- Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed., documents use of "clothes horse" in 1807, and "human clothes horse" in 1850