I’ve found buying a clothes drying rack generally goes one of two ways: either you don’t spend very much, and the rack you get is fairly flimsy and prone to collapse; or you pay more to get a sturdy, quality drying rack. If you’re not ready to invest in a more expensive option, you’re left with the choice of buying something low-quality or going without.
Luckily, we have a better option for you! We’ve designed a simple drying rack alternative that’s inexpensive, easy to make, and sturdy enough to hold up your wet clothes without collapsing (even when repositioned).
While I was looking up drying racks to figure out what differentiated the high-quality from the low-quality, I noticed a few things: Inexpensive drying racks often have thin rods for clothes to hang on (to keep the racks lightweight and easily storable), but the downside is that thin rods can cause delicate fabrics to crease. In contrast, the more expensive drying racks all use 3/4” dowels, specifically to avoid that problem. Low-quality racks often have a finish on the wood, whereas high-quality options specifically state their wood is left raw so there’s no reaction between the finish and the wet garments. And lower quality racks typically consist of softwood, while higher quality racks are constructed with more expensive, sturdier hardwood.
All of those details were easy enough to add to our design without raising the cost of this DIY. However, we did decide to use softwood—by using thicker dowels and lumber than some of the flimsier drying racks, we achieved the level of sturdiness required without having to splurge on hardwood.
Before we jump into this tutorial, though, we want to note that it’s very important to make sure your drying rack doesn’t have any sharp edges that could catch and snag on clothing. We’ve worked this into the design by placing the hinge hardware out of the way of any hanging clothes and by using twine threaded through a hole instead of tied to a nail. Be sure to keep this in mind if you alter the design, and make sure you sand everything well to reduce the chance of splinters. The simplicity of this design is part of its beauty, making it easy for you to customize to fit your space perfectly!
Step 1: Cut one-by-twos
Measure the length of two one-by-twos and cut them both in half evenly with a circular saw, chop saw, or handsaw and miter box. These four lengths will be the legs of the drying rack. On the legs’ uncut ends, use a speed square to find a 15° angle. Cut all four uncut ends at this angle. Measure and cut the remaining one-by-two into two 30” pieces. These pieces will be the tops.
Step 2: Cut dowels
Measure and cut eight of the dowels to 30”. Cut the remaining two dowels to 32”. Every dowel has a label on one end, and I like to cut off the end with the sticker so I don’t have to worry about peeling them off later.
Step 3: Drill holes
Measure along the length of two of the one-by-two legs from the top (the straight edge) and mark the following measurements: 2 1/2”, 10 1/2”, 18 1/2”, 26 1/2”, and 34 1/2”. Once all the measurements are marked, measure the width of the leg with a square and center the marks. You can make these final marks with an awl to make it easier to drill in the exact spots.
Clamp the legs together in pairs with the marked leg on top and a scrap piece of wood on the bottom. Drill through all the measurements on both legs with a 3/4” spade bit.
Step 4: Sand
Sanding is always a good idea, but this project specifically needs to be smooth so clothes won’t get snagged. Most likely, the legs will need the most attention. Use a sanding sponge to smooth them. The dowels should already be fairly smooth, but if you want to sand them, trade the sponge for a piece of sandpaper that can wrap around the circumference of the dowel.
Step 5: Build frames
Now it’s time to assemble the two frames that will be hinged together. Align two of the one-by-twos so the angled sides of the legs are at the same end (the bottom) and the angles are pointing in the same direction. Then, slide the ends of the 30” dowels into the pre-drilled holes of the legs. Secure the dowels one leg at a time by applying wood glue into the holes and pushing the dowels in until they’re flush with the opposite side. Wipe away any excess glue. You can also secure the dowels in place with 5/8” screws. If you use screws, secure them onto what will be the backside of the drying rack (the shorter end of the angle).
Repeat these steps to assemble the opposite frame, but this time you’ll also use the 32” dowels. Position one of these dowels at the top of the legs and the other in the middle. These dowels should stick out past the legs on both sides by 1”. You can glue them in place as well, but the easiest way to attach these dowels is with screws. Fit the 30" dowels into the remaining holes, just like you did with the first frame.
Step 6: Add wood plugs
Prep four wood plugs to add to both ends of the 32” dowels. Mark the center of the plugs and pre-drill with a 1/16” drill bit. Use a pair of pliers to hold the plugs in place while drilling to protect your fingers.
Once the plugs are pre-drilled, secure them to the ends of the 32” dowels with wood glue and a finish nail. Having this capped overhang will allow you to use clothes hangers without them sliding off the end.
Step 7: Assemble frames
Now it’s time to add the 30” one-by-two tops to both frames and connect them with hinges. Lay the tops flatwise on top of the frame and secure with two 1 5/8” trim screws at each end. You can also use nails.
Once the tops are attached to the legs, line up the two pieces with the bottom angles of the legs pointing away from each other. Clamp the frames together, and position three 1 1/2” hinges evenly along the seam between the top pieces. Mark where to secure the screws with a pencil or an awl, and drive them in.
Step 8: Add twine
Drill through all four one-by-twos halfway down the legs with a 1/8” drill bit. Thread twine through the holes so it ties the two frames together at each end. This will keep the rack from opening more than it should. You can adjust the twine to your needs, but we recommend having the bottom of the legs about 30” apart.
Now that you’ve got a secure way to dry your clothes, check out our portable DIY laundry basket so you have a place to store your clothes before you wash them. Then, finish out your bathroom with our DIY shower caddy and DIY bathroom storage tower.