When you have a lot of clothes that don’t fare particularly well in the dryer, it can be hard to figure out where to hang your freshly washed bathing suits, gym clothes, delicate shirts, and of course, unmentionables. My family has been draping those damp garments from the wire shelf above the washer, but we’re sick of doing that. It’s ugly, and it doesn’t work all that well—the clothes fall into a pile or slip behind the machines half the time.
With space at a premium, our solution is a folding wall-mounted laundry rack with a small storage shelf on top. The contraption is basically a large frame with a smaller frame inside it on hinges. When needed, you can pull the inner frame out at an angle and hang your clothes to dry from a series of dowels. Once your clothes are dry, take them down, push the drying frame back into place, and it will stay there until you need it again.
This is a relatively straightforward build, though there are a lot of places where things can go wrong if you’re not careful. I was able to build mine from a mixture of poplar and pine I had lying around, but you can use just about any wood you want. If you’re planning to paint yours, I recommend poplar. It’s not as expensive as an oak or maple, but paints better than pine and stains pretty well, too.
At the time of publication, the laundry hanger has been up for about a month, and it’s already significantly improved both the look and function of our laundry room.
Warning: DIY projects can be dangerous, even for the most experienced makers. Before proceeding with this or any other project on our site, ensure you have all necessary safety gear and know how to use it properly. At minimum, that may include safety glasses, a facemask, and/or ear protection. If you’re using power tools, you must know how to use them safely and correctly. If you do not, or are otherwise uncomfortable with anything described here, don’t attempt this project.
- Time: 4 to 6 hours
- Cost: $50 to $75
- Difficulty: moderate
- Table saw
- Crosscut sled (or miter saw)
- Orbital sander
- Sanding discs (60-, 80-, 120-, 150-, and 220-grit)
- Tape measure
- Corner clamps
- Painter’s tape
- Roundover bit
- Drill press
- ⅜-inch drill bit
- Countersink bit
- Brad nailer
- Stud finder
- Digital angle gauge
- Wire cutters
- Flush cut saw
- 1 (9-foot-long) 1-by-6-inch poplar board
- ¼-inch poplar plywood
- 1-inch brad nails
- Wood glue
- Super glue
- 3 ⅜-inch dowels
- Spray paint
- Drywall anchors
How to build a wall-mounted drying rack
1. Mill the lumber to rough dimensions. This is one of those projects where the better you mill your lumber, the better results you’ll get. Start by cutting your board down to rough length, about 1 inch longer than the final dimensions of each piece. You may be able to optimize your choice of wood differently, but I reached this point with one 29-inch board for the long sides of the outside frame, one 27-inch board for all sides of the inside frame, one 23-inch board for the remaining pieces of the outside frame, and a 25-inch board for the upper shelf.
If you aren’t sure of the next steps, I put together a full, detailed guide on how to properly mill and joint wood. The basics, though, are to joint one face and edge, plane the opposite face, and then cut the pieces down to their final width on your table saw. When you’re done, you should have nine perfectly milled boards:
- 2 (23-by-1.5-inch) boards for the top and bottom of the outside frame
- 2 (29-by-1.5-inch) boards for the left and right sides of the outside frame
- 2 (20-by-1-inch) boards for the top and bottom of the inside frame
- 2 (27-by-1-inch) boards for the left and right sides of the inside frame
- 1 (25-by-4-inch) board for the top shelf
2. Cut the miters. As part of this step, you’ll also trim the boards down to their final lengths. There are several ways to cut the 45-degree angles, and one of the most common is with a miter saw. Simply adjust the angle of your tool to 45 degrees, and trim the ends of each board to length. I, however, prefer to use my table saw and a crosscut sled, with the blade set to 45 degrees. For this to work, you’ll either need to set your blade to 45 degrees and cut a new blade channel in your existing crosscut sled, or build a second sled specifically for miters, which is what I did.
Before you start cutting, use a digital angle gauge to confirm that your blade is set to 45 degrees. It may not seem like much, but 44.8 degrees can leave some pretty big gaps between pieces, even if you do manage to force your frames square.
Pay careful attention to the direction of the angles, too. You’ll have to flip each board around, not just slide it left and right, to make the second cut. If the ends of the board are parallel, you’ve messed up.
Once you have your miters done, dry-fit the frames together to make sure everything fits like you expect.
- Pro tip: Glue the outside frame together before cutting the miters for the inside frame. This will let you double-check the interior dimensions. In my case, I forgot to account for the wood I’d removed in milling, so the gap between the two frames would have been about a quarter-inch larger than I’d planned if I’d cut all the miters at the same time.
3. Drill dowel holes in the inner frame. The dowels you’ll hang your clothes on attach to the inner frame. To keep the frame square and ensure the dowels stay parallel, the holes in both side pieces need to be perfectly aligned. The easiest way to do this is to drill them at the same time.
Use painter’s tape to secure the two long side pieces of the inner frame together, with the outside edge of each piece pressing against each other and the shortest edge of each board facing out. Then measure the spacing of the dowels. I spread mine 4 inches apart, and 3 inches from each end of the board. This spacing seems to work well for most clothes we dry.
[Related: How to wash your clothes without wearing them out]
Once the boards are taped and the hole locations marked, use a ⅜-inch bit to drill through both boards. The best tool for this is a drill press. Put one of the short edges down on the press table, with the other hole facing up to drill out the holes. If you don’t have a drill press, you can use a regular drill, but make sure you are drilling straight through the boards, not at an angle. You can make a simple jig to help the alignment.
4. Glue up the frames. The easiest way I’ve found to do this is to use corner clamps. Spread a thin layer of glue onto each mitered end, then clamp the two pieces together. Adjust the wood inside the clamp until the outer corners are flush and the seam is tight. This method also makes it easier to install the dowels into the inner frame before gluing it up.
If you don’t have corner clamps, you can use painter’s tape. Lay out the pieces of each frame with the outer edges facing up and the connecting ends touching in a long line. Then stretch a 2-to-3-inch piece of painter’s tape across each joint. Flip all four boards over at the same time so the outer edges are facing down and the open miter joints face up. Spread glue inside each miter joint.
Now, roll the entire line up, starting at one edge, so all four boards form a square. Secure the final joint with painter’s tape. If you’d like to see how this works in practice, I used this tape method to glue up the pieces of a coffin-shaped wedding card box.
For added stability, use a brad nailer to drive two nails into each joint.
- Pro tip: Before gluing, put painter’s tape along the inside corner of each board, right next to the angle of the miter. This will catch the glue that squeezes out when the two boards come together, making sanding and cleanup faster and easier.
5. Install the dowels in the inner frame. If you haven’t already, cut and install the dowels to fit the inner frame. I cut mine about an inch longer than they needed to be, so they stick out the sides half an inch. Smear some glue along each end of the dowels, and push them through the holes.
Clean up any glue squeeze-out with a damp paper towel.
Again, for stability, drive a single brad nail through the back of the frame and into the dowel.
Once the dowels are secure and the glue is dry, use a flush-cut saw to trim all the dowels even with the outer edge of the frame.
6. Install top and bottom nailer strips on the outer frame. Right now, there’s no way to actually secure the frame to the wall. To solve this problem, install a nailer strip at the top and bottom of the outer frame.
Cut two strips of ¼-inch plywood that are the same length as the outer frame is wide. Mine were 3 inches wide and 22 inches long. Glue and brad nail these strips to the back of the outer frame, flush with the top and bottom. There should be about 2 inches of nailer strip visible inside the frame.
(Optional) 7. Route any decorative trim elements. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with leaving your frames square, with right angles everywhere. However, if you would like to get away from the blocky look, now is the time to add some decorative elements. I chose to use a router with a roundover bit on the inside edge of the outer frame. This softened the profile a bit and gave the inner frame a nice, gradual inward slope.
(Optional) 8. Install the shelf on the outer frame. If you want a shelf on top of your laundry hanger, install that now. Glue and brad nail the shelf to the top of the frame. Use clamps to secure it until the glue dries.
9. Sand everything smooth. Time to pay the sandman. Sanding is the difference between a professional-looking product and one marred by saw marks and blemishes. Trust me, you’ll never unsee them. Use an orbital sander for any flat surfaces and hand-sand the decorative trim as needed. Start with 120-grit paper, and then move to 150- and 220-grit to finish.
Don’t forget to sand the dowels.
10. Drill holes for the hinges. I’m not going to lie—I struggle with hinges. They always wind up slightly out of alignment, so if anyone has a foolproof way they do it, please let me know.
[Related: Build your own door and ascend to a higher level of DIY]
Absent that pro tip, first tape the hinges into position on the bottom of the inner frame. Then drill pilot holes for each hinge through the tape, so you can see where the hinge aligns into one frame.
Then position the frame inside the outer frame. Trace the edges and front of each hinge onto the outer frame, remove the hinge from the inner frame, lay it in place on the outer frame, and drill the pilot holes there.
This way is fairly accurate, and I’ll keep doing it that way until I find a better method.
11. Install the magnets. These magnets will hold the inner frame in the upright position when it’s closed. There are, of course, other options for latching it in place; I like magnets because they aren’t particularly visible and are simple to use.
Drill a shallow hole in the top two corners of the back of the inner frame. Then drill a matching shallow hole in the top nail strip. When the inner frame is closed, the two holes should line up.
Finally, use super glue to secure the magnets inside those holes, making sure the attracting sides are facing one another when everything is closed.
12. Apply your finish. Whatever finish you choose, put it on according to the manufacturer’s instructions. I chose to use white spray paint, which took two full coats and then a third touch-up coat.
13. Hang the rack on your wall. Install the outer frame first. Find and mark the studs in your wall and position the frame against them. Use a pencil to lightly mark where they go on the nailer strips, and then drill screw holes with a countersink bit. Next, screw the outer frame to the wall. If you only have one stud that will fall behind the frame, use a drywall anchor and one stud. Make sure you hit one stud, even if that means the rack has to go in a less-than-ideal location.
Once the outer frame is up, install the inner one. Ideally, this is a two-person job. First, install the hinges into the bottom of the inner frame. Then, one person should hold the inner frame on the bottom lip of the outer frame so the hinges line up with the pre-drilled holes. The second person should screw the hinges into place.
If your inner frame is slightly out of alignment, loosen the screws on one hinge and shim it with thin pieces of scrap wood. Then tighten the hinge back down onto the shims. This will push the top of the inner frame away from the hinge that you shimmed; if you shim the left hinge, the frame will lean to the right.
You can install the inner frame before hanging the outer frame, but I thought it would be harder to attach it to the wall around the dowels than to install the hinges later. However, if you have to install this alone, it will likely be easier to install the inner frame before hanging.
14. Cut and attach the chain. Finally, decide how far you want the laundry hanger to fold out into the room. Cut your chain with wire cutters to match that. The chain should run from the inside upper corner of the outer frame to the inside upper corner of the inner frame. Screw hooks into the appropriate locations, making sure that neither the hooks nor chains interfere with opening or closing the frame. If there’s no location where the hooks don’t get in the way, you can use very small screws instead.
Now it’s just time to wash some laundry, hang a few pieces up, and watch them dry. Well, maybe not watch. Go away and build something else while they dry. But then come back later and enjoy the fact that your bathing suit is, in fact, dry.