Sunday, November 08, 2009

Clothespin Extinction

I spent a week in Boulder, attending to IT issues at NCAR and a satellite data users' workshop. I had a few free hours* one afternoon and browsed the aisles of McGuckin Hardware.  I was looking for the clothespins I use, shown in How to Use a Clothesline

I learned that Penley, the maker of my old sturdy wooden clothespins, has discontinued domestic production. They now make their clothespins in China. I have no idea if the quality is the same. McGuckins hardware sells both the Penley wooden ones made in China, and a plastic variety.  Has anyone used them?  Do they hold wet, heavy laundry?

I have no use for the high-style ones mentioned in this story:
Nowadays plastic clothespins are available in endless variations, including a new one that has gone into widespread production, Zebra’s “sweet clip,” made with both hard and soft plastics, using a dual-injection manufacturing process. The hard plastic is in the long handles, while two softer cushions sit where the pin grips the clothes. Zebra developed a dual-plastic toothbrush 15 years ago, applied the principle to clothespins in Europe in the late 1990s, obtained a worldwide patent, and captured 8 percent of the global clothespin market. The pin is sold in North America under the name Urbana.
     “We love to target stupid products,” says Xavier Gibert of Zebra. “When you walk into a megastore, most of the time you see stupid products, boring products. You buy them because you need them. We target basic products to make them come alive, able to talk to people.” And what does the Urbana clothespin say? Something along the lines of “I’ll be gentle.”
     “The key of this peg is not to be able to hold very heavy clothes,” says Gibert. “It’s much more dedicated to sensitive clothes.” Response to the pin has been enthusiastic. “People were attracted by the design. They said, ‘Wow, we love the shape.’”
If we want to save carbon and achieve energy independence, we will need clothespins that can securely hold heavy and wet laundry.

* Ok, I squeezed in visits to Elfriede's Fine Fabrics and Shuttles, Spindles and Skeins.  There was stash enhancement.  Photos after I come up for air.  This is the first weekend in a month in which both Bad Dad and Bad Mom were home at the same time.  Iris celebrated by coming down sick.  She was a trooper at soccer playoffs this weekend.  Her team was short three players, and she played two quarters, even though she was very weak and tired.  She says I revived her for the fourth quarter with my magic zucchini-chocolate chip muffins.


  1. We use these - I was sick of pegs with pins in the middle that fall apart (especially since I *can't* convince Hugo that pegs should be brought in off the line between washing loads). These work well - nothing has fallen off the line (not even blankets) and they don't seem to be degrading in the sun. It looks like they ship overseas.

  2. Oh, those are awesome. Remind me to pick some up next time we visit relatives in Australia.

    I used the springless ones for the first time during our NZ trip. They really hold well. The weren't as colorful as the ones you use.

  3. Wow the clothespins are awesome. Mine are all falling apart, which is not an immediate problem as we are near the end of the outdoor-drying season. But I do have to find some before spring.

  4. Rosa11:08

    My newer clothespins might be that brand - they were the only wooden spring pins I could find a few years ago. The wood is really flimsy - they break if you walk on them, they break sometimes if they fall off the line onto the floor. They will hold heavy clothing (jeans) but it takes 4-6 of them.

    For anything else (quilts, towels, winter coats) that is heavy I usually hang it half over the line, so the line takes the weight and the pins just hold it in place. That has been fine for me with the newer pins but I line-dry in a screen porch, so I don't get much wind to deal with. I'm not sure they would cut it outdoors.

    I don't really understand plastic clothespins - doesn't the sunlight make them brittle pretty quickly?

  5. When I was a kid, we used the springless wood ones- this was in AZ, so at one point, you could get them here.

    I'm ashamed to admit that we still haven't set up the lovely retractable clothesline hubby made his parents lug over from New Zealand a while back....

  6. They show no signs of getting brittle - we've had them for about 18 months. The other good thing is that because they're bright, if one falls on the ground you can see it - our courtyard is mulched with chopped up trees (the ones we removed so we could plant fruit trees), so wooden pegs are hard to see.

    I haven't seen them in a shop - I ordered mine from the website.

  7. @Rosa
    Not all plastics become brittle quickly when exposed to UV light. Some polymers are more stable than others. During manufacturing, additives can be used to make them more stable.

    The ones that Rebekka uses are "UV stabilized polypropylene".

    Any materials scientists want to chine in?

  8. It's usually the combination of atmospheric oxygen and UV light that makes a polymer degrade. You would have UV stabilizers along with radical scavengers (or antioxidants) to prevent chain scission and crosslinking due to oxygen. UV stabilizers typically convert light energy into heat by intramolecular proton transfer.

    Nickel quenchers are a common (and cheap) UV stabilizer that is green in color. That's why you often see cheap plastic lawn furniture, garden hoses, etc. that are green.

  9. Rosa21:04

    Wow, thank you Marianne.


Comments are open for recent posts, but require moderation for posts older than 14 days.