How to double your rack capacity for a fiver

Sturdy, reliable, solid and pleasing to the eye. I might be talking about chaps of a certain age, though in this instance I’m talking about clothes hangers. Shapely wooden clothes hangers. The type that will let you hang anything on them, from the flimsiest of cotton shirt to the most stonking parka you can find.


And there lies todays topic. First though, a word about engineers (fear not, it will start to make sense at some point). A major part of an engineers job is to make stuff that doesn’t fall down. Now this isn’t as hard as it may seem, as they were building massive cathedrals and stuff hundreds of years ago and they’re still standing. They just needed to make them really really solid. Or over dimensioned, as the engineer would say.

The real challenge is not to over dimension them though, but to make them solid enough, and not much more than enough. This is mainly for issues of cost, as reducing materials saves money, and that looks good on the spreadsheets. And with good numbers on the spreadsheets you get to make more stuff.


So what does this have to do with clothes hangers? Quite a lot. The wood clothes hanger is like the cathedral of clothes hangers. It is over dimensioned for almost everything you want to hang on it and it takes up a lot of space. And this space issue was something I noticed recently when trying to make room for Yet Another Shirt on my shirt rack. There was hardly room for another hanger on the rack, and almost all hangers already had two or more shirts on them.


So I decided to investigate the matter, with an idea of getting a bit factual and technical about it. I started by formulating the theory that the girth of the wood hangers was the basic issue at hand, so to test that I purchased 20 of the slimmest hangers I could find. These cost about 20 pence a piece, are made of quite thin wire and weigh almost nothing.


My shirt rack was as crushed as a Tokyo subway at rush hour, stacked tight and with between one and three shirts per hanger. First I wanted to check how much rack space would be taken up by 20 shirts hanging quite freely on wood hangers. Then I measured how much space could be minimally used by 20 bare hangers. This gives us some baseline numbers for our complicated rack space/hanger dimension computations.

Next up I placed the 20 thin wire hangers on the rack and measured their minimal space, and then transferred the same 20 shirts to those hangers and measured their free hanging spatial requirements. I also measured how much space they could take up in a minimal, compressed situation, to compare with the real-life scenario showed up top.


What does the analysis show?

Bare hanger spatial requirements (20 hangers):
  • Wood hangers 27cm vs. wire hangers 6cm
Populated hanger spatial requirements (20 hangers):
  • Wood hangers 34.7cm vs. Wire hangers   28.5cm vs Wire hangers 19.0cm (c)
(Single shirt on each hanger, same selection, c indicates compressed)

Complicated maths to calculate percentage extra room made available by converting to wire hangers:

  • Free hanging: 100-100*(28.5/34.7) = 17.8%
  • Compressed: 100-100*(19.0/34.7) = 45.2%

From this we deduce that there is between 45 and 18 percent gain in rack space by converting to slimline hangers. For the nominal investment necessary to purchase cheap wire hangers, it seems a pretty obvious improvement in shirt rack real estate, right?


The real gains in every shirt having it’s own hanger are numerous:

  • Each shirt can hang more freely, so your ironing work isn’t futile
  • Each shirt can be seen and you get to use all of them
  • Shirts that should be gone can no longer hide under others
  • You get that warm feeling of operating at optimally engineered shirt storage

So there, who said there was no room to get a little technical on a Saturday morning?


Now, I know some will contest the wisdom of hanging garments on thin wire hangers over the wider wood hangers, and in some respects I see the point. However, a shirt has almost zero weight, so the chance of fabric distortion really can’t be that great. It’s not like I’m going to hang a whacking great mountain parka on a flimsy hanger, we have to be a little practical here.

I have seen mention of very cheap wire hangers discolouring shirts. I’ve not noticed this myself, but it might be an idea to keep an eye on it, especially if your clothes are hanging in a humid environment (which they surely are not!).

There is also mention of wood clothes hangers made of cedar tree having properties that keep moths away or remove odour. I can imagine cedar tree shoe trees having some nominal odour relief value, but for a shirt on a hanger it seems a lot less plausible. The anti-moth properties have been debunked.


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  • Mr Brown 23/01/2016 at 21:43

    Check the Muji alu hanger.

    A bit thicker, non staining (surely only a risk if you’re hanging damp or sweaty shirts – in which case you’ve got deeper problems to look at anyway), haven’t got that sharp twisty bit and are, er just a bit nicer.


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