Clothing that should not go in the dryer is inside a mesh bag on a laundry room table

What Not Put in The Dryer: Lessons Learned the Hard Way

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Does your clothes dryer have an array of confusing settings? My first tumble dryer had so many options—including a fabric care detector and moisture sensor—that I thought it could handle everything. Then I damaged a bunch of our clothes.

So, as I learned the hard way, it’s important to follow the clothing care label even when your dryer says it has special settings that can handle it.

When in doubt, this list of what not to put in the dryer can help you avoid costly mistakes like the ones I made.

Soaking Wet Shoes

Your favorite slippers and sneakers are probably washable, but putting them in the dryer is risky. The glues and materials used in these items can warp or come apart with heat.

To dry shoes, stuff them with rolled towels to absorb moisture. After an hour, remove the towels and let your shoes air-dry away from heat and direct sunlight. 

Some Sport and Leisure Clothes

Yoga pants and workout clothes with stretchy, moisture-wicking fabrics are more delicate than they look.

Tumble drying can weaken these fibers, leading to pilling. And swimsuits? They’re meant to be wet but not heat-dried. Opt for air-drying.

Floor Coverings

Skip tumble-drying bath mats and rugs with rubber backings. The heat can melt the backing and cause it to crumble.

Even on a low-heat setting, the rubber backing can grip the dryer drum and keep it from tumbling properly, which can damage your machine. Hang them out to dry instead.

Intimate Details

Delicate lingerie and hosiery might seem safe in a mesh bag, but the dryer’s heat will shrink and weaken the elastic and shorten their lifespan.

To keep your bras, hosiery, and tights in peak condition, wash them by hand and air dry them on a flat drying rack. 

Finer Fabrics

Delicate fabrics like silk, lace, and chiffon need gentle handling. The tumble of a dryer can cause snags or set in stubborn wrinkles.

Roll these garments in a towel to remove excess moisture, give them a gentle shake to release wrinkles, and lay them flat to air-dry.

Embellished Clothing

Garments with sequins, beads, embroidery or other embellishments need careful drying.

The dryer can damage these decorations or cause them to snag on other clothes. Lay them flat to dry, away from direct sunlight.

Sweaters and Scarves

You should never put sweaters in the dryer because the tumbling action can stretch them or cause snags and pills. Tumble drying wool or cashmere roughens and shrinks the fibers, and  they’re almost impossible to unshrink

Blot synthetics and cotton sweaters by rolling them in a towel before air drying, but avoid doing anything but lifting wool or cashmere sweaters onto a flat rack to air dry. 

Velvet and Polyester

Pure velvet needs a trip to the dry cleaner. Sometimes, washable velvet or polyester fabrics can handle low-heat tumble drying, but look to the care label.

I’ve found tumble drying wears away the printed designs on polyester clothing quickly, even those things that say they’re dryer safe. Air drying on a rack keeps these things from happening. 

Synthetic Siblings

Rayon and its synthetic sibling Lycra don’t do well in the dryer. Even at low heat settings, these materials can shrink, snag, or pill.

Air-dry them flat to maintain their shape and texture. If you need to get rid of wrinkles afterward, try steam or a low iron over a damp cloth.

Luxury Linen

Linen can be tricky, so this is one time it’s crucial to check the care label and follow it exactly. Natural linen shrinks after one cycle in high heat, but even with lower heat settings it may shrink after several trips through the dryer.

After losing one too many wrestling matches with queen sized linen sheets that had shrunk, I hang ours out to dry now.

Now that you’re thinking about all the clothes that should not go in the dryer, check out my tips to line-dry clothing indoors or out.

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