Can You Overdry Clothes In The Tumble Dryer? (& how to avoid it)

If you need to get your laundry dry in a hurry, a tumble dryer is a great appliance. However, you do need to be careful because it is possible to overdry clothes in the tumble dryer. This leads to many ruined or aged before their time clothes.

To find out exactly what happens when you overdry clothes and how to prevent it from happening, keep reading.

What Does Over Drying Do To Clothes?

Clothes can become over dried if they are put in a tumble dryer which has the heat set too high or the clothes are left in the dryer for too long. The rough and tumble action of the tumble dryer along with that harsh, hot air can be damaging to clothes.

What Are The Effects Of Over Drying?

The problems faced if you overdry your clothes in a tumble dryer include;

  • Weakened Fabric
    Tumble drying clothes causes the fabric to weaken, regardless of the temperature you use. But the higher the temperature and the longer the items are left in the dryer, the more damage done to the material. This will shorten the lifespan of your clothes and lead to them wearing out faster.
  • Shrunken Clothes
    Prolonged exposure to hot air combined with the mechanical action of the rotating drum can shrink many fabrics. This makes the clothes smaller, which might be good for deliberately shrinking a baggy t-shirt, but is not good for all of your clothes. Added to which the shrinkage is never uniform, you might find one arm shorter than the other etc.
  • Faded Colours
    Tumble dryers don’t actually make colours fade, the dye doesn’t run in the heat, only water in the washing machine can do that. However your clothes look faded when overdrying causes the fabric to become damaged which makes it look like the colours have faded.
  • Damaged Elastic
    If your clothes have a band of elastic around the waist for instance, it will stretch and lose its elasticity if subjected to too much heat for too long.
Clothes

What Can Cause Over Drying?

The thing is when clothes are wet, they can only get as hot as water can get, which is 100 degrees C which is boiling point. Once the water has been removed from the clothes, the fabric can reach much higher temperatures which is why they can become damaged if exposed to high temperatures.

Now, the hottest setting on a tumble dryer is set at around 66 degrees C so this shouldn’t be a problem. However there are certain circumstances that can cause tumbled dryers to overheat. These circumstances include;

  • A Restricted Air Flow
    The lint filter should be emptied after every use to prevent the air flow becoming restricted. Another reason the air flow could become restricted is if the vent hose becomes blocked.
  • A Faulty Thermostat
    The thermostat keeps the temperature in check, controlling the heating element and allowing it to cut in and out as needed to keep the temperature at an even setting. If the thermostat becomes faulty, it might not cut the heating element out which means the temperature will keep on rising.
  • A Faulty Heating Element
    In some cases, the heating element itself can become dislodged or moved. If this happens it could cause the tumble dryer to heat up too hot and too fast.

All fabrics can be affected by over drying in a tumble dryer. Of course there are fabrics that fare better than others and there are certain fabrics that should never be put in a dryer. 

For instance, you should never put leather or suede garments in a tumble dryer as they will dry out and crack which leads to rips and tears in the material.

Which is why we always recommend checking the care label before washing or drying any items.

Which Fabrics Are Most Affected By Over Drying

woman holding knitted wool sweaters

Let’s have a quick look at which fabrics suffer from the effects of over drying. These include;

Silk

Many silk items will advise you not to tumble dry because of the potential for damage. The same is true for lace and many linen items too.

Wool

Wool is a natural fibre and has a high water content, it’s that water content that gives wool its temperature regulating properties. Over drying wool garments leads to them losing that water which will make the garments shrink. 

In some cases, you can soak shrunken woollen items in warm water with fabric conditioner to replace the lost moisture, but this isn’t always successful.

Cotton

Cotton is another natural fabric which contains a certain amount of moisture in the fibres. Over drying can lead to shrinkage, colour fade, damage to the material and premature wearing.

It is more robust than wool but cotton can still become damaged if exposed to high temperatures for too long.

Denim

Denim is a fabric made from cotton in which the threads are weaved in a certain way to make them stronger than standard cotton fabrics. Designed as workwear for 19th century miners, we always think of denim as a hard wearing, robust fabric.

In many ways that’s true, however, over drying denim will cause it to shrink. This can be handy if your jeans are too big, but otherwise it can be problematic.

Polyester

Polyester is one of the stronger synthetic fabrics which means it is more likely to withstand over drying for longer than most other man made fabrics. However, that doesn’t mean it won’t succumb if left in the dryer for too long.

Synthetic fabrics are likely to shrink and even start to melt if subjected to high temperatures for long periods.

How Can You Prevent Over Drying?

clothes on a drying rack

The best way to prevent over drying is to not use the tumble dryer at all. Although drying clothes in direct sunlight can cause some damage, it’s far less likely to happen. This is because of other factors including breezes, humidity levels etc.

Also it doesn’t get anywhere near as hot outdoors as it does inside the drum of a tumble dryer. Plus there’s no rough mechanical action to cause damage either.

Of course not all of us have access to an outside drying space, and living in the UK even if you do have that access, the weather is often not conducive for drying clothes outdoors. 

If you do need to use a tumble dryer to dry your clothes, you should get into the habit of checking on the clothes regularly as they dry. It’s also a good idea to remove them from the dryer whilst they’re still slightly damp to prevent heat damage.

In some cases, you might need to remove a few items that have dried sufficiently before the rest of the load is dry. This will prevent the few dry items from over drying and getting damaged.

Many modern tumble dryers have sensors that can detect how dry the clothes are. This should help to prevent over drying but it’s not fail proof. Some have settings like “iron dry” or “cupboard dry”, selecting iron dry will prevent over drying as it leaves clothes damp enough to be ironed easily.

There are other ways to dry clothes without using a tumble dryer, these include;

Clothes Airer

Innotic Airer Clothes Drying Rack 4 Tier Foldable Rolling Stainless Laundry Dryer Hanger with Casters for Indoor Outdoor, Grey
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Innotic Airer Clothes Drying Rack 4 Tier Foldable Rolling Stainless Laundry Dryer Hanger with Casters for Indoor Outdoor, Grey
  • 4 TIER CLOTHES DRYING AREA: 6 retractable trays and 2 side wings for airing towels, socks, shirts, sweaters, hats, coat, suits, dresses, shoes etc. Each airer can be folded down to conserve space, you can dry clothes on multiple rails, 7 hooks on 2 side wings for additional hanging drying.
  • PREMIUM MATERIAL: Innotic clothes drying rack is made of high quality stainless steel and durable plastic, strong load bearing capacity and stability.

If you need to dry your clothes indoors a clothes airer or drying rack is a great device for getting laundry dry. Clothes airers can be set up in any room that suits you best, can be folded away flat when not in use and can take quite a large amount of washing at a time.

If you position the airer close to a source of heat, either a radiator or sunny window and open the window to allow adequate airflow, you will find your laundry dries relatively fast.

You should always ensure that you place items of clothing with enough space around them to allow air to flow freely to ensure the clothes dry evenly.

Electric Fan

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Schallen 16" Electric Oscillating Floor Standing Tall Pedestal Air Cooling Fan (Black)
  • Schallen branded 16-inch pedestal fan in BLACK suitable for home, office, garage, travel use
  • 16" with adjustable height and fan head angle for optimum comfort

Placing an electric fan close to the airer positioned in such a way as to force moist air away from the laundry, will reduce drying times even more.

This works even better if you place the clothes rack by an open window to allow the moist air to escape from the room from the force of the fan.

Electric fans cost between 1 to 3 pence per hour to run at current UK electricity prices.

Dehumidifier

Russell Hobbs RHDH1001 10 Litre/Day Dehumidifier for Damp/Mould & Moisture in Home, Kitchen, Bedroom, Office, Caravan, Laundry Drying, 30m2 Room, Smart Timer, White
  • 10L MAXIMUM EXTRACTION RATE – Removes up to 10L of water in 24 hours
  • 30M2 ROOM SIZE – Perfect for medium size spaces such as bedrooms and utility rooms

Dehumidifiers work by removing moisture from the air and collecting the water in a central tank or reservoir. This will need to be emptied on a regular basis. In fact, you’ll be surprised by just how much water is extracted from one load of drying laundry.

Placing a dehumidifier in the same room will help to remove moisture from the air. This will allow the wet laundry to expel moisture at a faster rate, getting your clothes dryer even faster.

Heated Airer

GlamHaus Electric Heated Clothes Airer Dryer Rack Aluminium with Cover Indoor - Folds Flat for Easy Storage - 3 Tier Design - Only 220W
  • The Glamhaus EcoDry heated clothes airer and cover provides you with a new, eco friendly way to dry your clothes - perfect for apartments and homes without a tumble dryer or washing line and is more energy efficient than tumble driers or placing laundry over your radiators which often leads to a build up of condensation in your home
  • Fully assembled and high quality superb lightweight design with versatile open-sided shelves that provide easier access allow you to make use of the full clothes dryer rack and even fold some of the shelves away when not required to take up even less space.

Heated airers look almost exactly the same as regular airers but with the added advantage of a heating element. This warms the bars of the airer and allows the water molecules to disperse from the laundry faster.

Many heated airers are supplied with a cover that keeps the heat and moisture in to speed up drying times and help reduce any dampness. If your heated airer doesn’t come supplied with a cover, you can use a bed sheet to do the same thing.

SEE ALSO: What Does Easy Iron Mean On A Washing Machine & Tumble Dryer?

Do You Have Any Questions?

We hope you found this article helpful, if you have any questions feel free to drop them in the comments below.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you over tumble dry?

You can over dry clothes in a tumble dryer. This can cause serious damage to the clothes depending on the fabric they are made from. 

What happens if you over dry clothes in the dryer?

Drying clothes at too high a heat for too long a period in a tumble dryer can cause clothes to shrink, weaken the fabric, damage any elasticated waist etc, and even make the clothes look faded.

What happens if you tumble dry too hot?

If you dry your clothes at too high a level of heat they are likely to become shrunken, faded, more likely to tear or stretch out of shape depending on the fabric.

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