Can You Tumble Dry Baby Clothes? (does it shrink or is it safe)

The good news is, you can tumble dry baby clothes – But only at low temperatures. This is because baby clothes are generally made using natural materials like cotton and wool which are susceptible to shrinking when subjected to high temperatures.

Another thing to remember is that tumble drying baby clothes will take longer than tumble drying adult clothes. We know, that sounds odd right? How can much smaller clothes take longer to dry? It’s all down to the surface area – less surface area equals a longer tumble drying time.

So remember, it’s OK to tumble dry baby clothes as long as you follow these points;

  1. Keep The Temperature Low
    Washing and drying baby clothes should always be done at low temperatures to prevent damaging the fabrics.
  2. Allow Extra Drying Time
    Tumble dryers work by using the friction from the surface of each garment to agitate the moisture from the material. As baby clothes have a smaller surface area, it will take a longer time to achieve drying.
  3. Never Use Dryer Sheets
    Using dryer sheets in the tumble dryer with baby clothes is not advisable because they can affect the flame retardant properties of some baby clothes.
  4. For Static Reduction Use Wool Dryer Balls
    Wool dryer balls are a great alternative to dryer sheets. They are a chemical free way to remove static and prevent wrinkles from your baby clothes and can be reused time after time.
  5. Always Follow The Care Label
    Follow the advice from the care label as this will give the most accurate care plan for that particular item. If there is no care label then we would recommend only tumble drying the garment if you are sure it contains no plastic (like a bib etc) and then only tumble on the “baby” cycle or low temperature setting.

What The Tumble Dryer Symbols Mean On Baby Clothes

Tumble Dryer Symbols On Clothes

It’s always important to follow the care label on any garment including baby clothes. 

Some might give you direct instructions like “Do not tumble” or “Wash in cool water”, but many will just provide a symbol that will need to be followed. Below we have listed all of the symbols and a brief description of what they symbolise:

  • Square With White Circle
    Indicates this garment can be dried in a tumble dryer
  • Square With White Circle, One Black Dot In Circle
    Indicates that this garment can be dried in a tumble dryer on normal or low heat
  • Square With White Circle, Two Black Dots In Circle
    Indicates that the garment  can be dried in a tumble dryer on normal or medium heat
  • Square With White Circle, Three Black Dots In Circle
    Indicates the garment can be dried in a tumble dryer on normal or high heat
  • Square With Black Circle
    Indicates the garment can be dried in a tumble dryer with no heat
  • Square With White Circle And A Black X On Top
    Indicates the garment can not be tumble dried.

How To Dry Baby Clothes Without A Tumble Dryer

There are several ways to dry baby clothes without using a tumble dryer, all involve airflow but many require no power at all.

Air Drying Baby Clothes On A Clothesline Or Rotary Line

This is the best method for drying baby clothes because the sunlight is a natural bleaching agent so it will help to keep your white baby clothes radiant white. Just keep an eye on the weather, and bring the clothes in before it rains.

Sunlight will also help to kill germs on the clothes and also help to remove any odours too.

Also remember that clothes dry on the clothesline or rotary line through airflow. So don’t peg clothes too close together.

Use A Clothes Airer

If the weather is too changeable or even if it’s more convenient to stay indoors to keep an eye on your baby, using a clothes airer could be the perfect solution to drying baby clothes indoors. 

The clothes airer or “clothes horse” as they’re also called, can be placed in front of a radiator, dehumidifier or even an electric fan (with a window open) to get your baby’s clothes dry.

You need to open a window when using a clothes airer to allow the moisture to escape.

SEE ALSO: The Best Dehumidifier For Drying Clothes

Drying Baby Clothes On A Heated Airer

A heated airer looks similar to a clothes airer – it’s still a foldable rack with lots of hanging space to dry your baby clothes on. The only difference is it is powered by electricity and it heats up.

You can even buy a cover which then keeps the heat circulating inside the cover and around the clothes. If you don’t want to buy the cover, you could always cover the heated airer with a bedsheet to keep the heat contained.

Radiator Clothes Drying

There are some people who are totally against this idea and that’s fine. But we have found this to be a great way to get a few of baby’s clothes dry quickly. Simply hang a few baby clothes on top of the radiators for a short while.

Just remember to keep the house aired by opening a window or two to let the excess moisture escape.

Drying Baby Clothes In An Airing Cupboard

If your boiler or hot water tank is contained in a cupboard you have the perfect indoor clothes drying space. 

Commonly known as an airing cupboard, these spaces are often large enough to fit a clothes airer. This will speed up the drying time considerably.

Using A Retractable Clothesline To Dry Baby Clothes Indoors

If space is at a premium, you might want to consider investing in a retractable clothesline. There are several of these available to purchase and they all work using a similar design. A box mounted onto the wall which contains a nylon line that can be pulled out and secured across the room.

The baby clothes are then hung on the line until they’re dry and then the line is retracted until it is needed again.

SEE ALSO: Our Top Recommended Retractable Washing Lines

A Quick Word About Dehumidifiers And Electric Fans

To speed the drying process up, it’s a good idea to place a dehumidifier in front of the drying baby clothes. Whether you’re using an airer, retractable clothesline or a radiator, placing a dehumidifier in front of the clothes will help remove moisture and decrease the amount of time needed to dry the clothes.

If you don’t have a dehumidifier you could place an electric fan in front of the drying baby clothes to simulate a gentle breeze. This will increase the airflow and dry the clothes faster.

What Happens If You Tumble Dry Baby Clothes

Always check the wash care labels

Tumble drying baby clothes is safe as long as you use a cool setting but remember that there could still be some problems. Problems like;

  • Shrinking Clothes
    There are some fabrics which are more susceptible to shrinking than others, and washing/drying them in hot water can cause them to shrink down a few sizes. This is especially true of baby clothes which are usually made from natural materials like cotton or wool. Always ensure that baby clothes are washed and dried at low temperatures unless otherwise stated on the care label. But remember, as babies grow pretty fast, their clothes will appear to be shrinking anyway.
  • Fading Colours
    Certain fabrics, especially those with brilliant colours or striking designs, can fade when exposed to certain temperatures. This is more likely to happen in the washing machine than in the tumble dryer, but it can still be a factor.
  • General Damage
    Garments with embellishments or delicate fabrics like lace can get damaged in the dryer if not dealt with properly. Take care when tumble drying baby clothes like cardigans and lacy dresses etc and always follow the care label. Other items of baby clothing that should not be tumble dried include bibs which contain plastic which could be damaged even at relatively low temperatures.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it safe to put baby clothes in a tumble dryer?

It is safe to put baby clothes in a tumble dryer as long as you choose the “Baby” cycle or low setting. It’s worth noting that baby clothes will take longer to dry in a tumble dryer than adult clothes because of the lower surface area.

How can I dry baby clothes without a tumble dryer?

You can dry baby clothes without a tumble dryer in several ways including; on an outdoor clothesline, on an indoor clothes airer (there are even heated airers available), on a radiator or in an airing cupboard.

Why do baby clothes say do not tumble dry?

Many baby clothes say do not tumble because of the risk of damaging the material. The baby clothes could; shrink, the colours could fade, the fabric could become weakened and tear easily, plus as baby clothes take longer to dry in a tumble dryer it is not environmentally friendly either.

What setting should you tumble dry baby clothes on?

If you are tumble drying baby clothes, the dryer should be set on the “Baby” cycle or the low heat setting. 

What is the baby cycle on a tumble dryer?

The “Baby” cycle setting on a tumble dryer is the setting to use when drying baby clothes. It should not be used for any items of clothing that contain any plastics (like bibs for example) as these could become seriously damaged. 

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