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

Some linen can be tumble dried but you’ll need to check the care label to be sure. It all depends on whether the linen has been preshrunk or not.

Preshrunk linen can usually be tumble dried on a low heat setting without any problem. However, this is still not recommended because even preshrunk linen can still shrink in a tumble dryer and the fibres can also become damaged.

But if the linen hasn’t been preshrunk, it will definitely need to be dried without using a tumble dryer.

This is because linen is made from fibres from the flax plant and as flax grows in many countries around the world, the quality varies.

It is well known that French or Belgian linen is always top quality. However there are several Asian countries that produce less expensive and inferior quality linen.

Linen is used to make pretty much everything from bed sheets, pillow cases, tablecloths, shirts, dresses, skirts and trousers. Some of these items should never be subjected to the rough action produced in a tumble dryer.

In fact, it is not recommended to tumble dry any linen as it is a natural product and can easily become damaged by the rough and tumble in a dryer. Plus the fibres can shrink if exposed to high temperatures.

Then there’s blended linen, which is 100% linen blended with other materials. As we are unaware what those other materials are, it is impossible to predict how they will react if tumble dried.

Can Linen Be Tumble Dried?

Even some of the linen items made from top quality flax fibre could become damaged if tumble dried. 

The following guide is for your general information only and should not supersede the instructions on your linen’s care label.

Linen ItemsCan It Be Tumble Dried?
SkirtsNot Recommended
DressesNot Recommended
ShirtsNot Recommended – Too fragile
TrousersNot Recommended
CurtainsNot Recommended
BeddingNot Recommended – can be tumble dried using no/low heat if preshrunk

Even preshrunk linen items can become damaged in a tumble dryer which is why it is recommended that all linen should be air dried. 

The fibres can become torn which leaves the thread with a weak area that can easily become ripped or torn the next time the item is used.

This is why it is best to not dry your linen in a tumble dryer even when using no heat.

What The Tumble Dryer Symbols Mean On Linen

Tumble Dryer Symbols On Clothes

All linen items should have a care label which gives washing and drying instructions. Below we have listed all of the symbols relating to tumble dryers.

There are only likely to be one or two that apply to linen but we have included them all for your information.

  • Square With A White Circle And A Black X On Top – Do not tumble dry, this is the symbol you’re most likely to find on linen.
  • Square With A White Circle – You can tumble dry, this symbol can sometimes be found on linen.
  • Square With A Black Circle – You can tumble dry with no heat, this symbol might appear on some linen care labels.
  • Square With A White Circle, One Black Dot In Circle – This indicates you can dry on a low heat setting, this symbol can sometimes be found on linen care labels.
  • Square With A White Circle, Two Black Dots In Circle – This indicates you can dry on a medium heat setting in the tumble dryer. It is unlikely to find this symbol on linen.
  • Square With A White Circle, Three Black Dots In Circle – You can dry on a high heat setting in a tumble dryer. You are highly unlikely to find this symbol on linen.

How To Dry Linen Without A Tumble Dryer

It is always the best option to dry linen without tumble drying to avoid damage to the linen as well as shrinkage.

Below we have listed the best recommended ways to dry linen.

Air Drying Linen On A Washing Line

Hanging linen on a washing line, rotary line or retractable clothesline is the recommended way to dry it. If you are drying white linen hang it in direct sunlight as this will help keep the linen white. 

If you’re drying coloured linen it should be hung in indirect sunlight to prevent the colour from fading.

If you’re drying linen shirts they can be hung on padded hangers on the clothesline.

Dresses, skirts and trousers should be hung directly on the line – Not on hangers.

Bed sheets should be hung over the line and allowed to blow in the breeze until dry.

SEE ALSO: Our Very Best Retractable Clotheslines

Air Drying On An Airer

Clothes horses or airers are a great alternative way to dry your linen. These can be set up indoors or out in the fresh air.

Most linen items can be draped over the bars of an airer but linen shirts do best if they’re hung on padded hangers and the hangers hung from the bars of the airer.

Sheets will need to be draped over the airer to avoid them dragging on the ground (especially important with outdoor drying). You might need two airers to suspend linen sheets properly.

Using An Electric Fan To Decrease Drying Times Indoors

If you’re drying your linen indoors on an airer, using an electric fan can help to decrease drying times.

The fan will simulate a gentle breeze which, as long as you have a window open to help remove the moisture will speed up the drying time significantly.

SEE ALSO: Bladeless Fans Worth Checking Out

Using A Dehumidifier To Speed Up Indoor Drying Times

Dehumidifiers work by removing moisture from the air. Placing a dehumidifier in the room with your drying linen will save time on drying.

As the moisture is removed from the air, it can be replaced with more moisture from the drying linen.

SEE ALSO: Dehumidifiers That Are Great For Drying Linen

Why You Should Always Read The Wash Care Label On Linen

Always check the wash care labels

Most linen items will have the do not tumble dry symbol on the care label. This is to prevent any damage to the linen.

If you choose to ignore the care label your linen items could;

Shrink In The Tumble Dryer

Exposing linen to high temperatures is a sure way to make them shrink. Linen is made from flax fibres which can shrink in a tumble dryer plus not all linen is pure linen. If your linen was preshrunk, it could still shrink by 3 or 4 % in a tumble dryer.

For linen that hasn’t been preshrunk, you can expect it to shrink by as much as 10%.

Sometimes the flax fibre is blended with other materials which are even more susceptible to shrinkage.

Become Weak And More Likely To Damage

Even with no heat, linen can become damaged in a tumble dryer. The rough and tumble action of the tumble dryer can cause the strands of fibre that make up the linen to become stretched and broken. 

This leads to a weakness in the material making it far more likely to become ripped or torn.

Faded Colours/Patterns

Exposing linen to heat can cause any colours or patterns to fade. This is far more likely in the washing machine, but could still happen in the tumble dryer.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does linen shrink in the tumble dryer?

Linen is likely to shrink in the tumble dryer. Even preshrunk linen can shrink in a tumble dryer.

Is it safe to put linen in a tumble dryer?

 It is not recommended to put linen in a tumble dryer. This is because it is not safe from the point of view that linen is likely to shrink in a tumble dryer.

How can I dry linen without a tumble dryer?

The best way to dry linen is naturally on a clothesline, rotary line or retractable clothesline or on an airer.

Does linen shrink a lot in the dryer?

Linen can shrink by about 3 or 4 % if it is preshrunk. If it isn’t preshrunk linen can shrink by up to 10%.

How long does linen take to air dry?

The time needed to air dry linen is dependent on several factors; the thickness and type of linen, the air temperature and the wind speed all play their part. But as a general guide, it takes around 2-4 hours for most linen to air dry.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *