Why do we put absolutely everything in the dryer?
We have this habit of taking everything from the washer and throwing it right into the dryer next door without giving it a second thought. This works out okay for a lot of items, but there are some pieces that would be much better off if they never saw the inside of your dryer.
Keeping some of these items out of your dryer is going to help them fit better, look nicer, and last longer.
Did you know that most people in Europe don’t even have dryers? Really. To be fair, it is mostly motivated by a desire to decrease energy consumption (dryers are a real energy suck), but it has the additional benefit of keeping their clothes looking better for longer.
I have cousins in Holland and like most of their neighbors, they dry everything on a clothesline on their back patio. Growing up in California, I had never seen someone use a clothesline unless they were sympathetic to the hippy movement. But here were my cousins, mainstream professionals, drying their clothes on a line outside.
I’m not telling you that you need to get a clothesline and throw out your dryer, but for the sake of your favorite clothes, I am telling you that you should probably use your dryer less than most of us have become accustomed to.
Here are some of your pieces that would rather not end up in your dryer:
You probably already know this, but if you put a wool sweater in the dryer, it is never going to look or fit the same again. First, it is going to shrink a full size (don’t believe me? Full proof here). If that isn’t bad enough, the heat will also disfigure it beyond recognition so that your favorite sweater turns into a frumpy mess. It’s a really sad experience, so let’s just avoid the whole thing and follow the instructions on the tag to “lay flat to dry”.
Cashmere, alpaca, mohair, any-kind-of-hair
See “Wool” section.
Silk has one of the most beautiful drapes of any fabric – it is just so flattering. But it is also a little trickier to take care of. Most silk shouldn’t be washed in a washing machine but only dry cleaned. NO silk, whether it is the easier-to-care-for-washable-silk that you see pajama ads about or regular silk, should ever be in a dryer. The extreme heat isn’t good for the fabric and it is going to lose some of its beautiful drape.
Really, it’s true. Controversial, but true.
Most of your jeans should be drying on a rack instead of in your dryer. Sure, the cotton is tough enough for your dryer, but what you might not realize is that most of the jeans in your closet are not 100% cotton. Most jeans today have some form of plastic-elastic in them which is why they feel so stretchy and comfy. This is great, but it also means that they cannot be dried on high heat. The plastic that gives your jeans stretch will literally melt over time and lose its stretchiness which means they won’t fit the same and they won’t hold their shape anymore. Hence why after a year of washing and drying your favorite, stretchy jeans you start needing to constantly pull them up throughout the day when you wear them. If you take a look at the composition tag on your jeans and see anything besides 100% cotton, keep them out of the dryer.
Anything Cotton that fits “just right” off the rack
Let’s say you just found that elusive perfect white tee. It’s the right weight, wash, fit – everything. Don’t dry it! Assuming that it fits absolutely perfectly, it will not fit perfectly after you decide to put it in the dryer. Cotton shrinks a little bit with heat, so that perfect-length crop tee is going to turn into a little shorter crop than you might have wanted.
Anything that you want to last as long as possible
Even if the tag says that you can tumble dry on low, if you want your clothes to last as long as possible, it is best to keep them out of the dryer. Dryers have to get super hot and spin really fast to dry our sopping wet clothes. It works to get things dry, but it can hardly be described as gentle. If you have an open space to set up a drying rack on laundry day, your clothes are going to last longer and look better. Oh, and you’ll never lose another one of your favorite sweaters to an unintentional drying accident (RIP Willow’s Fav White Sweater).
I’m not saying that I hate dryers…but they’ve chewed up a fair amount of our favorite clothes over the years so it’s a complicated relationship. You don’t have to quit using your dryer, but a good start is to read the care instruction tag on your clothes. Believe it or not, someone actually got paid to write those instructions, and following them is a great first step in making sure your clothes work for you as long as you need them to.