What Happens if You Tumble Dry Something That Says Not To?

Cleaners Talk is reader-supported. This post contains affiliate links, we may earn a commission at no additional costs to you. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.

If you look closely at the tags on your clothes, you will see dryer and washer symbols that indicate how you should clean your items. Some fabrics require different washing treatments than others.

Many pieces of clothing can be tumble-dried on low or high heat, but some labels will tell you not to tumble dry your garments. This is likely because of the clothing's material, fabric, or embellishments.

If you tumble dry an article of clothing that says not to, it can lead to several problems. In this article, we will break down what happens if you tumble dry something that says not to.

Why Do Some Clothing Labels Say “Do Not Tumble Dry”?

Clothing labels will say “Do Not Tumble Dry” because the fabrics are incompatible with the dryer. Dryers use extreme heat to dry clothes. Materials that should not be tumble-dried include:

  • Silk
  • Leather
  • Wool
  • Rayon
  • Cashmere

Clothes that should not be tumble-dried come from synthetic fibers. Natural fibers, like cotton and denim, can most likely be tumble-dried. Check the label before drying all garments and read the instructions closely.

If the label indicates that you should not tumble dry, it is because the materials and fabrics that make up the garment are fragile or delicate. When the clothes are exposed to the intense heat of the dryer, it can lead to irreversible damage.

What Happens if You Tumble Dry Clothes That Say Not To?

If you tumble dry something that says not to, it can cause your clothes to shrink or become misshapen. The clothes can also become discolored and attract excess lint or pilling.

The consequences of tumble drying depend on the type of material the clothes are made of. When some garments are exposed to the high heat of the dryer, they will be ruined right away, or they will wear down slowly over time.

For instance, washing a wool sweater will cause it to shrink several sizes, so you might not be able to wear it again. But you may be able to reshape a nylon shirt that became deformed after it dried.

To protect your clothes, avoid tumble drying if the label says not to. If you still want to dry your garments quickly, assess your comfort level with the fact that your clothes will likely become misshapen, discolored, or differently sized.

How To Protect Your Clothes When Tumble Drying

If you decide to tumble dry clothes that say not to, take a few precautions to protect your garments.

First, only leave your clothes in the dryer for short periods. Check your clothes every five minutes and try not to leave them in the dryer for longer than 15 minutes. Instead, we recommend tumble drying for five to 15 minutes and then hanging them up to finish the drying process outside the machine. 

The quick burst of heat from the dryer should be enough time to remove the large wrinkles and creases in your clothes. Here are other steps you should take to protect your clothes:

  • Place a dryer sheet in with your regular load so that it can attract any lint particles that circulate.
  • Sort your clothes based on fabric, size, and color.
  • Always dry similar fabric types and colors together.
  • Place your clothes in the dryer, ensuring to adhere to the maximum capacity.
  • Add one cup of white vinegar to your dryer to protect against lint and remove stains

If you place garments in your dryer with labels that say “Do Not Tumble Dry” and do not want to risk ruining them, stop the machine and remove the clothes. You should hand-wash or line-dry those clothes. 

How Should You Dry Clothes That Say “Do Not Tumble Dry”?

If you are in a rush but do not want to risk damaging your clothes in the dryer, there are several steps you can take. You should always hand-wash or line-dry garments with labels that say do not tumble dry.

If you need dry clothes quickly, check out these DIY hacks:

  • Use a heat source, such as an iron, hairdryer, or heater, to manually dry your clothes. The heat will speed up the process but be aware that you can damage delicate materials with any heat source, so assess the risk you want to take first.
  • Dry your clothes outside. Set up a clothesline and choose a sunny and windy day. If the weather is right, your clothes will be dry in one or two hours.
  • Roll your clothes in a big towel to squeeze out excess moisture. Then, you should hang the items on a clothesline or drying rack to finish drying.
  • Dry your clothes in the warmest room of your house. This may be in the kitchen or by a radiator in the wintertime. Make sure to hang your clothes far away from the heat source to avoid fire hazards.

What Clothes Should You Tumble Dry?

Always look at the tags of your clothes to see which clothes can be tumble-dried. You can place all labels with a tumble dry symbol in the dryer without fear of ruining the clothes.

Typically, synthetic fibers like cotton, denim, polyester, and nylon can be tumble-dried. These are materials that will not lose their shape or size in the dryer.

Linens and microfibers also tend to be safe in the dryer. The fabrics tend to make up large household items like bedsheets, towels, and tablecloths, which can be tumble-dried.

To Recap

If you tumble dry something you are not supposed to, it can damage your clothes. You don’t want to pull freshly dried clothes out of the machine only to find out they have become misshapen, discolored, or shrunk. To protect your clothes, always read their labels to determine if your garments are dryer safe.

If you are in a rush, try some of our DIY hacks for drying your clothes, including using a hair dryer or drying your clothes outside in the sun. If you are willing to take the risk, you can dry your clothes in the machine for a short time but be aware that some fabrics and materials should not tumble-dried.

Related articles: