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How to Use a Tumble Dryer to Dry Clothes

Does the tumble dry symbol leave you baffled? Read our comprehensive guide on how to tumble dry clothes, including which fabrics to put in the machine.

Many of us like to put our wet clothes outside on the washing line when the weather’s nice, but if it’s raining or freezing cold, it’s a good idea to tumble dry clothes – this way you’ll have nice, dry, warm clothes in no time. If you’re unsure about tumble drying, including knowing what garments to tumble dry and how to use the machine, here’s your ultimate guide, helping you out every step of the way:  

What is the Tumble Dry Symbol on Clothes?

Before tumble drying clothing, it’s important to check the care labels on the garment to make sure that either the motion or the high heat of the dryer will not damage the material. In the UK, the tumble dry symbol is a square with a circle inside, while the do not tumble dry symbol is the same but has a cross through the centre of the circle. You can learn more about washing symbols with our handy guide.  

What Can – and What Cannot – Be Tumble Dried?

Any clothing that displays the tumble dry symbol can safely be dried in the tumble dryer, while it’s best to dry clothing with a do not tumble dry symbol naturally, either outside on the washing line, indoors on a clothes horse, or laying flat on thick, absorbent towels.

Wool jumpers, silk garments, and bras may often display the do not tumble dry symbol as they could become damaged in the machine, or the material could become weakened.

Silk can shrink in high temperatures and wool can pile which affects the look of the fabric. Bras may shrink which can make them uncomfortable, and wired bras may lose their shape.

How to Use a Tumble Dryer

  • Step 1: Make sure your clothes are dry enough to go into the tumble dryer – they should be wet, but not dripping. If your clothing is very wet, it can take a very long time for the dryer to do its job. If clothing is dripping, leave it in the washing machine for an extra spin cycle to remove as much excess water as possible.

  • Step 2: Load the tumble dryer with clothing that can safely be machine dried and choose a suitable tumble dry setting. Some older tumble dryers may only have a single setting, while newer models may have a ‘high’ and ‘low’ setting. Some clothing may have a symbol that indicates what temperature is needed – check out the different symbols here.

  • Step 3: Set the desired time and allow the clothing to spin and dry. Check the clothing before removing to ensure everything is dry. If the clothing still appears to be damp, untangle the garments from each other, and put the machine on for another (shorter) tumble.

  • Step 4: Clean out the lint filter. The lint filter collects any lint that comes off your clothes during the drying process. A blocked filter – which can happen even after just one spin if you’ve been drying fluffy items like thick towels – can mean it takes longer for the machine to dry your clothes, and it increases the risk of overheating which could damage the dryer.

Tumble Dryer Tips

To enjoy great results from your tumble dryer, here are a few handy tips that will help you make the most of your machine:

  • Try to find a happy medium between overfilling and under filling your tumble dryer. Overfilling means that clothing could easily become tangled, while under filling means you could be wasting money by not being energy efficient. For tips on eco-friendly laundry, check out our guide to saving water and energy.

  • If possible, don’t tumble dry large sheets, towels, or duvet covers with small items like socks. The tumbling motion of the machine means that clothing can become tangled together, and you could end up with a duvet cover full of damp underpants!

  • Ensure you’ve got good ventilation in the room when your tumble dryer is on. Open the windows if possible – it will help reduce the risk of overheating and damage to the machine.

  For more useful laundry and stain removal tips, check out the Washing Tips & Tricks section!