Clothing care label with do not tumble dry symbol

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

If you’ve looked at the care label of any new item of clothing, you’ll have seen the drying instructions for your new garment.

Some items of clothing are safe to tumble dry, some can be tumble dried with low or no heat and some indicate that the item shouldn’t be tumble dried at all.

But how serious is the no tumble dry symbol? Read on to find out what happens when you tumble dry clothes that say not to and what to do instead.

How Serious is the “Do Not Tumble Dry” Label?

Do not tumble dry symbol UK

Clothes that have the “Do not tumble dry” symbol are made from more delicate materials and/or are more susceptible to damage.

Tumble drying clothes over time will cause them to degrade faster than air drying. However, some clothes are more resistant and can be tumble dried safely.

In a pinch, you can even tumble dry certain items that indicate not to, as the drying process may not cause immediate damage.

That said, some items may become damaged the first time you tumble dry them, so going against this advice is a risk.

Whether or not you decide to tumble dry these clothes depends on the material, embellishments and how willing you are to take the risk.


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

You should never tumble dry natural or delicate materials such as wool and silk, as these will suffer irreparable damage.

Tumble drying a wool jumper, for example, could shrink it to a size that only a child could wear!

You should also avoid tumble drying items with embellishments such as beads, sequins, embroidery or fringe as these extra bits may become warped or fall off.

More sturdy items such as jeans or hoodies may not become damaged if you tumble dry them, but they may shrink to an extent that you can no longer wear them comfortably.

There is also a risk of colour fading when tumble drying. If you have a white or light-coloured item, this may not matter but darker, bolder colours are more risky.

If you have clothes that you only wear around the house or to sleep in, and you don’t mind them becoming misshapen or faded, you might try tumble drying them even if the care label advises against it.

Upset woman holding blouse shrunk by washing machine

How to Minimise the Risks of Tumble Drying

If you do decide to tumble dry an item that says not to, you can take a few steps to make sure you don’t do too much damage:

  • Don’t overfill the dryer or clothes can become tangled together and pull on each other as they spin.
  • Dry similar sized items together so that smaller items don’t over-dry.
  • Don’t tumble dry soaking wet clothes. Make sure they’ve been through a spin cycle before drying so that the extra moisture has been removed.


What to Do Instead of Tumble Drying

If you are unwilling to take the risk with your clothes but you need them to dry quickly, try these tips:

  • Dry clothes near a radiator with windows and doors closed to keep in the heat.
  • Dry clothes by placing them on a dry towel as the towel will absorb excess moisture. You can even roll the item up in the towel or place a second dry towel on top of it to remove even more moisture.
  • Dry clothes in the sun: not all clothes can be dried in direct sunlight, but light and white clothes can be exposed to sun safely.
  • Dry clothes with a hair dryer: the heat will help dry clothes faster without the damage caused by the high spinning speed. Choose the lowest heat setting and avoid using a hair dryer on natural or delicate materials.
  • Tumble dry on low: this is not an alternative but something you can try if you don’t mind taking a risk. Try tumble drying items on a low heat and/or a shorter cycle before air drying them. This will remove some moisture without prolonged exposure to the heat and spinning motion.

Air Drying Towels

So, What Can You Tumble Dry?

It might seem like the “Do not tumble dry” symbol is everywhere, but there are certain items that are safe and convenient to tumble dry.

You can tumble dry your bedsheets and towels relatively safely which is good for those living in smaller spaces or no access to an outdoor area. Take extra care with fitted sheets as the elastic may lose its stretch.

Tumble drying towels can be extra beneficial as they will come out softer than air drying them, which can leave them with an over-dry, crunchy texture.