The Incredible Shrinking Man's Clothes
June 8, 2009 9:18 PM   Subscribe

Clothes dryers for dummies- I'm now regularly using a clothes dryer for the first time in my life (God bless Australian summers and open fires). It confuses me. Does this shrinkage stuff stop? Ever? Can I avoid it?

I've spent 24 years with washing lines and drying racks. Worked fine.

Now I've got no choice but to use dryers, and early results are extremely shrinky. Is there a way around this? How long is a 'normal' load? Can I do anything to avoid all my clothes shrinking?

Also, any other hot tips on spin dryers? I'm all ears...
posted by twirlypen to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The only really good tip I have about dryers is not to dry anything but cotton. Synthetics and woolens should never go in the dryer - especially synthetics. Hang dry. You'll destroy synthetics in the dryer.

For shrinkage reduction use the delicate setting for everything, even if it means drying for longer (an hour is a typical drying time).
posted by jimmythefish at 9:21 PM on June 8, 2009

Follow the care instructions on your clothes. Stuff that says "tumble dry low" should be dried only with low heat. For me that means everything gets dried with low heat because I don't have enough low dry stuff to fill up a load.
posted by grouse at 9:27 PM on June 8, 2009

I always dry on low to prevent shrinkage. If it's cotton you'll see the majority of shrinkage in the first wash/dry. It will continue to shrink but after the 3rd to 5th wash most of the shrinkage should be removed. Sometimes your clothes get wider as they get shorter. 60 minutes on low is usually long enough. I recommend not using dryer sheets...they can leave marks on your clothes.

I have never heard of not tumble drying synthetics. I wouldn't dry them on high heat but they should be fine with low. Never dry wool in the dryer unless you want to make doll clothes!
posted by pdxgirl42 at 9:45 PM on June 8, 2009

Best answer: Everything (except wool) goes in for 40 minutes on low with a dryer sheet, take everything out while still a bit damp and hang (or lie flat, for sweaters and jeans) and you will have shrink-free, wrinkle-free clothes. The key is not drying all the way.
posted by CunningLinguist at 9:54 PM on June 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

I have never heard of not tumble drying synthetics.

As a runner I've learned that drying synthetic shorts etc in the dryer dramatically shortens the life span and elasticity of the clothing. Furthermore, they dry so fast hung up that it's not necessary to dry them.
posted by jimmythefish at 10:02 PM on June 8, 2009

Possibly not what you're asking but are you living in an incredibly humid environment? Because I dry my clothes on a foldable rack I setup in my living room .... (well that and some use of the shower curtain bar).
posted by R343L at 11:30 PM on June 8, 2009

It's not drying that destroys things and especially shrinks them, it's the heat while drying. You can dry pretty much anything on low head, or even zero heat, without destroying it. It will take much longer and use more energy, of course.
posted by rokusan at 12:30 AM on June 9, 2009

"It will take much longer and use more energy"

Really? I would have guessed that the motor and the fan use far less than the heating element.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:30 AM on June 9, 2009

I dry everything except towels/sheets on medium or low heat (our dryer sucks, so maybe skip the medium on a good dryer and go straight to low). Don't take chances with stuff that fits perfectly right now - hang them up to dry. Clothes that stretch after you wear them a couple of times are perfect candidates for the dryer. But yea, you're still going to be hanging a lot of stuff up to dry - make sure you stretch it and shape it into the perfect shape. I guess the dry-till-damp and then stretch and hang up to dry would work, but I know I would never know when to stop the dryer when clothes are damp (every load is a little different!) and I'd be too forgetful to check, so I wouldn't take my chance with that with clothes I care about or clothes I know will shrink.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 5:19 AM on June 9, 2009

Really? I would have guessed that the motor and the fan use far less than the heating element.

That's correct.
posted by fake at 6:12 AM on June 9, 2009

When the washer's done, I redistrubute the clothes and run them through the spin cycle again. It really cuts the drying time in half. And yes, dry stuff on lower heat.
posted by dogmom at 6:38 AM on June 9, 2009

I use laundromat dryers. I dry everything except wool in it and have had no problems, even on high heat. I generally take things out just before they are completely dry.
posted by wingless_angel at 8:54 AM on June 9, 2009

Natural and natural blend knits will shrink in the dryer. If your clothes fit, dry them on a drying rack or hang them on a clothes dolly inside to dry. Syntheics can get wierd in the dryer depending on what exactly they are made of, but I would also dry these on a drying rack as they are usually dry within an hour or 2 of air time. I really only use the dryer for towels, sheets, and underwear (not bras though). For things like jeans, they can get stiff after air drying, so to soften them up you can either hit them with a hot iron or throw them in the dryer for 5 mins once they are completely dry on the fluff/ no heat setting.
posted by WeekendJen at 9:49 AM on June 9, 2009

Only problem with a drying rack is that it feels like it takes forever to hang up all the clothes carefully so that they aren't overlapping, and then there's the extra drying time. But I think I'll give it another try—I'm pretty unsatisfied with the dryers in my apartment complex.
posted by grouse at 10:04 AM on June 9, 2009

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