Why You Shouldn't Dry Your Clothes On High Heat & How To Dry Best

mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant By Sarah Regan
mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant

Sarah Regan is a writer, registered yoga instructor, and Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Woman loading clothes and athleisure into a clothes dryer

The way we care for our clothes matters—both for the clothing itself and the planet. Certain washer and dryer settings, for example, might not be great for certain fabrics or could waste energy and negatively affect the environment.

We already know when it comes to washer temps, cooler is better for your clothes and the environment; it's less damaging to materials and requires less energy. So, we wanted to know if the same was true for dryers. Here's what we found.

The best temperature to dry clothes.

According to textile and sustainability expert and professor at the University of Leeds Richard Blackburn, Ph.D., "The most sustainable way to dry is to use the least amount of energy, which is a function of both temperature and time." But depending on what it is you're drying, time and temperature will be different.


Synthetic fibers

Synthetic fibers, Blackburn notes, are very easy to dry because they are hydrophobic, or lose water easily (especially compared to cotton). "So," he says, "you can dry a garment made from polyester, nylon, or acrylic at room temperature; set your dryer to 86°F (30°C) and you should be able to dry quickly."

Examples of synthetic fibers:
  1. Nylon
  2. Polyester
  3. Spandex
  4. Acrylic
  5. Olefin
  6. Synthetic leather or fur
  7. Microfiber

Natural fibers

Natural fibers, on the other hand, don't wick water and moisture away as easily, thus they take longer to dry—especially cotton, Blackburn adds. "You either need to dry at high temperature quickly or lower temperature for longer, he says. "It's a difficult balancing act." And depending on the size of the load, those settings will vary, but ultimately, the dryer does damage your clothes (research has shown this), causing both synthetic and natural materials to break down over time. But to avoid too much heat in the dryer (and wasting energy), air drying is never a bad idea.

Examples of natural fibers:
  1. Cotton
  2. Silk
  3. Hemp
  4. Jute
  5. Wool
  6. Ramie
  7. Flax

The environmental impact.

Dryers obviously require a lot of electricity (you can check the wattage of yours on its label). But not only does the dryer use a ton of energy, but the clothing damaged while inside can also release microfibers into the environment.

"Microfibers are damaging to the environment," Blackburn says, "both from natural and synthetic fibers. We have found that mechanical action is the primary driver of microfiber release, so dry for the shortest time possible and make sure the drum is filled to recommend capacity so that the garments don't cascade in the dryer." Plus, he adds, this will help maintain the quality of whatever you're washing for longer.

To save energy and extend the life of your clothing, consider air drying when you can. (Air drying also works wonders as a DIY humidifier when you need it!)

And when you do have to use the dryer, one hack I've found helpful is throwing a dry bath towel in with the wet clothes. It absorbs excess moisture, you take it out after five or so minutes, and your clothes should dry much faster afterward.

From saving energy to limiting microfibers in the environment, to preserving your clothes, drying optimally is an important consideration to make. When in doubt, air dry! But when you can't, know you've definitely got ways to dry effectively.

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