What Is Tumble Dry? Understanding Your Washing Label

Do you ever look at your clothing labels and think to yourself…what does this even mean? I would love to help you figure out what it all means so you won’t be asking yourself – what is tumble dry – anymore.

It’s a good idea to understand how to clean and care for your favourite clothes. The only issue is that the regulations for washing and drying some materials might appear too difficult! The last thing you want to do is shrink your new favourite sweater by mistake.

Fortunately, most modern clothing has garment care instructions on the inner label. However, because labels are so tiny, most care instructions are represented by symbols rather than words.

So how can you determine if you should tumble dry your garment? And what exactly is tumble drying? I’ll explain what each dryer sign represents, as well as how to dry your clothes if they don’t have a care label, below.

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What Is Tumble Dry

If a garment is labelled “tumble dry,” it simply implies that you may dry it in a dryer rather than air-drying flat or line drying.

That being said, a tumble dry care label does not obligate you to dry that item in a dryer. Air drying is still a softer, more environmentally friendly drying alternative. Furthermore, white or light-coloured materials that are air-dried in the sun will benefit from the sun’s natural bleaching qualities.

If you have a soiled garment, you should avoid using any type of heat drying (see my guide for removing common stains). Tumble drying clothing in a dryer, on the other hand, will eventually save you time, making it a popular alternative.

Tumble Dry Care Symbols Explained

The square with a circle inside is the universal symbol for “tumble dry.” In general, this sign indicates that you may put the item in the dryer at any temperature and it will be OK.

Occasionally, the heat limit for tumble drying will be included on clothing care labels. I’ll go through each of those symbols in more depth below.

Tumble Dry – Low Heat

If your care label includes a square with a circle inside and a single dot in the middle, that means your garment can be safely tumble dried in low to no heat. 

Tumble Dry – Medium Heat

If your care label has a square with a circle within and two dots in the centre, it signifies your item may be tumble-dried on medium to low heat safely.

Tumble Dry – High Heat

If your care label has a square with a circle within and three dots in the centre, it signifies your item may be tumble-dried on high heat safely.

Different Drying Methods

Symbols such as a square with a circle in the centre and a large X over the top indicate that the item should not be tumble dried (air dry instead).

Another symbol in this category is a square with three vertical lines (drip dry) and a square with a curve under the top line that resembles an envelope to me (line dry).

Some textiles will lose their form if line-dried, and you’ll often see a sign that looks like a square with a horizontal line for them. This sign indicates that the clothing should be dried flat to avoid any odd puckering in the fabric. This is how I dry the majority of my sweaters!

What If You Can’t Find A Washing Label

As a result, your item lacks a care label with wash and dry symbols. This isn’t a major deal as long as you know what cloth you’re working with.

Guideline For Washing Fabrics That Should Not Be Tumble Dried

The following are some popular textiles that should only be line dried or laid flat to dry:

  • Silk \sWool \sCashmere
  • Lacey fragile things
  • Bras with a wire
  • To prevent pilling, I line dry athletic clothing consisting of elastic, synthetic or microfiber materials.

Then there are materials that can technically be tumble dried but should be avoided due to shrinkage:

  • Cotton Linen (cotton synthetic blends will generally shrink less when you dry them)
  • Denim

Dryer Guidelines You Should Follow

Use Wool Dryer Balls

Drying time and static cling on clothes will be reduced by using wool dryer balls. They are also reusable and biodegradable, making them a more environmentally responsible alternative to dryer sheets.
Dryer sheets decrease static cling while also leaving a chemical coating on clothes to make them feel “soft.” Dryer sheets also leave the same chemical coating on your dryer lint trap, which can constitute a severe fire danger if left unchecked! You can also use aluminum foil instead of dryer sheets.

Clean The Link Trap – Everytime!

Basic lint trap maintenance is eliminating lint after each and every dryer load. But it isn’t always enough!

It’s a good idea to cleanse your dryer lint trap on a regular basis to ensure it’s filtering correctly. Take out your vacuum cleaner and remove any extra lint from your machine. Not cleaning the lint trap is a fire hazard.

Care For Exhaust Pipes Too

Finally, cleaning the dryer exhaust ducting every other year or so is a good idea. Unless you’re a seasoned do-it-yourselfer, I recommend renting this service out to a professional. Leaving the dryer ducts neglected will create a severe fire threat in the long run!

Why You Should Follow Care Labels

Keep It Clean

Heat may have a detrimental effect on fabrics. Look to the care label to avoid shrinking your beloved sweater, scorching your silk shirt, or stretching out your wool leggings. It will inform you what temperature water, air, and iron to use on your clothing.

Attempt to Save Money

Reading the care instructions before purchasing a garment might help you avoid purchasing goods that are costly to maintain. A label that says “Dry Clean Only” implies exactly that, and keeping it clean might be expensive.

Reduce your Workload

Important time-saving information is also included on care labels. Non-iron shirts and clothes that can be machine washed take less time and effort.

Finally, and most significantly, a clothing tag will inform you about the garment’s production process, allowing the customer to effortlessly support local and eco-friendly items.
So, before you rip off that label, consider the quantity of information you’re throwing away.

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