Common mistakes you might be making with your clothes dryer

woman's hands putting clothes into tumble dryer

Clothes dryers are a godsend when bed change day falls just as it starts to pour. The convenience of just popping your freshly washed sheets into the dryer without having to change your schedule is marvellous.

But an increase in usage often comes with an increase in shrunken jumpers and missing socks. Not to mention the money you could be wasting when it comes to electricity.

We asked a couple of experts about the most common mistakes you should avoid.

Neglecting the lint filter
Cleaning the lint filter every time you use the dryer is an essential step to ensure both safety and performance.

Not only is it a fire hazard but a clogged filter also prevents air from circulating in the drum, meaning the clothes won’t dry as quickly.

Check the manual for your appliance to find any maintenance requirements, including emptying the water reservoir and regularly cleaning the silicone edging around the door.

Drying wool and lycra
Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes you can make is simply putting items in the dryer that aren’t meant to be tumble dried. Wool, in particular, will shrink.

Ashley Iredale, a white goods expert at consumer advocacy group CHOICE, also advises caution when drying anything with lycra in it – so throwing in your activewear might not be the best bet.

“When wool is spun and made into clothing, the fibres are stretched out and straightened. When you apply heat, that stretch can relax and the fibres can retract, like a recoiling spring,” he says.

Some dryers do have a ‘woollens’ setting but using it could be risky. If you have the option of air-drying delicate items, it’s always better to go that route.

Read: How to unshrink clothes

Mixing thick items with more delicate ones
Try to dry like with like to avoid over-drying some items.

“Different weight fabrics can hold greater or lesser amounts of moisture, so they’ll dry at different rates – a thin satin garment will dry much quicker than a heavy denim or a towel, so that means you could be over-drying (and therefore damaging) some clothes while others are still damp,” Mr Iredale advises.

It’s tempting to throw a load into the dryer and then work out the best setting for the whole lot, but you’ll get better results drying like with like.

Not buying the right dryer for your needs
When buying a dryer, choose a size that suits your household’s needs rather than the biggest and best on the market. If you have a big dryer and are only putting a few things into each load, you’re not getting the best value in the long term.

Same if you need to run the dryer constantly in order to keep up with your washing.

Using a dryer ball
They’re marketed as the perfect solution to keep clothes soft and fluffy and some even claim to speed up drying time, but research has proven otherwise.

Mr Iredale says that CHOICE has tested different types over the years and found there’s consistently no benefit in using them.

“They’re often sold as helping keep clothes softer and fluffier. Some of them make claims to speed drying time. We’ve found they make absolutely no difference.”

Drying clothes longer than necessary
Over-drying clothes can degrade your clothing and cause excessive wrinkling or shrinkage. It also wastes energy, which can be an unnecessary expense.

Some newer models of dryers have a sensor to check when clothes are dry, but many still rely on a timer. Always choose the best setting for the items you’re drying and check when they’re done.

Read: The outfit mistakes that make you look unkempt

Not having adequate ventilation
If you have a vented dryer, make sure you open a window nearby to avoid a build-up of moisture when the machine is in use. This moist, warm environment is the perfect place for mould spores to grow, especially on gyprock and fabric materials stored in and around the laundry.

“Venting moisture back into your laundry space just makes your dryer work harder to dry your clothes, costing you more,” Mr Iredale says. “If you can’t vent, consider a condenser or heat pump condenser dryer – they cost more to buy but are cheaper to run so they can save you money in the long run, and won’t leave you with water dripping from the ceiling and down the walls.”

Letting your socks go loose
Susan Toft, CEO and founder of a nationwide domestic laundry business, says your dryer could be to blame if you’re missing your favourite socks.

“Dryers and washers can eat little items,” Ms Toft says. “I’ve cleaned filters in dryers and there will be socks in there. It’s a really regular recurring thing.”

Put them in a mesh or netted bag with a drawstring top to keep them safe.

Ms Toft says these are handy for any kind of small item, as well as things like cords and belts that could get tangled up in your clothes.

Read: How often should you wash your towels, jeans, bras and more?

Overloading the machine
“If you put too much in there, then it won’t completely dry,” Ms Toft says.

It seems counterintuitive to split your wet clothes into two piles and dry them one at a time, but that’s how it should be done.

Cranking up the heat won’t help either, unfortunately.

This doesn’t work, Ms Toft says, because it’s not just the heat that’s doing the drying – it’s also the movement.

“You need to leave lots of space for [the clothing] to move around in the dryer … If you do overload it, it will just take forever and ever to dry.”

That’s bad for your clothes and bad for your energy bill too.

How often do you use a clothes dryer? Do you prefer to dry your laundry in the sun? Why not share any other laundry tips you have in the comments section below?

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Written by Ellie Baxter

Writer and editor with interests in travel, health, wellbeing and food. Has knowledge of marketing psychology, social media management and is a keen observer and commentator on issues facing older Australians.

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