Is it better to air-dry your clothes?

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Line drying or air-drying your clothes isn’t as popular of a method as it once was, but the practice definitely has its benefits — especially for certain items and textiles that shouldn’t be put through an appliance cycle. To better understand when to line versus machine dry, we tapped Wayne Edelman, the CEO of Meurice Garment Care, and asked for his insight.

Elastic textiles don’t respond well to heat

It’s simple: Certain textile elastics cannot cope with the heat, says Edelman. “Line drying these garments will extend their longevity,” he adds. “Tumble drying clothes reduces their lifespan.” The same is true of delicate items, like fragile lingerie, which should never see the inside of your machine — even if their care labels indicate that it is safe to do so.

air dry your clothes
Image: Courtesy Vidar Nordli-Mathisen/Unsplash

Some garments dry up better in a machine

While Edelman is a big proponent of air-drying garments in his business and household, not every piece will benefit, he explains. “There are certain items that do not fair well with air-drying,” he explains. “Many heavy sweatshirts and sweatpants, as well as towels, are better off in the dryer.” Lighter pieces like linen items, on the other hand, dry nicely on a line.

You can’t hang your wet clothes just anywhere

Be mindful of when (and where) you put your laundry out to dry. “The moisture that comes out of clothes when they are air dried has to end up somewhere,” Edelman explains. “If the garments are dried outside, you typically won’t have a problem—but high humidity levels will prevent complete drying.” Hanging clothes indoors? Ensure your space has proper ventilation, to prevent half-dry, musty clothes and mould and mildew buildup down the road.

Some machines have an air-dry setting

Newer models may actually offer an air-dry setting, notes Edelman. “There are attachments that allow for air-drying on low heat without tumbling,” he explains, noting that it is this rolling mechanical action, in addition to high temperatures, that causes wear on textiles.

Always check the care instructions on your garments

If you’re planning on air-drying your laundry, double-check each garment’s care instructions to see if the manufacturer has provided any special instructions. Heavier items, for example, should be placed on a flat surface, instead of being hung up—which could be just as deleterious (and result in stretched clothes) as a drying cycle.

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