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We don’t want to air your dirty laundry, but chances are high that you’ve been subject to a dryer dilemma. I know I have had my fair share: Like the time I shrunk my favorite sweater and did some money laundering (and by that, I mean I accidentally left money in my pocket on laundry day).
Whether you are doing your first load or your five thousandth, it’s always possible you'll put something in the dryer that doesn’t belong there. We spoke to the experts to find out exactly what you should—and shouldn’t—put in the dryer so that your wardrobe stays in-tact.
1. Bath mats
Save your rubber-backed mats or rugs by hang drying them. “The high heat from the dryer will cause the rubber to break down and crack, making the mat less effective. It can also be a fire hazard, and little rubber bits will get all over the dryer and any other items in the dryer with it, which is a pain,” says Laura Johnson, a consumer analyst at home appliance company LG.
2. Clothes with paint stains
Whether you ended up looking like a Jackson Pollock while painting your home or you spilled some nail polish, you’ve ended up with chemical-stains that shouldn’t go in the dryer. “Whether it's a cleaner or a polish, lots of chemicals are combustible,” meaning that once they hit the dryer, there could be a dryer fire. “Better safe than sorry—hang-dry that,” says Jon Chan, Reviewed’s senior lab technician and laundry expert.
3. Gym clothes
Keep your gym clothes in good shape by hanging them to dry. Most gym clothes are made with spandex, which is prone to damage and shrinkage if you put it in the dryer, says Chip Smith, chief marketing officer of Sears Home Services. Take extra care of those leggings you love so much.
Although you can wash sneakers in the washing machine, you should leave them out to dry instead of tossing them in the dryer. “The high heat can cause the rubber in the shoes and soles to shrink, which will affect cushioning, and possibly fit of the shoe itself,” says Johnson.
5. Too many items
The adage "the more the merrier" doesn’t apply to loading your dryer. “Overloading your dryer overheats the machine and could lead to risk of fire. By filling the dryer halfway, clothes have room to drop while tumbling, which lets warm air circulate properly,” says Smith. You will end up with damp clothes if you’ve stuffed too much into the dryer, so separate it into multiple loads instead.
6. Excess dryer sheets and fabric softener
Have you ever taken clothes out of the dryer only to discover a waxy film on them? That's probably thanks to an extra dryer sheet. “Too much surfactants, which are chemical compounds found in [detergents], will coat the inside of the dryer drum, moisture sensors, lint screen and vent system,” says Smith. He recommends choosing either fabric softener or dryer sheets and always using the recommended amount.
7. Sandy towels and clothes
You love beach days...but your dryer doesn’t. Be sure to thoroughly shake off sandy beach towels and swimsuits before putting them in the dryer. “Sand can get trapped between gaps in the drum, which adds an irritating sound when drying and can damage the dryer over time,” says Smith.
Always lay your bathing suits flat to dry. “The high heat of the dryer will cause the spandex in your swimsuit to weaken and break down, leading to stretched out swimsuits and see-through areas,” says Johnson. Make sure you're washing your bathing suits correctly to make sure you get the most mileage from them.
9. Natural fibers
Johnson recommends keeping any clothes made of animal-based materials—wools, cashmere, silk, and leather—out of the dryer. Your wool, cashmere, or silk clothes can shrink, lose shape, felt, or get full of pills. Your leather or pleather clothes can crack, warp, and pucker with the heat of the dryer. Read the care instructions on your garments to find out how to take care of your clothes.
It is best to hang-dry all of your bras regardless of whether they are lace, spandex, silk, satin, or cotton. The dryer heat and tumbling can cause the material to weaken and bras to lose their shape, says Johnson. You could also try washing your bra in a salad spinner to keep it in great shape.