Protect yourself against scorched clothes and house fires.
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It’s great to be able to toss soaking wet clothes into the dryer and come back later to unload them, all fluffy and dry. But when a dryer runs too hot, it can be bad news for clothes, causing scorching and increased wear and tear. Nobody wants their clothes to come out of the dryer charred or full of holes, but even though some dryers can run nearly 30 degrees hotter than the ideal 150°F, most of us don’t have the time or inclination to hang our clothes on the line to dry.
The solution? If you plan to keep using your dryer (and of course, you should), pay attention to routine maintenance and follow some best practices to protect your clothes.
Yes, dryers can be hot. They work by pulling air in, heating it, and tumbling wet clothes through the warm air. Most dryers get rid of moisture by venting it to the outside.
The best dryers are capable of drying your clothes quickly at a temperature that is hot, but not so hot that it scorches or damages them. Temperatures under 150°F are gentle enough to get the clothes dry without causing harm. In recent years, we’ve measured dryer temperatures as low as 123°F and as high as 176°F. Dryers running at lower temperatures have proven themselves to be just as fast and effective at drying clothes as dryers that run hot.
We checked in with the major laundry brands and they all agree: Dryers are not designed to run at temperatures greater than 150°F. The brands claim to be as concerned as we are about fabric care. So, since your dryer was not designed to run hotter, here are some other reasons a dryer might overheat, along with some regular maintenance you can do to prevent it.
According to GE Appliances, if the flow of air is blocked, a dryer’s internal temperature can rise, potentially causing a house fire. The U.S. Fire Administration says that failing to clean the dryer causes 2,900 dryer fires a year. That’s a good reason to make sure you clean out your dryer’s lint filter every time you run a load.
Because some particles can get past the filter, you also need to learn how to clean the vent and do it at least once a year. What you find in the vent might surprise you. We’ve heard of cases where birds blocked a vent by building a nest inside.
Dr. Duct, a company that cleans dryer vents, says that if a dryer’s thermostat malfunctions, the dryer can run too hot. The company’s site says that replacing the thermostat is a relatively inexpensive fix. If you’re ambitious, you might try to do it yourself.
Home design site Hunker says that if the heating element has shifted or warped, the dryer may heat up too much and too quickly. If that’s the case, your dryer needs a new heating element and you may have to schedule a repair.
“Tumble dry low” isn’t just a tag suggestion, it’s a best practice. Regardless of the cycle you select, use the control panel to turn the temperature setting to low. Aside from cleaning out the lint filter every single time, this is the easiest way to keep your dryer from ruining your clothes.
Check our roundup of the best dryers to get a list of dryers that scored well on our performance tests. Then, choose a dryer that strikes the right balance between speedy cycles and cooler temperatures. Your clothes will thank you.