woman removing clothes and towels from clothes dryer

How to Stop Ruining Your Clothes and Household Linens

If you routinely pluck big wads of lint from the trap of your clothes dryer, you should be wondering—where does all of that come from? You emptied all pockets and you’re certain you did not wash a bag of pillow stuffing.

I’ll tell you what it is because I face the same thing and I am not happy about this: It’s visual proof the dryer is wearing out our clothes. Those fibers were neatly woven into these clothes only 30 minutes ago. For all the convenience a clothes dryer offers, it may come at the price of having to replace clothes much too often.

Horizontal photo of female hand taking the lent out from dirty air filter of the dyer machine

Overdrying clothes causes them to shrink and not only the first time they’re washed. Sleeves and pant legs continually get shorter and shorter when machine-dried improperly.

There are tactics to counteract the abuse suffered by a clothes dryer and you don’t have to go back to the days of sheets frozen stiff on the clothesline.

You don’t have to machine dry your clothes to death in order to end up with comfy jeans and fluffy soft towels.

woman removing clothes and towels from clothes dryer

How to Dry Clothes and Linens Properly

Get the soap out

Residual detergent in fabrics causes them to feel rough. Measure carefully erring on the side of too little rather than too much detergent. Add 1/2 cup white vinegar to the last rinse. This will help remove the residual detergent from the fabrics. Even when air-dried, they will be softer.

Using inexpensive distilled white vinegar in the laundry will whiten, brighten, reduce odor, and soften clothes without harsh chemicals. The 5% acetic acid in distilled white vinegar is so mild that it will not harm washable fabrics or the washing machine itself. Unless prohibited by the manufacturer (check your owner manual if you are unsure), vinegar in the recommended small amount of 1/2 cup in the last rinse is safe to use in both standard and high-efficiency washers. Even more, it is beneficial to septic tanks and the environment.


Never machine dry clothes—especially jeans—completely. Ten to 15 minutes is sufficient for most items to remove the major wrinkles. Then hang them from a clothesline if you’re lucky enough to have one, or an indoor clothes rack.

Hang from the ankles

Remove partially-dry jeans and all other pants from the dryer and hang them on hangers by the hems on pant hangers equipped with clothespins or clamps. The weight of the pant will pull the fibers into place and keep the pants from getting shorter every time you launder them.

Emergency speed dry

When you need something to dry in a big hurry, here’s a great tip: Place the wet item and one dry bath towel into the dryer. Set on the highest temperature safe for that particular item. You will have dry jammies (or whatever) in less than half the time because the towel will absorb a great deal of moisture.

Never in the dryer

Any item that has a rubber backing, like a bath rug, should never come in contact with the inside of a dryer. Lay it flat to air dry and that rubber backing will last a long time. Put them through a drying cycle or two and expect that backing to crack, flake, and finally crumble off. What a mess.

Don’t kill the spandex

Fabrics that contain spandex, latex, elastic or have painted or silkscreened logos should not meet the heat of a clothes dryer. Even the elastic in pajamas, underwear and so on will break down quickly if dried on “hot.” Make sure you always read the labels to determine fabric content and laundering instructions. Get a portable drying rack or install a few extra towel bars so you can air-dry these more delicate types of fabric.

Close zippers

If you’ve ever encountered the mystery of tiny holes in T-shirts, we can probably solve that right now. Zippers, especially the metal type on jeans. When left unzipped, the zipper turns into a tiny chainsaw as it agitates and tumbles through the wash and dry process. Those open teeth! The solution is to always close zippers before they go into the washer and dryer.

Turn clothes inside out

When some types of fabric agitate and tumble during washing and drying, they rub against each other creating something called “pilling.” Those are the tiny little balls that make fabric feel rough and look less than lovely. If a fabric is going to pill, there’s not much you can do to stop it other than hand-wash and dry. But you can discourage if not prevent it altogether when you turn clothes inside out. This way, it’s the wrong side of those shirts and jeans that will receive the agitation and rub down, while the right side is getting a much gentler treatment on the inside.

Wool dryer balls

Imagine a big load of wet bath towels going into the dryer. You hit “start” and that massive wad of wet fabric will flop around and stick together for quite a while until the layers become dry enough to separate and allow warm air to circulate. That slows the drying time, wasting time and energy.

Now imagine six wool dryer balls bouncing around (I use my entire set of six in every load), working their way between the layers of fabric, separating them so the warm air can circulate efficiently from the very start of the cycle.

I’ve tested drying times with and without wool dryer balls, and the results are quite amazing. Wool dryer balls cut at least 25% off the time to dry a load of laundry, saving time and energy. I have also found these balls stuck tightly in the long sleeve of a tee-shirt and the pocket of a pair of jeans! They work their way into tight spaces and that’s what makes them so awesome.

Because dryer balls also agitate against the fibers in clothes and linens, everything feels softer coming out of the dryer. Used properly they also take care of static cling.

First published: 3-16-20; Updated 5-18-22


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