Can You Tumble Dry Baby Clothes? – Ultimate Guide!

washing machine photo

Parenting involves rearing your baby in a safe and nurturing environment. It means making sure your little one is fed, dressed, and kept comfortable all the time! Keeping up with the laundry can become a mission and you may be wondering if you can tumble-dry baby clothes? After all, the dryer is every parent’s lifesaver on days when clothing can’t be dried on the line!

Baby clothes made with natural fibers can be tumble-dried, using the low heat or delicate setting. Items such as cloth diapers with waterproofing, hook, and loops, and synthetic fabrics shouldn’t be tumble dried. Always read the instructions on the label before using a tumble dryer. 

Is it safe to tumble-dry baby clothes?

Most baby clothes can be tossed into the tumble dryer. While there’s always the risk of shrinkage, you can avoid this from happening by using a low heat setting. Select Tumble Dry Low or the delicate/gentle cycle. Checking the label on the clothing item will also tell you if the garment is tumble dry safe. 

The symbol for tumble dry is a square with a circle inside it. The number of dots inside the circle indicate how hot the drying cycle can be as follows:

  • No dot: Safe to tumble dry on normal
  • One dot: Dry low heat or normal
  • Two dots: Medium heat
  • Three dots: High heat
  • Black circle: No heat

If there’s a cross through the tumble dry symbol it means the garment can’t be dried in the dryer machine. The following fabrics normally get ruined if placed in the tumble dryer:

  • Silk
  • Polyester
  • Wool

Tumble drying fabrics that shouldn’t be dried in the machine will result in fraying, shrinking, or fading. Polyester blend can be tumbled dried on low heat while cotton can handle higher heat settings. 

Types of baby clothing to consider

If you want the convenience of using the tumble dryer, select baby clothes made with fabric that can be tumbled. Some parents even go as far as asking their friends and family to only gift them with clothing that can be safely tumbled! 

Onesies/Rompers/Babygrows

When in doubt, always check the washing and drying instructions on the garment’s label. Look for the tumble dry symbol and take note of the number of dots inside the circle. Most onesies or baby rompers are made from cotton/cotton bled and can be tumbled on low heat or using the delicate setting. But, if they have fancy ruffles, lace, mesh, or beads on them it would be best to hang-dry them. 

Vests

Baby vests are an absolute must for your little one. Those made from cotton and bamboo fabrics are best and can be tumble-dried as long as you use the lowest heat setting. Bamboo does dry faster than cotton! Natural fibers are more resilient to being washed and dried often. But, keep in mind that all-cotton fabrics can shrink if placed in a hot tumble dryer. 

Socks

Plain cotton baby socks can be safely dried in the tumble dryer machine. Some socks are made with a combination of polyester, cotton, spandex, and nylon for a more comfortable fit. This blend can go in the dryer but make sure you select low heat or gentle dry. A hot cycle will result in permanent shrinkage

Woolen socks (often knitted with love by grandma) should never be placed in the tumble dryer. When deciding how many baby socks are necessary, select those that can be tumbled for hassle-free laundry days. 

Swaddles and sleep sacks

When picking between HALO Swaddle and SwaddleMe, you’ll notice one is made with 100% soft cotton while the other one is 100% organic cotton. All-cotton fabrics are more prone to shrinkage compared to cotton blends. These swaddles can be tumble dried on a delicate setting. Muslin swaddles can also be tumble-dried on low. 

When dressing your baby for sleep, you could opt for sleep sacks. Those made with micro-fleece or fleece should ideally be dried on the clothing line. But, if you’re stuck with the tumble dryer machine, opt for the lowest heat setting. 

Cloth diapers

There are a number of factors to consider when deciding whether to tumble dry cloth diapers or not. Take note of the following:

  • Diapers made with synthetic fabrics: These should NEVER be placed in the dryer as the heat will damage the fibers, resulting in melt-down, warping, or shrinking of the item.
  • Different components of the diaper: Elastic or spandex components of the diaper will break down faster when tumble-dried on full heat. Hook and loops stop holding properly , with the hooks losing their grip after a while if exposed to high heat. Woolen covers will be damaged when tumbled. 
  • Cloth diapers made with natural fibers: Prefolds and inserts made with natural fibers such as hemp, cotton, and bamboo can withstand higher heat settings. 

Cloth diapers containing fasteners, waterproofing, Velcro, and elastics should only be air-dried. Waterproofing fabrics will de-laminate when tumble-dried. When purchasing cloth diapers, always check the manufacturer’s washing and drying instructions if you want to protect the warranty of your product. Most brands recommend tumble drying on low heat or air drying. 

How long should you tumble dry baby clothes?

The length of time it takes for baby clothing to dry depends on the selected heat cycle. Delicate or low heat, which is recommended for most baby clothes, takes up to 15 minutes. It’s interesting to note that smaller items actually take longer to dry in the tumble dryer. But, those made with natural fibers will take a shorter length of time to dry in the dryer, compared to thicker clothing accessories. 

Best tumble dryer setting for baby clothes

While some garments can be used on medium heat, the best tumble dryer setting for baby clothes is low heat. The reasons for opting for the gentler drying setting are as follows:

  • Minimal breakdown of fabric fibers
  • Less lint on garments
  • Fewer risks of warping or shrinkage
  • Colors and graphics less likely to fade

Tips for tumble drying baby clothes

Here are some great tips for tumble-drying baby clothes successfully!

Always read the instructions on the label

Before you even consider using the tumble dryer for baby clothes, read the label for washing and drying instructions. This will tell you if the garment can be tumbled and if so, at what heat. Get familiar with the different symbols and let the number of dots guide you on using the right heat setting for various baby clothing items. 

Toss in a dry towel  to speed up the process

Small doesn’t necessarily mean fast! Smaller garments take an age to dry in the dryer because of decreased surface area. You can speed up the drying of tiny baby clothes by tossing in a dry, clean towel when tumbling.

Don’t overload the dryer machine

Overloading the tumble dryer with too many clothes will result in some items still being wet or damp at the end of the cycle. Avoid adding too many baby clothes in one cycle as they’ll become tangled and stay damp

Spin dry before tumble drying

Spin-drying baby clothes in the washing machine before placing them in the dryer machine will also speed up the time it takes for them to dry fully when tumbled. Putting sodden clothing into a tumble dryer makes it harder for the machine to completely dry the items. 

Use clothes pegs to keep smaller items together

We’re all familiar with socks going missing during a wash! The same can happen when putting teeny weeny baby socks in the tumble dryer. Use clothes pegs to keep pairs together when washing and tumble drying them. Mesh laundry bags (without zippers or other metal closures) can also be used to keep smaller baby items together when tumble drying on low heat. 

Avoid over-drying

Baby clothes should be removed from the tumble dryer when they’re just dry. If you overdry baby clothes, they’ll be prone to damage. This could result in clothing losing their shape, shrinking, or fading. 

Empty the lint container regularly

After every drying cycle, remember to empty out the lint container. These build up quickly especially if you’re tumble drying towels and other large items often. A full lint container can cause the dryer to overheat, damaging your baby’s clothes and the machine.

Watch this informative video for more tips on drying laundry indoors with a tumble dryer.

Why you might not want to tumble dry your little one’s clothes

There are a number of reasons why you might not want to tumble dry your little one’s clothes. These include the following:

  • Less germs: Sunlight is known for reducing germs in clothing compared to dryers that don’t kill all pathogens. To ensure germ-free clothing, you need a drying temperature of at least 140°F. Most dryers only reach 135°F on their highest heat setting which would destroy the fabric of most baby clothes anyway!
  • Longer lifespan: Using the tumble dryer to dry your little one’s clothes every time will shorten the lifespan of their garments. If you want to extend the lifespan of items, it’s recommended to air dry them, only using the dryer machine in emergencies. 
  • Clothes smell better when dried outside: Baby clothes always smell fresher and cleaner when dried on the clothing line outside, with sunshine and a light breeze.
  • Eco-friendly: A lot of energy is used when operating the tumble dryer. Hang drying clothes is an eco-friendly alternative while reducing costly monthly energy bills! 
  • Safety reasons: If most of your baby clothing items are made with synthetic fabrics, it’s not safe to tumble dry them. Clothing accessories with lace, metal closures, and beads are also not safe to use in the tumble dryer. 

Alternatives to tumble drying your baby clothes

A tumble dryer can make your life as a parent easier, especially on those cold and wet days. But, what are the alternatives to using this appliance?

Radiators

Draping damp baby clothes over a radiator is an option if there’s no other way of drying the garments. Make sure the room is well-ventilated to avoid a buildup of dampness and mold. Electric radiators can become a fire hazard when drying wet clothes so never leave the washing to dry unattended when using this method.

Hanging up the clothes on a line inside

Hanging up baby clothes on a line inside is an alternative method when the weather is wet outdoors or you don’t have access to an outside drying area. Place the line in a “hot spot” such as a bright, sunny room or next to a large window that lets in sunlight. 

Always make sure there’s plenty of ventilation between the wet clothes to ensure proper drying. It’s also a good idea to spin dry the baby clothes in the washing machine before line-hanging indoors. 

Air dry or tumble dry baby clothes?

Air drying instead of tumble drying baby clothes has its benefits. If you decide to air dry baby clothes, you have the option of doing it indoors or on a line outside. Air drying is cost-effective, increases the lifespan of your little one’s clothing, reduces wrinkles and creases, and is more environmentally friendly.

Air drying in sunlight is also healthier, reducing bacteria and viruses on clothing. When air drying, always make sure the clothes are hung up with space between them for ventilation. However, using a clothes rack or line to air dry your little one’s clothing does take longer than using the tumble dryer. 

Is it worth using a tumble dryer for baby clothing?

Deciding the number of baby washcloths to get is often determined by how often you do the laundry. Having a tumble dryer is useful for bulkier items such as towels. But, if you have enough baby clothes that allow you to air dry, then using a tumble dryer isn’t always necessary. 

However, it’s worth using a tumble dryer for baby clothes if you live in a wet climate with very little sunshine or have limited access to outside drying areas. What do you think?

Oh, and here’s an article I wrote on which baby clothes might shrink when tumble-drying.

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