Dryers use hot air and a tumbling action to dry our clothes, but how hot do they actually get? It can be hard to know the right temperature cycle to use for different laundry types, and it’s also hard to tell if your dryer is overheating.
In this article, we break down how hot dryers typically get, and we take an in-depth look at the best drying times for different types of fabric.
How Do Dryers Work?
First up, to understand how hot dryers get, let’s take a closer look at how they work. After the wet clothes are loaded into the dryer’s drum, the drum will begin to rotate. Most drums have “fins” on the inside which help to gently separate and agitate the clothes from one another.
Dryers use a heating element to heat the air, which is then blown into the drum to evaporate moisture from the clothes as they tumble. This makes the air inside the dryer humid and moist. The moist air is removed from the dryer via a vent, which usually leads to the outdoors.
Many varieties of dryers finish the drying cycle with a slightly cooler temperature, which helps ensure the clothes don’t wrinkle as much. This also means the clothes are not too hot to the touch when you take them out of the drum.
Classic dryers run on a timer—you set the dial to the duration you want the dryer to run for, and it will run until the timer ends. Modern dryers, however, are a little more high-tech—some come with moisture sensors, which can automatically detect how much moisture is in the clothes, and adjust the dryer time accordingly. This prevents the dryer from running for too long and wasting electricity.
How Hot Do Dryers Get?
The typical range of a tumble dryer is between 120°F and 160°F—for home appliances, at least. Commercial dryers can run as high as 176°F, but this typically wouldn’t be available in a domestic setting.
Let’s break down the heat of different cycles:
For most dryers, a high heat/regular cycle will get to between 130°F and 160°F. This is the most commonly used heat setting in most dryers, as it dries clothes the quickest.
Not all dryers have a medium heat setting—some just have high heat and low heat. For dryers that do have a medium setting, the temperature will typically fall between 125°F and 135°F.
The low heat or delicate setting takes the longest to dry but is the best way to avoid shrinkage. In most dryers, the delicate cycle will be between 105°F and 115°F.
The no heat or fluff cycle doesn’t use heat at all—the dryer’s heating element stays off. Instead, it blows room-temperature air into the dryer’s drum as it rotates. This cycle aims to fluff up the clothes and is designed for clothes that are already dry.
Please note: These temperatures are all averages—the temperature your clothes dry at will vary depending on the make and model of your machine. Consult your user’s manual for information regarding your specific model.
What Temperature Should Clothes Dry At?
Now that we’ve broken down the different dryer temperatures, it’s time to look at when to use which cycle! In ideal circumstances, you should follow the washing and drying instructions on your clothing labels. If you’re drying something without a label, however, this guide provides a good outline of the correct setting to dry most clothes.
Cotton and Linen
Plain 100% cotton and linen items such as towels, sheets, and jeans can withstand the highest heat settings, and it’s fine to dry them at your dryer’s regular or high heat settings. Note that this only applies to 100% cotton, not blends! Although cotton isn’t at risk of shrinking, it’s worth noting that drying colored cotton at high heat can contribute to fading, so if you’re drying brightly colored cotton a lower heat might be better.
Synthetics are prone to shrinking or melting at high heat. Fabrics like polyester, acrylic, and nylon are best dried on medium or low heat to prevent damage.
Lacy fabrics or silks are best air-dried if you can possibly manage it, as these are very prone to heat damage. If you have to dry them in your dryer, use the lowest possible setting.
Rayon and Viscose
Rayon and viscose are made from processed wood fibers and are known for being very prone to shrinking at high temperatures. Air-dry if at all possible, otherwise use the lowest heat setting.
Wool is known for shrinking at high temperatures, and it can also become misshapen from too much agitation. It’s best to air-dry wool laid out flat, but if you have no other choice, use the lowest possible heat setting.
If you’re drying a fabric blend, always follow directions for the more delicate part of the blend. For example, a cotton and viscose T-shirt blend should be dried at the recommended temperature for viscose, not cotton.
How Can I Tell if My Dryer is Overheating?
It’s important to be aware of the signs of overheating in your dryer. If you notice your clothes are coming out of the dryer hotter than usual, or if you smell a scorched, burning smell when your dryer is running, it may be running hotter than it should.
If this happens, try one of the following fixes:
- Clean out the lint filter: A blocked lint filter can lead to overheating.
- Clean out the vent line: Too much lint in the dryer vent can mean your dryer struggles to dissipate the heat.
- Get a professional to check the heating element: The heating element is the most common cause of a dryer overheating. This is best checked by a professional.