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What Clothes Do I Need to Hang Dry?

Woman putting clothing on a wall-mounted drying rack
Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock

Hang drying your clothing might seem like a hassle, but in many cases, it’s the best way to extend the life of your garments. Here’s what you should hang dry and how to dry different kinds of clothing.

For the most part, following care instructions for your clothing will help extend the life of each garment. However, in some cases, you can get away with doing things a little differently.

Benefits of Hang Drying Your Clothes

Whether you call it hang drying, drip drying, line drying, or you have a few items that are lay-flat-to-dry, there is a lot of benefit to skipping the dryer. You’re using less electricity, or gas in the case of gas dryers. In the summer, you’re not heating your already hot house even more.

More importantly, though, you’re saving your clothing from the ravages of the dryer. The heat of the dryer, even on the lowest setting, is over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. That heat, combined with the mechanical action of the dryer, wears down the fibers in your clothing. Hang drying will extend the life of your clothing and help you avoid shrinkage, pilling, and more.

If you can hang dry your clothing outside, you’ll also save money on fabric softener and dryer sheets because you won’t need them. You’ll also get that fresh outdoor scent for free!

A Few Things You Should Always Hang Dry

The make-up of the fabric has a lot to say on whether or not an item should be hung up to dry. Some items will shrink when dried, some will melt, and others will lose color. Sometimes hang drying a piece of clothing can even save you the hassle of ironing or steaming it later.

  • Synthetic Fibers: Clothing made from synthetic fibers run the risk of shrinking, stretching, or several other things when put in the dryer. If your clothing is synthetic and specifies to hang dry, you should follow the instructions.
  • Spandex and Elastic: Stretchy materials like spandex and elastic may become worn down from the heat of the dryer, making them lose their stretch. Even if your leggings say to dry on cool, you may be able to make them last longer by hanging them to dry. Dryer heat is rough on synthetic materials in general but especially on elastics.
  • Wool: Water and heat can both be damaging to wool. Water makes wool fibers cling together. Follow the instructions carefully when laundering wool garments. You can hand wash your wool sweater, with care. Use cold water, detergent made for delicates, and shape your garment to lay flat to dry. Never hang wool because the weight of the damp clothing will stretch out the shoulders.
  • Denim: Denim shrinks in the dryer. While jeans may take a while to dry when you hang them, unless you’re trying to shrink jeans that are slightly too big, they need to dry naturally.
  • Any Hand Wash Items: If an item of clothing requires hand washing, which is an extremely delicate process, it is wise to hang dry that item or lay flat to dry, depending on the material and care instructions. If it’s too delicate for the washing machine, it’s too delicate for the dryer.

You can use your judgment with some other clothing items. Cotton will sometimes shrink in the dryer unless it’s pre-shrunk. T-shirts don’t usually state “hang dry,” but there are some instances when you might want to do just that with them, including if they’re not pre-shrunk and already fit a bit snug or short. The same goes for printed T-shirts you really love. Many T-shirt printing methods will break down over time with repeated washing and drying so unless you’re going for a vintage T look, you’ll want to hang dry your favorite printed T-shirts.

The bottom line is you can rarely go wrong with hang drying (or flat drying) your clothing if you have space and time to do so, and the environment (be it in your laundry room or out on the clothesline) is dry enough to ensure the clothes dry thoroughly.  Obviously, it wouldn’t be very efficient to hang dry every piece of clothing in a large family, but for any garments you want to last without shrinkage or excess wear, it’s the best choice.

How to Hang Dry Your Clothes

Woman hanging clothing on an large indoor drying rack
Syda Productions/Shutterstock

Now that we’ve made a case for hang drying and talked about what you can hang (or lay-flat) to dry, how exactly do you go about it? If you want to dry your clothes indoors, you can hang garments on hangers and put them on the curtain rod of your shower. There are drying racks you can buy to put in your laundry room as well—this scissor-frame design is an inexpensive classic, and for a little extra you can get a drying rack that even has arms to lay dry-flat items on. If you’re line drying indoors or out, use clothespins and clip each garment to the individually (no sharing clothes pins to ensure the garments dry properly).

Whether you’re using a folding stand or a line, position your clothing for optimum drying by leaving space around each article of clothing. Don’t toss one bra on top of another bra to dry, or hang a pair of pants folded on the hanger like they were about to go into the closet. Slow drying will lead to odd smells and mildew.

On top of the right tools to hang dry and suitable spacing to give them room to dry, you’ll want to pick a location that is ideal for drying in that there is open space, ventilation, and low humidity. A basement laundry room might not be ideal if you have a damp basement, for example. Wherever you hang your clothes, make sure there is somewhere for the moisture to go. Leave the bathroom door open, open the windows if it’s a dry, warm day out, or otherwise give the newly humidified air a place to go.


If you’re not routinely hang drying your clothes you might think this all sounds like a bit too much work, but we assure you once you get in the habit it’ll just be a natural part of your laundry routine—and you’ll have much happier clothes with less pilling and more vibrant colors as a result.

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow has been a professional writer for almost two decades. Yvonne has worked for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and much more as a writer and editor. She's also a published poet and a short story writer. Read Full Bio »

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