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16 Things That Should Never End Up in Your Dryer

If any of these items end up in your dryer, it could be bad news

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Close-Up Of Basket Against The drying machines at a laundromatRosley Majid/Getty Images

Not everything can go in the dryer

If you’re short on time, it’s easy to just throw everything in the dryer on the first setting you see and call it a day—but there can be some major consequences for your clothing if you do that. It’s important to know how to do laundry the right way, lest you ruin your favorite shirt, or worse—ruin the dryer. So we reached out to dryer experts to find out exactly what should never, ever end up in a dryer. And trust us, it’s worth taking an extra minute to make sure your machine is free of these 16 things. Here, as well, are some secret ingredients you should be adding to your laundry.

smeared puddle of oil with dirty ragsMoJoStudio/Getty Images

Flammable stains

Why it’s bad

According to the National Fire Protection Association, between 2010 and 2014, U.S. municipal fire departments responded to almost 16,000 fires that involved dryers and washing machines. Of those statistics, dryers were the culprit in 92% of them. While it might seem obvious to never put anything that can catch on fire in your dryer, it’s easy to just toss those pants you spilled gas on in the dryer without thinking. “Washing clothes will not completely remove oil residues,” says Tim Adkisson, director of product engineering at Sears Home Services. “Failure to obey this warning can result in fire, explosion or death.”

What to do instead

Clothes that have oil or gasoline stains need to be air dried—or better yet, thrown out. There is no way to guarantee that all oil residue has been removed, and the risk is too high to justify keeping that stained piece of clothing.

Fit young african american man running outdoorsm-imagephotography/Getty Images

Activewear

Why it’s bad

While tossing your activewear into the dryer won’t damage the machine itself, it could ruin your clothing. Since most activewear is sweat-wicking or even coated to protect from the sun’s rays, it’s definitely not dryer-friendly. “Drying your activewear in the dryer and exposing it to all that high heat and friction can be damaging to the functional components that these technical fabrics are developed for,” according to Brit Turner, co-founder of Fit Atelier. “The heat can also wear away on any elastic properties that your garments may contain and weaken the material—leading to tears, holes, picks and runs.”

What to do instead

Instead, Turner suggests hanging or laying your activewear flat to dry after washing it in a cold or delicate washing cycle. P.S. Check out these exercise dresses that are both functional and flattering.

Put dryer sheet into a dryerhamikus/Getty Images

Dryer sheets

Why it’s bad

Yes, you read that right. While dryer sheets are intended to be used, well, in the dryer, that doesn’t mean they’re good for your health. “They are bad for your respiratory system, your skin and, moreover, the environment,” says Elizabeth Trattner, A.P. DOM, doctor of Chinese and Integrative Medicine. “These are toxic and cause long-term health hazards.”

What to do instead

“It is worth throwing them out and trading them in for a healthier option like scented wool balls using essential oils.”

Close-Up Of Black Lingerie On Bed SheetSrinrat Wuttichaikitcharoen/Getty Images

Lingerie

Why it’s bad

As anyone who has tossed lingerie in the dryer might know, this greatly reduces its lifespan. “Do not put a good investment in the dryer. Heat will shorten the lifespan of a bra and wear down the latex, lace and other fabric in it,” according to Trattner.

What to do instead

“Treat your undergarments with respect. Put bras in special lingerie bags and remove them from the washing machine and hang them, or better yet, hand-wash and hang dry.”

Rumpled beach towel and lonely flip flops in the sandPhoto by Alex Tihonov/Getty Images

Sandy towels and beachwear

Why it’s bad

Warm sand might be nice to sit down and relax in when you’re at the beach, but it can be a pretty pesky nuisance if it ends up coming off your towels into the dryer. “Sand can get trapped between gaps in the drum,” according to James Peters, director of product management at Kenmore. “This adds an irritating sound when drying and can damage the dryer over time.”

What to do instead

Shake out your towels well to remove all sand before you put them in the washer. Because they are used outside, beach towels are also great candidates to air-dry on a clothesline.

cute border collie dog with fur in moulting lying down on couchIuliia Zavalishina/Getty Images

Pet hair

Why it’s bad

Anyone who has a furry friend at home knows just how messy things can get—pet hair ends up everywhere. But one place where it should never, ever end up is in the dryer. If the hair builds up over time, it could begin combining with lint and debris around it, especially if the lint screen isn’t emptied before every load.

“Excess dryer lint is a major fire hazard, can cause your dryer to become damaged and also reduces the efficiency of your dryer,” according to Dave Lavalle, founder of Dryer Vent Wizard, the nation’s leader in dryer vent repair, cleaning and maintenance.

What to do instead

“To avoid a possible fire sparking, make sure to keep the areas around your dryer, including underneath and behind, free of extra pet hair, lint and debris that might build up.” You can also try these Bounce pet hair dryer sheets to keep fur off your clothes.

GumFecundap stock/Shutterstock

Chewing gum

Why it’s bad

While you’re probably not actively trying to dry your chewing gum, it does occasionally get thrown in there by accident. And unfortunately, by the time you notice, the damage has probably already been done. “Gum can have lasting damage if left in the pockets of your clothes,” says Josh Matteson, a writer for Lula, a home services on-demand company. “It can either permanently stick itself to clothes or fall out of the pocket and stretch all over the wall of your dryer.” (If something else goes wrong and your laundry comes out of the dryer still wet, here’s how to fix a dryer that isn’t drying.)

What to do instead

Always check your pockets before washing and drying to catch any loose change, tissues or pesky chewing gum—before it goes in the dryer. If you do find gum stuck to your clothes, remove it with rubbing alcohol or by putting the garment in the freezer to solidify and then remove the gum.

Young sportive woman wearing black yoga pant and white tees standing on a park bench.Burak GULER/Getty Images

Spandex

Why it’s bad

If you’ve ever bought spandex leggings or yoga pants, you know they can be pretty expensive. With that being said, if you toss them in the dryer, they probably won’t ruin your machine itself—but there’s a good chance they’ll shrink a bit, which could be costly to replace.

What to do instead

“[They should] be hang-dried to avoid shrinking,” says Peters. “Although many people will also dry them with an air-dry cycle with good results.” To get all your clothes extra clean, learn about what laundry stripping really is.

Suede bagKinga Krzeminska/Getty Images

Suede

Why it’s bad

While some faux leather is actually washable, it should never be put in the dryer. Heat melts plastic, ruining your garment and possibly your dryer. This obviously rules out ironing as well. The same goes for dry cleaning suede garments.

What to do instead

Ultimately, air-drying your suede garments is definitely your best bet. While you aren’t using them on your suede and faux leather, here are some creative uses for dryer sheets.

Female legs in black stockings on the bed, style and fashionHUIZENG HU/Getty Images

Tights or pantyhose

Why it’s bad

If you’ve ever worn tights, you probably know how easy it is for them to rip and tear. And after a cycle in the dryer, that little hole that wasn’t noticeable before is probably running down the entire leg. The material your tights are made of might even cause them to shrink when it’s exposed to high heat.

What to do instead

“The best thing you can do is to air-dry them, but do NOT hang them! Hang-drying tights will stretch out the material and even potentially ruin them,” says Caleb Backe, a health and wellness expert for Maple Holistics. “As an alternative, try rolling your freshly laundered tights into a dry towel and let them dry overnight.” Though you shouldn’t use it for your tights, check out these surprising things your dryer can do.

Lace nightgown and cream silk robe on pink backgroundTharakorn/Getty Images

Lace

Why it’s bad

Lace is another delicate fabric that should never meet your dryer. In fact, you should really be avoiding machines altogether, doing a gentle hand-wash instead of putting the lace through a spin cycle that could cause it to snag or stretch.

What to do instead

Lay your lace garment flat to dry so it doesn’t lose its natural shape or damage the fabric. Here are a few of the things you’re probably washing too much.

hands reaching for sequin clothesgolubovy/Getty Images

Anything embellished

Why it’s bad

Unfortunately, you should probably find another way to dry your favorite sequined top. Sequins, gems, stones and whatever other bits are embellished onto your garments can hook onto other items in the dryer, or even the dryer itself. This can potentially damage the garment and its surroundings.

What to do instead

Rather than risk ruining your favorite sparkly shirt, it’s better to hang-dry or—if the material is thin or delicate—lay it on a towel to air out.

woman sitting on bed in blue silk pajamasDragonImages/Getty Images

Silk

Why it’s bad

You should avoid both the washer and dryer when it comes to your silk garments. This ultra delicate fabric is prone to snags and runs, so you need to take extra care with it.

What to do instead

Instead of adding your delicate silk clothing to your dryer load, lay the garment flat on a towel, then roll it up to squeeze out excess moisture. After, repeat this process with a second towel.

bath-matWiiin/shutterstock

Rubber-backed bath maths

Why it’s bad

Putting a rubber-backed bath mat in the dryer can end up being pretty messy. According to Peters, “The rubber can crumble and get caught in the dryer, which can cause a fire hazard.” Here’s how to wash bath mats so they’re fresh, fluffy and free of bacteria.

What to do instead

Because this is a functional item and not a garment, it’s OK to hang-dry this one without worrying about stretching it out of shape. Next, check out the things you never knew you could put in the washing machine.

close up of a woman wearing a yellow wool sweater and a winter coat over topPlume Creative/Getty Images

Wool

Why it’s bad

Although wool can keep you well-insulated in the winter, it’s really a delicate fabric. It’s notorious for shrinking in heat, which can render your favorite sweater unwearable. At high temperatures, wool actually becomes felt—not what you want for your clothes!

What to do instead

Lay your wool items flat to dry. Hanging them will cause them to stretch and lose their shape, and even the lowest dryer setting can cause irreversible shrinkage. Another option is to gently lay on a towel to dry. 

red bikini bathing suit hanging on a clothes line with blue sky in the backgroundTetra Images/getty images

Bathing suits

Why it’s bad

Much like athletic wear and spandex, high heat will wear out the elasticity of your suit and leave you with droopy drawers at the beach. Drying your suit in the machine will only shorten the suit’s usable life—and many swimsuits are made of quick-dry material anyway.

What to do instead

The best bet is to lay your suits flat to dry, away from heat or too much direct sunlight, which will also shorten the life of your suit. It gets plenty of sun when you wear it, and more sunlight exposure will only serve to further fade and degrade the elastic materials and the design of the suit. Next, read about these things that you should never put in a dishwasher.

Sources:

Brittany Gibson
Brittany Gibson is a regular contributor to RD.com’s culture, food, health, and travel sections. She was previously an editorial intern for RD.com and Westchester Magazine. Her articles have appeared on Buzzfeed, Business Insider, AOL, Yahoo, and MSN, among other sites. She earned a BA in English from the University of Connecticut