When Should You Use The Delicate Setting On Your Tumble Dryer?

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Throwing your clothes into the dryer seems like a simple task, but staring down a plethora of settings, attempting to read a heiroglyphic care label and debating the merits of dryer sheets versus reusable dryer balls can make it more stressful than it needs to be. Before you get frustrated and end up shrinking your favorite sweater to a 3T, take some time to learn about the different heat settings your dryer is capable of and when to use them.

Most dryers come with four main heat levels: air fluff (no heat), delicate/gentle (low heat), permanent press (medium heat), and normal/cottons (high heat). Each of these settings has a time and place, but when it comes to delicate fabrics like lace and silk, it can be tempting to just air dry everything to avoid any issues. Instead of having to wait hours to wear your favorite shirt, read on to learn more about the delicate setting and when to use it.

What is the delicate cycle?

Many people are hesitant to use the delicate setting on their dryer because they think their clothes will come out still damp, but that's far from the truth. According to GE, the delicate or gentle setting on the dryer still gets up to 125 degrees, only 10 degrees cooler than the medium heat setting. It's definitely warm enough to get your clothes dry, just not so warm it damages or shrinks the fabric.

To make up for the difference in temperature, Edison International says delicate cycles typically run for longer than permanent press or normal cycles, giving your clothes enough time to dry. This prevents fragile materials from shrinking, fading, and falling apart — a fate that typically spells the end for our beloved clothing items. The best way to make sure your items come out dry and intact is to learn from the manufacturer itself. Check the care label, and that will tell you everything you need to know about how to maintain your items.

When to choose delicate

Coming face-to-face with the symbols on the tags of your clothes can feel like trying to read another language. Luckily, some tags come with instructions written in plain English, but if you're stuck trying to decode the secret laundry language, we have some tips. For dryer settings, look for the circular symbol. One dot means dry on low heat, while two or three means you can increase the temperature (via Whirlpool). If you're unsure, always err on the side of caution and go for the lower heat setting.

For a quick assessment of what should go in on a gentle cycle, look for silk, satin, lace, linen, and sweaters (via Dreft). These materials are prone to shrinking or fading with heat, so it's best to double-check before throwing them in with your easy-to-launder cotton T-shirts. Surprisingly, your beloved workout sets may also require a gentle cycle to protect the integrity of the elastic (via Nike). If you're not sure, always check, and avoid laundry mishaps for good.