What Does Tumble Dry Low Mean?

What does tumble dry low mean? - Header Image

Key Points

  • Tumble Dry on 'low' means low temperature
  • Lower temperatures are better for more delicate items
  • Some dryers might say 'delicate', or 'gentle' instead of 'low'
  • If the garment has high sentimental value it might be better to line dry the item instead

You've finally decided it's time to splurge on some brand new clothes, and finally get around to washing them for the first time and you notice the 'care label' says that you can tumble dry, but you must "tumble dry low".

What does tumble dry low mean? Tumble dry low means that the tumble dryer should be set to the lowest temperature. This is likely because the item is particularly delicate and could shrink or singe parts of the garment.

When should I use the low heat setting on a dryer?

Using a low heat setting is always going to be your safest option for any item that you dry, the only downside is it will increase the time that it takes to dry.

Gentle items such as wool and nylon in particular will shrink in the dryer so using a low temperature on these items is a must.

Cotton can withstand higher temperatures but will create ware and tear on the item which will cause damage over time creating more lint and reducing the lifetime of your garment .

Cotton most likely will not shrink with higher temperatures because most manufacturing processes pre-shrink the fabric providing protection to the item. If the cotton fabric was not pre-shrunk then you should use a low temperature setting to prevent shrinkage.

Inspecting the care label of a garment before drying

This is not an exhaustive list, please check the care label of the individual garment for the specific care and maintenance instructions.

What are the typical temperatures settings for a dryer

Unfortunately, there are no standards that govern what the specific temperatures are for a given setting (e.g. low, medium, and high).

Most manufacturers provide information as to what the specific temperatures are, but commonly the range is somewhere between 125°F or 55°C and 145°F or 75°C.

In some dryers, the medium and high setting are actually the same temperature 135°F or 65°C but leverage other presets to make the dryer run longer to achieve the same result.

A word of caution as it is not uncommon to find dryers that can reach in excess of 175°F or 80⪚C which exceeds safe temperatures of 150°F or 65°C which for some garments could cause severe damage.

Common dryer settings and their temperatures
Setting Temperature Garment
Low Not exceeding 125°F or 55°C Wool, Nylon, and Delicates
Medium Not exceeding 135°F or 65°C Standard items like Tops and T-shirts
High Not exceeding 145°F or 75°C Heavy items like Jeans, Towels

Always using a lower temperature setting on the dryer is the safest way to ensure no accidental damage comes to the item. Even though it might take longer to dry, this is often not an issue given most if not all dryers have a timer function.