Some types of garments are delicate or prone to shrinkage and damage in the dryer cannot be tumble dried. These types of garments must lay flat, hang, or line dry to dry.

The dryer uses a high level of heat paired with a tumble action to remove excess water from clothes. This heat and tumble action is abrasive and can cause serious damage to garments made from wool, leather, spandex, silk, or fur. 

Before washing or drying any type of clothing garment you should always check the item’s care label. The care label will have different types of laundry symbols that indicate what kind of treatment is necessary for that particular garment. If your garment’s care label has the do not tumble dry symbol, then be sure to air dry your garment and avoid using the dryer.

Learn how to dry your clothes without a dryer & how hot does a dryer get.

Continue reading to learn more about the do not tumble dry meaning, as well as the do not tumble dry laundry symbol, and instructions on how to properly dry these types of clothes. 

Table of Contents

do not tumble dry meaning

Do Not Tumble Dry Meaning

What does do not tumble dry mean?

Do not tumble dry means that the item should not be placed in the dryer to tumble dry. If your garment’s care label is showing the do not tumble dry laundry symbol, it means that the garment is delicate, cannot be placed in the dryer, and must be air dried. Tumble drying a delicate garment can lead to shrinkage, pilling, and other forms of damage.

Tumble Dry Meaning

Tumble drying is to machine dry instead of line drying or laying flat to dry. This method is called “Tumble Dry” because clothes tumble in the dryer drum where airflow and heat dry clothes quickly. But not all fabrics are made to be tumble-dried—always check the care tag first.

Other tumble dry meanings:

Do Not Tumble Dry Symbol

do not tumble dry laundry symbol

What is the do not tumble dry sign?

The do not tumble dry laundry symbol is a circle inside of a square, which is covered and crossed out by a large X, similar to other “do not” symbols prohibiting different actions and activities. 

Which Types of Clothes Are Do Not Tumble Dry?

Can you tumble dry clothes that say do not tumble dry? No.

Although there may be some exceptions, the following types of garments and materials should not be tumble dried in the dryer

  • Bras
  • Leather
  • Faux Leather
  • Suede 
  • Silk
  • Lingerie 
  • Delicates 
  • Running shoes
  • Athletic wear 
  • Wool sweaters 
  • Swimwear 
  • Slippers

How Do You Dry Clothes That Say Do Not Tumble Dry?

If clothes cannot be tumble dried, then they must be air dried.

Air drying clothes is a gentle and effective way to dry clothes, although it may be a little slower than machine drying. 

Before air drying clothes, utilize the spin cycle in the washing machine. The spin cycle will help to remove excess water from the fabric of the garment, and will put it in a better position to air dry. Clothes should be slightly damp when preparing to air dry, not soaking wet. 

If you do not have access to a washing machine and want to remove excess water, lay the garment flat on an absorbent towel, and gently roll the towel up (sushi roll style) to squeeze out the moisture. 

When air drying clothes, hang or flat dry on an indoor drying rack in a cool place, out of contact with direct sunlight. Many delicate fabrics, such as silk satin, suffer when dried in direct sunlight, and dark colors can fade when stored in the sun. 

You may also wish to line dry your garment outside. If you would like to do this, first check for the line dry laundry symbol on the garment’s care label, before hanging it on the clothesline. 

However, before anything gets dried you must first wash it properly! Let us help you.

What Happens If You Tumble Dry a Do Not Tumble Dry Garment

what happens if you tumble dry something that says not to?

If you tumble dry a do not tumble dry garment, the best scenario would be little to no damage occurring. Some do not tumble dry garments may not be completely ruined after just one cycle in the dryer. Some garments may survive a tumble dry cycle for a short period of time, but will certainly degrade in quality if tumble dried consistently for a long enough period of time.  

The worst case scenario to occur would be the total destruction of the do not tumble dry item. Some fabrics such as silk, spandex, and wool, are very sensitive to heat as well as the tumble action in the dryer, and would suffer a severe amount of damage if tumble dried. 

Any do not tumble dry clothing item that is placed in the dryer, will become damaged to some degree. The only difference is that some garments may be immediatly damaged, while others may degrade over a moderately longer period of time. 


If your clothing tag says do not tumble dry then you should air dry it on a line or rack.

Tumble drying could ruin the piece of clothing you are trying to dry. Some fabrics wont hold up in the heat of the dryer while others will get damaged from the tumbling motion of the dryer.

Yes, tumble dry means no heat. You should air dry your clothing instead of using a drying machine.