It is true that the dryer is meant to dry clothes, it is also true that not all clothes should be placed into the dryer to tumble dry!

By checking the care label on your garment, you will be able to find out how exactly to wash and dry that item. If your garment has the dry flat symbol on the care label, then it is best to avoid the dryer, and instead dry flat on a drying rack or soft towel. 

Garments made from natural fibers such as cotton, wool, linen, silk, or hemp, are usually required to air dry by laying flat. Some synthetic fibers such as polyester and spandex, which are used to make items such as yoga pants athletic shorts and board shorts, should also be flat dried since they do not work well with heat. 

Continue reading to learn the meaning of flat dry, how to flat dry, and what types of clothes and fabrics are most commonly required to be flat dried.  

Table of Contents

what does dry flat mean

What Does Dry Flat Mean?

If you have a clothing item that is required to dry flat, it simply means that the item must be air dried, as opposed to machine dried, by being laid evenly on a flat surface throughout the duration of the drying process. 

If your dry flat garment is wet from washing or otherwise, simply place it on a drying rack in a cool place to dry. Garments that are required to flat dry are typically made from fabrics that are sensitive to heat or tumble drying. These fabrics include cotton, polyester (can you shrink polyester,) wool, linen, and silk to name a few. 

Dry Flat Symbol

Before drying your clothing item, it is always practical to first check the garment’s care label. The symbol for dry flat is very simple and is easily recognizable. If you see the dry flat sample, be sure to avoid tumble drying your garment in the dryer, and instead take it to a drying rack or flat surface and lay flat to dry. 

dry flat symbol

The dry flat symbol is simply a single black horizontal line in a white square box with a black border. 

How To Flat Dry Clothes

Before you dry anything you need to wash your clothes properly. different types of clothing need specific steps to make sure they last as long as possible.

There is no one method that is the standard way to flat dry clothes. Read some of the methods and ideas below and see what works best for you when laying clothes flat to air dry.

This is how to dry flat/flat dry.

1. Indoor Drying Rack

An indoor drying rack is cheap, convenient, and can dry many garments simultaneously. Drying racks are light and easy to move around your house. They are also easily collapsable so that you can hide them away when you are not using them.

this is an indoor drying rack to flat dry clothes

2. Absorbent Towel

Lay a clean, soft, absorbent towel on a flat surface and lay your garment on top of it to dry. Make sure to check back and flip your garment over as the side facing upwards will dry faster than the other side.

this is an absorbent towel drying a shirt

3. Line Dry

You may also line dry your clothes if required to dry flat. When line drying, your clothes will hang flat and evenly and will not accumulate any wrinkles during the drying process.

Beware that some garments should not be dried in the sun. Colored and dark clothing should not be dried in the sun because the sun’s UV light will cause the color to fade. It is beneficial however to dry white clothing in the sun, as this will help to make the white more bright. 

this is a photo of a towel line drying in the sun

Learn more about how to treat different colors of clothing with these guides.

4. Hang Dry

Hang your wet garment in a hanger or even over the back of a chair or over the top of a door. As long as the garment is flat, you won’t have a problem. 

This is a t-shirt hang drying

How to flat dry: quick tips

  • Be careful where you dry your clothes as some garments, such as dark colors, should not be stored in direct sunlight. 
  • To speed up the drying process you can use a ceiling fan, rotary fan, or open a window. Better air circulation will help to dry your clothes faster. 
  • Lay clothes as flat as possible so that the shirt has no wrinkles and is ready to wear once dry. 

Garments and Fabrics Typically Required to Dry Flat

Not all types of clothing can go in the dryer, even on tumble dry low, as this will lead to shrinkage, damage, and a decline in the fabrics quality.

Your dryer gets too hot for these pieces of fabric, no matter what setting you choose (learn how hot does a dryer get.)

Typically, stretchy garments such as yoga pants, jeans, and swimsuits, should be air dried by laying flat. Sweaters made from wool, or 100% cotton should also flat dry or else they may shrink in the dryer. 

Most clothing made from natural fibers such as linen, silk, wool, leather, and cotton, should flat dry. Some synthetic fabrics such as polyester and spandex should also naturally air dry by laying flat. 


The length of time it takes the flat dry clothes depends on the fabric type of the garment, how thick it is, how wet it is, as well as the air temperature and circulation. That being said, most garments will air dry within 3 to 6 hours after being taken out of the spin cycle in the washing machine. 

Clothes that are required to flat dry are typically more delicate fabrics that do not do well in the dryer. If your garment’s care label has the flat dry symbol on it, then just do that, and do not try to use the dryer. 

Lay clothes on an indoor drying rack, the back of a chair, on top of a bed or table, or even hang your garment in the wardrobe to dry. The main requirement is that your garment is flat so that it can dry properly and so wrinkles do not develop during the drying process.