Air dry or machine dry your clothes: which one is better?

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Laundry at home is essential for preventing infection spread and maintaining a healthy and clean environment. It includes a series of processes such as sorting, washing, rinsing, and drying clothes. While many people focus on the washing process, it is also crucial to consider the drying process.

Drying clothes can be done naturally by air drying or mechanically using a machine. Air drying is a natural process of drying clothes that can be easily done outdoors or indoors. On the other hand, machine-drying needs a lot of energy and involves a washing machine or a tumble dryer. The decision on drying clothes using a natural or mechanical process will have its benefits and drawbacks, and there has been a debate on the superiority between the two methods.

Machine drying

Time is a key consideration in the discussion between machine and air-drying clothing. When compared to air-drying methods, machine drying significantly reduces the time required for drying clothes. The heat from the machine removes creases on the clothing and makes it easier to fold without the need for ironing.

Furthermore, research shows that mechanical dryers are very efficient in removing pollen and allergens from fabric (Choi, Park, Seong & Won-Oh, 2020) due to the high intensity and heat during the drying process. This is very helpful for individuals who have allergies, especially to pollen.

Despite the benefits that have been mentioned above, take note that mechanical drying uses high temperatures and strong mechanical forces that can damage the clothes. Some types of fabrics such as wool, cotton, and denim are not suitable for mechanical drying and can be shrunk during the drying process.

A study on the effects of various home-drying methods on cotton, wool, and polyester, showed that tumble-drying results in more shrinkage than the other methods. Thus, machine drying might degrade and damage the clothes faster than air drying.

Furthermore, a machine dryer takes up a lot of space and energy in households, and this might be an issue in a house with limited space.

Machine drying could also have negative impacts on individuals’ health and the environment. Although the dryer has a lint filter, some microparticles can slip out of the filter and be carried away by the hot steam from the drying process. This can pollute indoor air and adversely affect air quality. Furthermore, microplastics that are emitted from the dryer can be inhaled and cause adverse effects on individuals’ health, such as oxidative stress, inflammation, and lung diseases.

Air drying

Air drying clothes is more environmentally friendly as it requires no additional energy compared to machine drying. Air-drying clothes, especially in direct sunlight, is thought to be the best for preserving the quality and usability of the clothes. The fibers of the clothes will hold up longer as air drying does not involve strong force and heat.

Furthermore, drying laundry, particularly in the open air on sunny and warm days, induces a pleasant and fresh scent to the fabric. It was found that the ‘clean and fresh laundry’ smell was present in sun-dried fabrics, compared to indoor-dried fabrics that had a very light, almost non-existent smell (Silvia Pugliese, et al. 2020). This is due to the physical and chemical reaction of fabrics’ surfaces and the ambient environment.

Moreover, the existence of ozone may function as a disinfecting property that causes the breakdown of organic molecules that emit an unpleasant odor; thus, may help to increase the smell of freshness on the clothes.

On the other hand, air-drying clothes is very dependent on the weather conditions. A significant disadvantage of the method is unexpected rainfall during the drying period. Winter and cold environments might hinder the drying process and it can take a day or more to dry clothes, which is an unreasonable amount of time for drying clothes. Additionally, indoor drying might harm your health because the air quality deteriorates as indoor humidity rises. Humidity will increase because of the damp laundry, and as a result, increase the chance of mold growth and malodor problems.

In conclusion

The preferable method for drying clothes is air drying rather than machine drying. But it depends on the situation and which method is convenient for you. Air-drying clothes requires no additional costs, good for maintaining the quality of the clothes, and is environmentally friendly. Nonetheless, if it is impossible to use air-drying methods due to time constraints and unconducive weather, machine drying would be preferable. Eventually, the best drying method is one that is tailored to your household’s needs and preferences.

To learn more in-depth tips to enhance the efficiency of laundering, the Life Management Science Labs’ (LMSL) Household Management Science Labs features resources based on the research of the Institute for Life Management Science. The studies are translated into practical tools and learning materials that include courses, certifications, videos, podcasts, and so much more. Visit the Household Management Science Labs today.

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