Professionals reveal 6 tumble dryer mistakes to avoid – and why it is so important

These six mistakes could damage your laundry and your machine, experts warn

blue laundry room with washer and dryer
(Image credit: Symphony)

Although drying clothes seems as simple as tossing them in a tumble dryer and turning it on, not paying attention to the settings could be causing irreparable damage to both your garments and your machine, experts are warning.

When you have spent precious time making sure you are doing laundry correctly to avoid bleaching, shrinking, or damaging your clothes fibers, it is essential to pay the same care to your dryer too, so your hard work isn't undone. 

Professional cleaners say there are six common tumble dryer mistakes people make – here’s how to fix all of them.

Tumble dryer mistakes

Of course, you should always check the laundry symbols on your garment or linens before you throw it in the tumble dryer. This helps to avoid the most common laundry mistake of shrinking or misshaping your clothes, but there are some other mechanical mistakes you might be making that pose a fire risk to your home.

This is what you must avoid.

a modern laundry room with gray/green cabinets, a fridge, and a washing machine and dryer hidden behind a cabinet door

(Image credit: The White Kitchen Company)

1. Overloading the dryer

There are plenty of things you should not put in a tumble dryer, and thick bulky items – and too many items – are some of them, begins Angela Rubin, cleaning expert and founder of Hellamaid:

‘Overloading hampers the dryer's ability to circulate hot air and can lead to uneven drying, longer drying times, and increased wear and tear on the appliance,’ she explains. ‘Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for load capacity. It's essential to leave enough room for the clothes to tumble freely and allow for efficient drying.’

Angela Rubin
Angela Rubin

Hellamaid is an award-winning cleaning company in Canada that's been featured on multiple global media brands.

2. Not giving the dryer the right ventilation

Even the best clothes dryers need good ventilation and regular maintenance to keep them working their best, reminds Josh Mitchell, plumbing technician, and appliance expert at Plumbing Lab. Overlooking essential vent maintenance is one of the most common dryer mistakes people make that could cause a fire, he warns:

‘The lint trap inside the dryer often garners attention, but the external vent can be an overlooked element. Depending on the location and season, this vent might accumulate leaves, bird nests, or other obstructions. Moreover, as a plumbing expert, I've observed that clogged external vents can lead to detrimental moisture buildup inside walls or ceilings. It's pivotal to inspect and clean this vent every few months, ensuring unhindered airflow and preventing moisture-related complications.’

3. Putting the dryer in the wrong place

If you don’t have a designated laundry room, then it can be tricky to find the right spot for this bulky appliance. Nevertheless, it is essential that you avoid putting it in a damp, cold, or uneven spot such as a basement or garage, says Dominik Femia, home improvement expert and home blogger.

‘Many homeowners install tumble dryers in cramped spaces, such as closets or basements, without proper ventilation or adequate clearance. Placing the dryer in an inadequately ventilated area can lead to increased heat and moisture buildup, which can contribute to mold growth and inefficient drying.

‘Additionally, a lack of clearance can obstruct airflow and pose a fire hazard,’ he adds. ‘To ensure safety, efficiency, and the longevity of your tumble dryer, it's crucial to position it in a well-ventilated area with sufficient clearance for proper airflow.’

4. Not using the right settings

Tumble dryer settings exist for a reason, and you must understand your tumble dryer temperature guide to keep your laundry in top condition, says Angela Rubin, cleaning expert.

Selecting the wrong drying settings, such as high heat for delicate items or low heat for heavy fabrics, is one of the most common mistakes people make every day, she explains:

‘Incorrect settings can damage clothes, waste energy, and result in suboptimal drying. Always refer to the garment care labels and follow the manufacturer's guidelines for setting the appropriate heat level and drying cycle. Using the right settings ensures the best results.’

5. Not checking the hose for damage or wear

Maintenance is essential for any appliance in your home, but it is especially important for dryers that regularly heat up to high temperatures, advises plumbing technician Josh Mitchell. 

‘The flexible venting hose behind your dryer can wear out or get punctured over time, leading to inefficiencies or even becoming a fire hazard. Regular checks for any signs of wear, tear, or damage and replacing the hose when needed can be crucial for safety and performance,’ he suggests.

If you are unsure of how to do this yourself, you can always schedule an expert to come and assess each of your home appliances, including your best washing machine, to give you peace of mind that everything is safe and working at its best.  

6. Not cleaning the drum and filter regularly

Also a common washing machine mistake, not cleaning the inside of your appliance between uses is a surefire way to damage your machine and make your freshly washed clothes dirty almost immediately, cleaning expert Angela Rubin points out. 

‘Lint buildup can obstruct airflow, reduce the dryer's efficiency, and pose a significant fire risk, she warns. ‘Clean out a dryer vent and lint filter after every use to prevent lint from accumulating in the dryer.’

You should clean out the drum every month at least, making sure the appliance is cool and turned off before cleaning with vinegar to remove musty odors and bacteria. 

Cleaning Vinegar | $4.99 at Target

Cleaning Vinegar | $4.99 at Target
Having a container of cleaning vinegar in your cleaning cabinet is essential for all sorts of household chores. 


What can go wrong with tumble dryers?

If tumble dryers are not used and looked after correctly, they can pose a fire hazard in the home, experts warn. Overuse can also cause components inside the machine to fail over time, most commonly, these are caused by a faulty belt or motor.

What is the life expectancy of a tumble dryer?

When cared for and used correctly, a tumble dryer will typically last 10 to 13 years. You might need a new dryer earlier if you do not regularly clean it, leading to faults, or use it most days, as this can cause expedited wear and tear.

With tumble dryers being one of the most expensive appliances to run, making sure they stay in top condition and don’t have to overwork themselves is a great way to cut energy bills at home while also being more energy efficient. Not to mention it helps to dry clothes quickly, too.   

Chiana Dickson
Content Editor

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for two years, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.