How to dry clothes in winter

No tumble dryer? No problem. Our top tips will help you get your winter laundry dry, and fast.

Updated 16 May 2023


AuthorBy Cleanipedia Team

Reading Time7 minutes

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At first look it may seem like you need a tumble dryer to stand a chance of getting any clothing dry during the colder months.

In fact, it’s not difficult to organise laundry drying using ‘manual’ methods indoors and even outdoors, as long as you follow a few simple steps.

Read on to find out how to dry clothes in winter without the use of a dryer.

How to dry clothes in winter: 10 top tips

1. Pick the right time There are two schools of thought when it comes to the timing of your drying. One is to try to do your wash earlier in the day so it has time to take advantage of any sunlight. The other is to let it dry overnight so you have less bother with it being around the house, plus it stands a chance of being dry when you wake up. Use whichever method suits your daily routine.

2. Don’t overfill your washing machine

Squashing garments in together will leave them damper at the end of the wash, so they ultimately take longer to dry.

3. Use your machine’s fastest spin programme

Using the fastest spin cycle available will help reduce how long your clothes take to dry. You can put your wash through another spin cycle to remove any remaining excess water and to get as much moisture out as possible before taking them out of the machine.

Before you set the controls for a super-fast spin, make sure to check the clothing care label on your clothing to see whether they are up for being handled in such a frantic way.

4. Try an indoor airer

An indoor airer is an indispensable investment and it’s one of the best ways for drying clothes indoors. For more, read our in-depth guide on how to dry clothes indoors. 5. Use a drying rack

Two tops drying on a radiator

A drying rack will allow air to distribute evenly around your clothing. It can really help to place it near a source of heat, such as direct sunlight (though first make sure the fabrics aren’t partial to fading in the sun) or a radiator.

If your radiators are big enough, you can hang clothes straight on them – just make sure you take them off once they are dry so as not to waste the heat.

6. Spread your clothes out evenly

Clothes drying on a clothes horse

Take time to hang out your clothes, ensuring they have plenty of space so that they get plenty of air to dry. Clothes bunched together or overlapping will have trouble drying.

Make sure thicker items like jeans have room so that the sides don’t touch when they are hung over a bar (use at least two bars when using a drying rack).

(If your clothes do end up not drying properly, check out our tips on what to do when clothes smell musty after washing.)

7. Open everything up

Undo zips and buttons (don’t forget sleeve cuffs) and pull out trouser pockets to aid the drying process.

8. Rotate regularly

A shirt cuff

Check your washing to see how well it’s drying. Keep flipping it around. If one section is drying better than the rest, rotate it to allow the other parts to dry.

Pay special attention to areas such as cuffs and underarms, which take longer to dry.

9. Pick the right room

It's important to ensure that the room your clothes are drying in is well ventilated. This will not only help to prevent damp and mould (see below) but also your clothes will dry quicker.

Opened windows are the best way to get fresh air circulating through your home (even if it’s cold outside).

10. Avoid drying clothes in busy areas

Don’t dry clothes in your living room, bedroom, kitchen or anywhere in the house where you spend a lot of time as the dampness of the clothes is detrimental to the air quality and may also encourage mildew or mould (which can cause allergies).

If drying your clothes makes a condensation problem worse, consider using a dehumidifier to reduce the moisture levels.

How do you dry clothes without a dryer?

There are a couple of easy methods using common household entities that will help with getting your clothes dry as fast as possible.

How to dry clothes fast with a towel

There is a secret weapon if you want to know how to dry clothes indoors without a tumble dryer: the humble towel.

Towels are great at soaking up moisture, so instead of using one to dry off your body, put it to work drawing the wetness from garments – it’s a surprisingly effective way to dry clothes quickly.

  1. 1

    Place your clothes on top of a dry towel, and then roll it into a sausage shape. Wring it out to remove excess moisture. Repeat with a second towel if needed. If the garment is really wet, employ another pair of hands to help squeeze it dry.

  2. 2

    As this process of rolling up clothes will make them very creased, you’ll want to make sure you have an iron to hand.

  3. 3

    If you iron your clothes while they are still damp it will help dry them and remove wrinkles at the same time. Make sure to lay a dry towel over the garment before ironing.

  4. 4

    Make sure any towels that you use are clean (otherwise it’s going to defeat the whole purpose...).

How to quickly dry clothes with a hairdryer

Using a hairdryer to dry a top hanging on a hanger

Using a hairdryer can help speed up the drying process. Here’s how to do it:

  1. 1

    Depending on the item you’re drying, it can be useful to hang it from a clothes hanger.

  2. 2

    Move your hairdryer across the surface of your clothes making sure not to linger too long in one spot and risk damaging the fabric,

  3. 3

    Dry clothing inside and out, front and back.

  4. 4

    Be careful not to use a high heat setting on the hair dryer as this could damage fibres and cause the clothing to shrink.

Bonus tip: how to dry clothes using a... salad spinner!

For smaller items such as socks, try putting them in a salad spinner and giving it a good crank. The rotating motion mimics the action of a tumble dryer and shakes the water off the clothing.

Can you air dry clothes in winter outside?

The short answer is yes. Although the temperatures may be lower, as long as it isn’t raining, snowing or sleeting there will be fresh air and (hopefully) sunlight to help get your clothing dry. Depending on the conditions, it may take longer for your clothes to dry as opposed to keeping them inside.

There are a couple of things to know about how to dry clothes in winter outside. Humidity plays a part – air drying at lower temperatures will benefit from a lower humidity in the air as it will help remove moisture from fabrics. For items such as sheets and towels, having a breeze will flex the fibres and allow them to soften, and anything dried in a current of air will generally feel fresher.

Clothes outside

How to dry clothes with a dehumidifier?

Start by placing the dehumidifier in a well-ventilated area with enough space for air circulation. Hang your clothes on a clothesline or drying rack near the dehumidifier, ensuring they are evenly spaced out for optimal drying. Turn on the dehumidifier to remove excess moisture from the air, which speeds up the drying process. Remember to empty the water reservoir regularly to maintain the dehumidifier's efficiency. Depending on the humidity levels, it may take longer to dry clothes compared to traditional methods, so plan accordingly.

If you do decide to use a dryer, then check out our guide on how to use a tumble dryer.

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