Clothes Still Stiff After Air Drying? Here’s What to Do

Clothes Still Stiff After Air Drying? Here’s What to Do
Table of Contents

    If you’re like me, you probably throw your clothes in the dryer because you forgot you washed a load and need your favorite leggings dry ASAP for a yoga class.

    But here’s the thing: Exclusively using a machine isn’t necessarily the best way to dry your clothes — air drying is. At least according to TikToker Krystalynn Gier.

    “Air-drying clothes has to be the best life hack I learned as an adult,” the sustainability creator said in a TikTok video.

    She explains she’s #teamairdry because they keep her clothes looking newer for longer. That’s all great, but what do you do when air drying produces stiff and crispy clothes? Never fear because Gier has a few tips:

    • Use less detergent.
    • Skip the fabric softener.
    • Shake them out.

    Benefits of Air Drying Clothes

    Machine-drying clothes is common in the United States, but many other countries exclusively dry their clothes on a line or rack. While the reasons vary, there are plenty of benefits to eschewing the machine.

    @krystalynngier Thoughts on air drying clothes? 🧺 Reasons Why I Love Air Drying: 1. Keeps my clothes from accidentally shrinking 2. Keeps colors brighter 3. Saves energy & money 4. Clothes are less wrinkly! #sustainability #sustainablecleaning #laundryroutine #sustainabilityissexy ♬ Un homme et une femme – Francis Lai & Pierre Barouh & Nicole Croisille

    “Air-drying has kept my clothes from accidentally shrinking, kept the colors brighter, and makes me feel good since it’s an eco-friendly way to dry clothes,” Gier said in her video.

    Helps Clothes Last Longer

    In a tumble dryer, the high heat and constant tumbling can weaken the fabric fibers over time.

    This is especially true for delicate items like lingerie or clothes made from natural fibers like wool and silk. The heat can cause colors to fade, and the tumbling can lead to stretching or misshaping.

    On the other hand, air drying is a gentler process that preserves the integrity of the fabric. Colors stay vibrant for longer periods, and the shape of your clothes remains as it should be.

    Plus, you’ll notice fewer signs of wear and tear, like pilling or fraying, so you won’t have to replace your favorite pieces as often.

    Saves Money

    Sure, you’ll need to buy a drying rack or set up a clothesline, but these are one-time expenses that can last for years.

    Compare that to the ongoing costs of running a tumble dryer, which can add a noticeable amount to your monthly electricity bill.

    But it’s not just about the money you’ll save; it’s also about the positive impact you’ll have on the environment.

    Traditional electric dryers are among the most energy-hungry appliances in the average home. Switching to air drying — even part-time — significantly reduces your household’s energy consumption.

    So, you’re essentially achieving two goals: cutting down on your bills and doing your part to combat climate change.

    Keeps Clothes From Shrinking

    Traditional tumble dryers use high heat to speed up the drying process, but this heat can be brutal on fabric fibers, causing them to contract and, ultimately, shrink.

    Air drying, on the other hand, is a game-changer when it comes to maintaining the original size and fit of your clothes. Since air drying happens at room temperature, the fibers in your clothes are less likely to contract.

    This means your favorite garments maintain their shape and size, wash after wash. It’s especially beneficial for clothes made from natural fibers like cotton, wool, and linen, which are more prone to shrinkage.

    So, if you’ve ever mourned the loss of a beloved t-shirt or a pair of perfectly fitting jeans due to shrinkage, switching to air drying could save you both heartache and money in the long run.

    Less Static Cling

    Say goodbye to the annoying static cling.

    This phenomenon occurs because the tumbling action and high heat in the dryer create a build-up of static electricity in the clothes. It’s not just annoying; it can also make your clothes stick to you uncomfortably when you wear them.

    Enter the beauty of air drying. The process of air drying clothes naturally minimizes static cling.

    Why? Because static electricity is less likely to build up at room temperature and without the tumbling action that occurs in a machine dryer. When you air dry, each item hangs separately, allowing air to circulate each piece of clothing. This not only helps the drying process but also prevents the conditions that lead to static cling in the first place.

    Air Drying Clothes Inside vs. Outside

    The main difference between drying clothes inside versus outside boils down to environmental factors that affect the drying process.

    However, both have their benefits and drawbacks.

    Drying Indoors

    • Convenience. Drying clothes indoors is often more convenient, especially if you live in an area with unpredictable weather. You don’t have to worry about sudden rain showers ruining your efforts.
    • Space-Saving. If you’re short on outdoor space, indoor drying racks or a simple clothesline in your laundry room can be a great solution.
    • Longer Drying Time. The downside is that clothes often take longer to dry indoors due to less air circulation and no direct sunlight.
    • Humidity. Drying clothes indoors can increase humidity levels inside your home, which might be a concern in certain climates.
    • Odor and Mold. Poorly ventilated indoor spaces can lead to musty-smelling clothes or even mildew (gross). Make sure your indoor drying area is well-ventilated.

    Drying Outdoors

    • Natural Whitening. The sun’s rays are a natural bleaching agent, especially effective for whites and lighter colors.
    • Bacteria-Killing. Direct sunlight can help kill bacteria on your clothes, making them as clean as they look.
    • Faster Drying. With good weather conditions, clothes will generally dry faster outdoors due to the wind and sun aiding the drying process.
    • Fresh Smell. Clothes dried outdoors often have a fresh, natural scent that’s hard to replicate with any fabric softener.
    • Weather-Dependent. The obvious drawback is that you’re at the mercy of the weather. Rain or high humidity can disrupt your plans.
    • Pollutants and Allergens. In some areas, Outdoor air quality might be a concern. Pollutants and allergens like pollen can settle on your clothes, so it’s something to consider.

    Why Your Clothes Are Stiff After Air Drying

    While the benefits of air drying are easy to see, there are a few disadvantages. One big one? The dreaded stiffness that makes your favorite jeans feel like sandpaper when you pull them on.

    @krystalynngier Replying to @crissycrossy the CURE or at least this works for me! 1. Use less detergent (and you DONT neeed fabric softener) 2. Shake out your clothes while hanging them to dry 3. Steam your stubborn peices for less wrinkles and less ~crunch~ # #laundryhack #laundryroutine ♬ Married Life (From "Up") – Gina Luciani

    “If your clothes are always crunchy after air drying, I know your exact problem,” Gier said in her follow-up video.

    What gives? Gier has some insights into why this happens.

    Too Much Detergent

    Too much laundry detergent can leave a residue on your clothes, making them stiff.

    Gier suggests using less than the manufacturer recommends and opting for a second rinse cycle if needed.

    Adding Fabric Softener

    Contrary to popular belief, fabric softener is not a must-have. In fact, it can contribute to that stiff feeling — and even trap nasty smells in certain fabrics.

    “Speaking from experience, you don’t need fabric softener,” she said.

    Forgetting to Shake Clothes

    After washing, shake your wet clothes to remove excess water and straighten the fabric fibers.

    This simple action can make a huge difference in the final texture of your air-dried clothes.

    Washing in a Filthy Machine

    A dirty washing machine can also be the culprit. Regularly cleaning your machine to avoid any gunk or hard water buildup affecting your laundry.

    If All Else Fails, Use a Steam Iron

    Steam irons aren’t just for getting rid of wrinkles — they can be a game-changer for stiff, air-dried clothes. The steam relaxes the fabric fibers, making your clothes feel softer and more comfortable against your skin.

    Here’s how to master the steamer:

    • Fill the Iron. Ensure your steam iron is filled with distilled water. Tap water can have minerals that may build up in your iron over time.
    • Heat It Up. Turn on the iron and set it to steam. Wait for it to heat up; most irons will have an indicator light to show when they’re ready.
    • Test a Small Area. Before going all out, test a small, inconspicuous area of the fabric to ensure it can handle the heat and steam without getting damaged.
    • Go Section by Section. Iron your clothes section by section, applying steam generously. The steam will penetrate the fabric, softening it as you go.
    • Hang Immediately. Once you’ve steamed an item, hang it up immediately to maintain its new, softer texture.

    Bonus: You can add a pleasant scent or extra softness by lightly misting the garment with a fabric spray before or after steaming.

    When to Machine Dry Clothes

    While air drying has merits, it’s not the one-size-fits-all solution for every laundry scenario.

    Take towels and bath towels, for example.

    These items are designed to be plush and absorbent, qualities that can be compromised when air-dried. They often turn out stiff and less fluffy, which you don’t want when stepping out of a hot shower. Using a tumble dryer for these items can help maintain their soft texture.

    Plus, the high heat from the dryer can more effectively kill bacteria, ensuring that your towels are as clean as possible.

    Then there’s the time factor. A tumble dryer can finish the job quickly and efficiently, saving you time and stress.

    So while air drying is a fantastic, eco-friendly option for many laundry tasks, having a clothes dryer as a backup can be a real lifesaver.