What Does Dry Flat Mean?

Laundry labels can be confusing. Let’s dive into what does dry flat mean, when and how to dry flat, as well as how to make sure those delicates look good for a long time.

CLose up of clothing label showing dry flat

Have you ever seen the words “dry flat” on your clothes tag and wondered what it means? Don’t worry, you’re not alone! It’s like a secret code for taking care of your clothes in a special way.

This guide will uncover the mystery behind “dry flat.” We’ll show you why it matters and teach you exactly how to do it. Laundry isn’t just about cleaning clothes – it’s also about keeping them looking great for a long time.

Knowing when and how to “dry flat” is essential to ensure the clothes look great for a long time, and we’ll walk you through the easy steps to ensure your clothes dry perfectly.

What Does Dry Flat Mean?

“Dry flat” is a particular way of drying certain clothes. Instead of hanging them up or using a dryer, you must lay them flat to dry. Drying flat is used for delicate clothes that might get stretched out or messed up by regular drying and heat. It is a form of air drying but instead of hanging the clothes, you are laying them on a flat surface.

Which Clothes Require Flat Drying?

stack of neatly folded sweaters on a bed

The clothes that require flat drying are fabrics prone to get distorted due to either heat from the dryer or hanging on a hanger. Here are the most common fabrics and garments that require a flat dry:

  • Warm wool and soft cashmere – these materials can lose their softness and shape if you hang them up or throw them in a dryer.
  • Knit sweaters and Cardigans – Sweaters, cardigans, and other knitted wonders have a unique texture that can stretch out if you hang them up. Hanging them up can make them look sad and droopy.
  • Silk – When silk is wet, it is heavy, and hanging it up will pull it out of shape.

It is essential to read the care label and care instructions on the tag of any fabric before washing them. You will encounter one of the symbols below for fabrics that require flat drying.

schematic showing symbols for dry flat and drip dry flat  - in shade or not

The dry flat symbol is a single black horizontal line in a white square box with a black border. Think of this as the fabric laying down. If you see the dry flat sample, avoid tumble drying your garment in the dryer, and instead take it to a drying rack or flat surface and lay it flat to dry. 

How to Flat Dry Clothes: Step-By-Step

green sweater drying flat on a laundry counter

Once you have determined a garment needs to be flat-dried, here’s how to go about it:

  1. Gently Remove Excess Water – Do not wring the clothes. Pat them softly to get rid of the extra water without twisting them.
  2. Reshape the Garment – Before you put them down to dry, carefully stretch and shape them to look like they did before. This way, they won’t dry all twisted and weird.
  3. Choose the Drying Surface – Find a clean and flat surface. It could be a big towel on the bed, a drying rack with holes, or another clean, dry towel on the floor. Ensure it’s clean so your clothes don’t pick up dirt.
  4. Lay the Garment – Gently lay your damp clothes on the chosen spot. Smooth them out so they’re not bunched up.
  5. Flip and Rotate – Every now and then, turn them over or spin them around. This way, they’ll dry evenly

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Where to Dry Clothes Flat?

The location for drying clothes flat makes a huge difference in how fast it dries. Ideally, you want to choose a spot that is away from direct sunlight or heat sources; this helps the clothes to dry at a reasonable rate without getting faded by sunlight or drying too fast. Before picking a spot to dry, read the label to check if it needs shade.

Here are a few awesome options:

1. Clean Towel on a Bed or Table: Spread a clean and dry towel on your bed or a table. Lay your damp clothes gently on top of it.

2. Mesh Drying Rack: These racks let air flow through, which helps clothes dry evenly.

3. Clean Floor or Countertop: Find a clean and dry spot on the floor or a countertop. Make sure it’s away from any mess or spills. Lay your clothes down flat and give them some room to breathe. Of course, you can add a towel beneath.

4. Outdoor Option: If the weather is nice and sunny, you can lay your clothes flat outside. Find a clean and dry surface like a deck or patio. But remember to keep them away from direct sunlight and heavy wind.

5. Creative Solutions: Get creative! If you have a big piece of cardboard, you can cover it with a clean towel and use it as a flat drying surface. Just make sure whatever you choose is clean and won’t mess up your clothes. Or, you can even build a pullout drying rack like this one.

pull out built in drying rack for flat dry.

No matter where you choose, make sure the area is clean and dry. Avoid hanging moist clothing on metal or wood surfaces that might warp or rust when it is wet

How Long Does It Take to Dry Flat?

Drying time isn’t set in stone – it depends on a few different factors and a combination of them as well:

  • Fabric Thickness: Thicker fabrics take longer, like those chunky sweaters.
  • Humidity: If it’s super humid (when the air feels wet), clothes take more time to dry.
  • Size of the Item: Bigger clothes need more time than small ones.
  • Wind: The presence of wind helps wick away the moisture faster.

The key is to wait until they’re completely dry to the touch. If you’re curious, give them a gentle pat. If they’re still damp, they need more time. Remember never to put wet linens or clothes away, which will encourage mold and mildew to grow.

Can You Put Lay Flat to Dry Clothes in the Dryer?

Most clothes marked “lay flat to dry” are delicate fabrics that can damaged in a dryer or heat, shortening their life and damaging the quality of the fabric.

Here’s what could happen:

  • ShapeShift: The dryer can mess up its shape.
  • Stretch and Shrink: Delicate clothes could stretch out or shrink in the dryer due to the heat affecting the fibers.
  • Texture Changes: Fabrics might lose their softness or smoothness, feeling different against your skin.

So the bottom line is that you should not put clothing marked as “dry flat” in the dryer to tumble dry – whether you use heat or not.


Flat drying means laying the fabric on a flat surface to let it dry instead of putting it in the dryer or hanging it on a hanger or line. Check the labels to ensure you don’t miss the dry flat items.

Don’t forget the golden rule: no dryer for “dry flat” items! Keep your clothes away from the spinning and heat of the dryer to avoid mishaps like shrinking, stretching, and color fading.

Armed with the knowledge of “dry flat,” you’ll keep your clothes cozy, happy, and looking their best. It’s all about giving your clothes the love and care they need.

Also read: How to remove wrinkles from polyester

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Anika Gandhi is on a mission to declutter and organize all the things around her and is here to inspire and encourage you to do the same!

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