What is Air Dry in Washing Machine? (Avoid These Mistakes!)

Air dry sits somewhere between spin dry and tumble dry – adding room temperature air into the washer to push the moisture out, but without using any heat like a tumble dryer would.

It’s generally best for synthetic materials but not for lace or other delicates, and you need to be careful of your machine’s capacity limits which will be lower for this cycle than others.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about ‘air dry’, what it means, what it does, how to use it, and any common pitfalls to avoid.

How Air Dry Works in a Washing Machine

Air dry works by drawing room-temperature air into the washing machine through vents while it is spinning the clothes to remove far more moisture than a washing machine would normally be able to, significantly reducing drying times.

Related: What is Drum Clean in Washing Machine?

How Long Does an Air Dry Cycle Take?

It varies by load size, material, and brand, but typically the air dry cycle takes anywhere from 1 to 2 hours. 

Close Up view of the inside of a washing machine drum

How to Use Air Dry in the Washing Machine

The feature generally needs to be activated after the normal spin cycle, but how you do this depends on what brand of machine you have. I’ve listed the most popular ones below.

Electrolux

For Electrolux machines, you’re limited to ½ the washing machine’s usual capacity if you want to use the air dry setting after the main wash.

To turn it on, turn the main dial to ‘drying cotton’ or ‘drying mixed’ after the spin cycle, depending on what type of fabrics you’re washing.

GE

GE’s offering in this regard is quite limited, with only a handful of models offering an air dry feature, which is branded as a “1-Step Wash & Dry Cycle”.

To use this, first make sure you’ve only got a small (2-3kg) load in the machine, then press the “1-Step Wash & Dry” option.

After washing the clothes, the machine will air dry the clothes for 8 hours – or until you stop the machine. 

Haier

For Haier machines, you can select “Air Dry” after the main cleaning cycle. Just press power to turn the machine back on, then press the program button repeatedly until the “Air Dry” option is selected.

After you press Start, the cycle will run for 60 minutes.

Hisense

Once your Hisense washer has finished its main wash and spin cycle, you need to press the temperature button repeatedly until you reach the Air Dry option, when you can then select the type of fabric in the drum for the machine to automatically calculate the drying time for you. 

LG

The air dry function on LG washers is selected after the main wash is complete. You need to press the power button, then press and hold the Air Dry button for 3-5 seconds.

Once activated, you can press the Air Dry button again to select how long you want it to be on for – it’ll be 60 minutes automatically, then cycle through 90 minutes > 120 minutes > 60 minutes. 

Related: What is Tub Clean on LG Washer?

Midea

After the main wash cycle, use the program selector to pick the ‘Air Dry’ option, adjust the time as needed, and then press Start. 

Panasonic

Most Panasonic washers have a maximum air dry capacity of 3kg and should only be used for synthetic clothes. Once you have loaded the clothes and detergent into the machine, just select the ‘air dry’ program.

Samsung

While the spin cycle is still on, press the ‘Air Turbo’ button until your desired drying time is set – it’ll cycle between 15 minutes, 30 minutes, OFF, 30 minutes.

Related: What is Air Turbo in a Samsung Washing Machine?

Sharp

For Sharp washing machines, select the “Air Dry” program after the main wash cycle. The time will usually show on the LED in minutes, which you can change by pressing the “Spin/Air Dry” button to cycle through the options of 30 minutes > 60 minutes > 90 minutes > 30 minutes. 

Whirlpool

Like other brands, Whirlpool’s Air Dry feature is designed to be used after the main wash cycle.

Make sure the machine is powered on, then press and hold the “Wash & Dry” button for 3-5 seconds until it changes to “Fan Fresh”.

How long this takes will depend on the load size; it’s generally meant to be used overnight, but it’ll get a small load done within a couple of hours.

Washing Machine Air Dry vs Spin Dry

The main difference between air dry and spin dry is the addition of air in the first which works to actively dry the clothes – but each is explained in more detail below.

Air Dry

The air dry function works like a watered-down tumble dryer – but without heat. It won’t get your clothes completely dry, but depending on the brand/model of washer, can save you anywhere from 30-90% of the drying time required after in a tumble dryer or on your clothes horse. 

Spin Dry 

Spin dry, or just ‘Spin’, is what the washer does anyway at the end of the main cycle. It removes moisture from clothes simply by spinning them around – there’s no extra air or heat added.

Clothes will still leave the machine wet, regardless of how many times you put them through a spin cycle. 

Pros & Cons of Using Air Dry

PROS:

  • Quicker drying, especially during the rainy and winter months.
  • More energy efficient than tumble dryers, as there’s no heat needed.
  • It can save you time, especially if you like to get all your laundry washed and folded within the same day.
  • Air dry is less damaging long-term for fabrics than a tumble dryer because the air is added in at room temperature. 
  • As air dry removes the moisture more quickly than manual drying, it helps your clothes stay fresher and removes the risk of them still smelling ‘damp’ after being washed.
  • It can keep your colors more vibrant, as they are not left to dry outside for so long, reducing the risk of sun bleaching.
  • Reduce the amount of excess humidity in your home, as clothes won’t need to be on a drying rack for as long.

CONS:

  • Air dry won’t leave your clothes as smooth, or anywhere as close to wrinkle-free, as a tumble dryer.
  • It uses more energy and therefore costs more than using a drying rack. 

When to Use Washing Machine Air Dry

Air dry is generally designed for synthetic fabrics like acrylic, nylon, polyester, polypropylene, microfiber, and spandex.

These materials don’t do well at high temperatures, which can cause them to wrinkle or melt, so air dry is the quickest way to get them dry and fresh again. 

Tip: To be extra safe, you can check the washing instructions tag on your clothes before putting them into air dry to prevent any potential damage.

damaged t-shirt

Does Air Dry Damage Clothes?

Using air dry will only damage clothes if they are delicate or aren’t designed to be spun within the machine.

Check the tag on an item to double-check that it’s OK to be on an air dry cycle. 

Clothes to Avoid Using Air Dry On

You should avoid using Air Dry on clothes that should be hand-washed or aren’t designed to go through a normal spin cycle.

Generally speaking, anything made of lace, or which is otherwise delicate, might be damaged by putting it through an air dry cycle. 

Mistakes to Avoid When Using Air Dry

Using the air dry cycle for delicate items

With clothes, especially your favorites, it’s always better safe than sorry. If you’re not sure whether or not an item can go through an air dry cycle – it’s best to avoid it and use a drying rack instead.

Overloading the machine

Most machines are only designed to air dry around 25-30% of their normal operating capacity – for example, if you have a 9kg washer, you might only be able to put in 3kg for an air dry cycle.

This is very much brand/model dependent, so double-check your owner’s guide if you’re not sure about the limits for your specific machine.

Leaving the air dry cycle on overnight

Did you know that washing machines and dryers cause over 16,000 fires a year in the U.S.?

I know some brands claim that their air dry cycle is designed to be used overnight, but you should always make sure that someone is at home and awake when your home appliances are running – it’s better to be safe than sorry. 

Is Washing Machine Air Dry the Same as Tumble Dry?

Simply, no. The air dry function on a washing machine introduces room-temperature air into the machine by opening vents, whereas a tumble dryer heats up the air that it brings into the machine.

This means that air dry generally won’t get your clothes completely dry like a tumble dryer would, but it has other advantages like being more gentle on your clothes and saving money on your energy bills.

To Wrap Up

In summary, air dry sits somewhere between spin dry and tumble dry – adding room temperature air into the machine to push the moisture out, but without using any heat like a tumble dryer would.

It’s generally best for synthetic materials but not for lace or other delicates, and you need to be careful of your machine’s capacity limits which will be lower for this cycle than others.

There are advantages too though, as it’ll make your laundry cycle quicker and help speed up your drying time, particularly in the winter months.

Finally, from a safety perspective and for my peace of mind – please don’t leave it on overnight or while you’re asleep!

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