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Decoded: Common Dryer Cycles, Explained

by Olly Mason

Laundry day might not be everyone’s favorite time of the week, and when you add in confusing cycle names, doing a simple load can feel like learning a foreign language. We understand: You want to be able to wear your clothes as long as possible, but you’re unsure which dryer cycles can help you to do so.

Luckily, with just a little know-how, you can confidently select the right dryer cycle to give your garments the proper drying they deserve. Here are six dryer cycles you should know before you dry your next load.

shot from inside dryer of man in red shirt with onesie

Regular/Timed Cycle

Since this is the hottest dryer setting, it should be reserved for only the toughest fabrics, like sheets and bedding, towels, jeans, and sweatpants. During a Timed cycle, you can choose how long to dry your clothes, making it particularly convenient for busy households.

You should also be aware that the high-heat conditions from the Regular cycle can cause fabrics to fade. While this is bad for colors, it is effective at getting whites exceptionally clean.

woman selecting dryer cycle using dryer rotary knob

Automatic Cycle

Some of the latest dryers are now equipped with special moisture sensors that automatically monitor the dryness of your clothes rather than running on a timer (regardless of how dry or damp your load is). Once the sensors determine your clothes are dry, the cycle will either stop or continue to air dry for a few minutes after, depending on the brand and model.

The extra tumbling after the dry is particularly convenient in helping prevent wrinkles from forming, since clothes that are cooler tend to resist wrinkling better than clothes that are hot. Keep in mind, much like the Regular cycle, the Automatic cycle is probably the hottest setting on your dryer, and should only be used on select fabrics.

Permanent Press Cycle

Back in the ’50s, the permanent press method for treating clothes to resist wrinkles had been largely improved. As a result, more clothes were permanently pressed, and in order to properly care for them, manufacturers developed the Permanent Press cycle on both washers and dryers.

Generally, synthetic fabrics, such as polyester, rayon, nylon, and spandex should only be dried on the Permanent Press cycle. With gentle tub rotation and medium heat, the Permanent Press dryer cycle is easy on clothes and does not set wrinkles.

wrinkled men’s shirts in an assortment of colors

Air Fluff Cycle

As its name suggests, the Air Fluff cycle pulls in air from the room to give your items a little refresher. Keep in mind, the Air Fluff cycle does not use heat, and therefore fabrics that may be wet will not completely dry. This is especially convenient for items like comforters, down-filled pillows, or puffy coats that don’t necessarily need a cleaning, just a touch-up.

Delicate/Gentle Cycle

First, let’s clarify: Even though the Delicate cycle suggests it can be used for garments that require special care, particularly delicate items (like women’s undergarments) should never be dried in a dryer.

However, other specialty fabrics, including rayon and silk, should be dried on the Delicate cycle. Surprisingly, the Delicate cycle is best for high-performance fabrics, including sportswear and upholstery that could damage or fray under high-heat conditions.

Additionally, the Gentle cycle also helps preserve delicate detailing on garments, from beading, sequins, and embroidery, to iron-on transfers and decals.

mother sitting cross-legged holding folded sweatshirts smiles at daughter holding laundry basket

Steam Cycle

One of the latest dryer features is the ability to create steam to quickly freshen up garments. Think of it as dry cleaner right in your dryer. While steam won’t leave your clothes as dry as other cycles, the steam is effective in removing odors from clothes and can even help get rid of wrinkles. And don’t worry, despite the myths, the steam dryer cycle will not shrink your clothes (that happens in the washer with really hot water).

All Savings, No Fluff

All in all, the biggest risk to your laundry is an outdated or ineffective dryer that will ultimately end up costing you more time and money. With a wide selection of dryers at affordable prices in your area, finding a new dryer to keep up with your laundry days is as easy as browsing our catalog. Shop and compare online or in-store today!