Reasons NOT to Overload Your Clothes Dryer

an open dryer with those inside

Mifflin

With energy prices soaring, most of us are looking for ways to conserve where we can in order to better manage our household budgets. However, some of our best intentions have gotten us derailed. A prime example is overloading the dryer to save energy, which is counter-productive in every sense of the word.​

We admit that doubling up on some dryer loads in order to save time and energy is productive. However, this is strictly when combining two small (or tiny) similar-fabric-and-color loads (we're sticklers for proper sorting) into an appropriately-sized dryer load - with the word "appropriate" being key here.

Let's talk capacity. If your dryer has a 7 ​cu. ft. drum, this may come as a shock, but you're not supposed to cram 7 cu. ft. of laundry in there, till you have to use your knee to get the door shut. Just how much wash load falls within the 'appropriate' guidelines? You'll see many laundry lists when manufacturers detail their dryer specs, but these can be misleading. Since fabric weights and types differ, as well as bedding sizes, it's impossible to give you a one-size-fits-all laundry load guideline.

Let's just say that if your wet laundry fills about two-thirds or more of the tub, you've probably overloaded it. Note that remaining water will also add weight, which can impact your dryer's effectiveness significantly.

So keep your loads to just slightly more than half the drum, unless you're drying a lightweight King or Queen comforter. Understand our strategy better by reading the reasons why you should avoid overloading your dryer:

A Heavy Load Strains the Drum Belt, Pulley, and Spindle Bearings

Overloading is one of the most common reasons for dryer breakdowns. As the motor pulley attempts to turn continuously during the drying cycle, friction can cause it to burn through the belt that turns the drum. The pulley itself can also breakdown. The result is not always immediate. It can take a few more loads to complete the break.

At that point, the dryer drum cannot turn, signaling a breakdown. It's not the cost of the replacement - these parts are affordable - it's the downtime and labor repair costs, that you'll want to avoid. Dryer belts can break down over time just from normal use, and so can the pulley, but if this is happening every few months, you have a problem with loads being too heavy. In other words, the dryer is working too hard to dry.

The Motor Can Overheat

This is a classic case of a motor trying to work harder than what it was designed for. A motor can burn out from normal use too, but repeated oversized loads can overwork it and shorten its life cycle.

A motor is usually expensive and requires more technician time to replace. With all things considered, such as dryer age, original cost, and so on, it's usually more cost efficient in the end to count your losses and replace the whole dryer.

Crammed Loads Cannot Dry Properly

With minimal (at best) air flow, a bunched load of laundry cannot properly circulate and dry. That means it will take much longer to dry this bulky or heavy load, resulting in more energy use.

So where you thought you were saving energy by doubling up, you're actually making the dryer less efficient and using more. Warm air should be able to flow through a dryer load, much like how a warm outdoor breeze will nicely dry laundry on the clothes line.

Bunched Loads Have More Wrinkles

Another time drain in the laundry room. Besides waiting longer for your load, you'll have to iron, press or steam out more wrinkles. Even if your dryer has a de-wrinkling feature, clothes that cannot "tumble" will unavoidably be more wrinkled. And the longer that dryer load sits the more wrinkles. So overloading the dryer is indeed, counterproductive.

Double Loads Mean Double the Lint

Dryer lint care is one thing we tend to get sloppy with, but it can have some dire consequences. When the lint (which should be cleaned out every load) continues to build up, air flow becomes blocked. The result is an inefficient dryer and more energy use.

Plus something worse can happen: it can create a fire hazard. Both the dryer's filter and the outdoor dryer vent should be kept clear of lint.

The Bottom Line

  • With the exception of light comforters, keep dryer loads at no more than two-thirds of the drum's capacity. Half is even better.
  • Use only the time you need to dry the load. Avoid longer-than-necessary dryer cycles.
  • Clean the dryer's filter after every load.
  • Check and clean the outdoor (dryer) vent of lint often.​​​
  • If your wash loads are too wet and heavy, you might not be using the right washer spin cycle, or your washing machine may be wearing down. Are you overloading the washer too?
  • Find alternate, effective, and practical ways to save money and energy using a dryer.