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Can you dry mixed Colour clothes?

Doing laundry can be a tedious chore. One of the biggest decisions when doing laundry is whether or not to mix colors when drying clothes. Some people swear by separating all colors, while others find it too time-consuming and just dry everything together. So what’s the right way? Can you safely dry mixed color clothes without ruining them? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of mixing versus separating.

The Risks of Drying Mixed Colors

The biggest risk of drying mixed color loads of laundry is the potential for dye transfer. This happens when the dyes from darker fabrics rub off onto lighter fabrics in the dryer. The heat and tumbling action causes the dye to loosen from the fibers and bleed onto other clothes. Once this happens, you’re left with discolored splotches or a uniform tint over the entire garment.

Certain fabrics and dyes pose more of a risk for bleeding and transfer in the dryer. In general, darker colors like black, navy blue, red, and purple contain excess dye even after washing. These tend to be the biggest culprits. On the lighter end, whites and pastels are very prone to picking up rogue dye when mixed with darker items.

The material also matters. Natural fibers like cotton and linen absorb dye readily when wet. Meanwhile synthetics like polyester don’t absorb dye as easily. For this reason, cottons and linens are more susceptible to dye transfer problems.

Tips for Safely Drying Mixed Colors

If you want to mix your laundry despite the risks, there are a few things you can do to minimize potential issues:

  • Wash items well before drying – Make sure to wash clothes thoroughly before drying mixed colors. The more excess dye you can remove in the wash cycle, the less likely it is to bleed in the dryer.
  • Use color catcher sheets – These sheets are designed to attract loose dyes in the dryer drum before they can settle onto fabrics. They’re a good added insurance policy when drying mixed loads.
  • Clean the lint filter – Be diligent about cleaning out the lint filter between each load. This will remove shed dye particles before they can redeposit.
  • Dry similar colors – Try to limit your mixed loads to colors in the same color family, like shades of reds or blues. Don’t mix stark darks and lights.
  • Dry on low heat – High heat exacerbates dye bleeding. Opt for a low or delicate heat setting.
  • Don’t overdry – Overdrying can increase dye transfer, so run the dryer just long enough to get clothes dry, not overly dried out.
  • Dry delicates separately – Play it safe with delicates like lingerie and save those for their own loads.

When You Should Separate Colors

If you want to be absolutely certain you avoid any chance of dye transfer, then separating is your best bet. Take the extra time to sort clothes into lights, darks, and colors for drying. This is recommended for:

  • Brand new, dark colored clothing
  • Red, purple, blue, and black cottons and linens
  • Whites and light pastels like yellow, light pink, mint, tan
  • Delicates like lingerie, swimwear, and hosiery
  • Vintage or special care items prone to bleeding

You can be a bit more lenient when drying everyday basic tees, jeans, and towels. But when in doubt, play it safe and separate into like colors.

Pros of Separating Colors for Drying

Putting in the extra effort to separate has its advantages:

  • Prevents dye transfer issues – Keeping colors apart guarantees no dye bleed or splotches on clothes.
  • Clothes last longer – The colors remain vibrant and don’t get muddy.
  • Whites stay white – No dulling or tinting of your brightest whites.
  • Delicates are protected – Expensive and dainty items don’t risk damage.
  • Special care items are safe – Vintage, handwash only, or sentimental clothes aren’t compromised.

For many people, these benefits make the extra sorting steps worthwhile. You can be certain your clothes always look their best and last longer.

Cons of Separating Colors for Drying

On the flip side, there are some disadvantages to sorting laundry into color loads:

  • More time consuming – All of the extra sorting, rinsing, and drying cycles take up more time.
  • Uses more water – You’ll go through more wash and rinse cycles to handle smaller loads.
  • Less energy efficient – Smaller loads are not as efficient in the washer and dryer.
  • More hassle – Constantly moving clothes from washer to dryer can be a nuisance.
  • Items get mixed up – It’s easier for pieces of outfits to get separated.

For people who are tight on time or want to conserve resources, separating every color may feel like more trouble than it’s worth.

Special Cases for Drying Clothes

Beyond basic colors, there are a few special cases when drying clothes that require extra caution:

Dark cottons and linens

As noted above, these tend to bleed the most dye. Either dry separately or use color catchers if mixing these in loads.

Declicates and lace

Dry these separately on a delicate cycle. The heat and tumbling can damage fragile fabrics.

Spandex, latex, rubber

The heat of the dryer can degrade these stretchy materials. Lay flat or hang these to dry instead.

Workout wear

Performance fabrics like moisture-wicking tees and spandex workout gear should air dry to prevent shrinking.

Rayon, viscose, silk

These fabrics are prone to shrinking in high heat. Use a delicate cycle or dry flat.

Wool sweaters

Wool can felt or shrink if agitated and dried. Lay these flat to dry.

How to Sort Laundry By Color

If you decide sorting laundry is best to protect your clothes, how many piles should you make? Here’s a basic sorting guide:

  • Lights – Whites, pastels, light tans, yellows, greens
  • Darks – Blacks, dark blues, browns, purples, burgundies
  • Colors – Brights like red, pink, orange, teal
  • Delicates – Bras, underwear, lingerie, hosiery

Some people take the extra step of separating true bright whites from off-whites and lights. Dark colors can also be split into darks, jeans, and reds if desired.

Should Towels and Sheets Be Separated?

White towels and sheets are two laundry items that tend to provoke debate. Can these be safely dried with colors or do they need special treatment?


For the most part, white cotton towels can be dried along with colored loads or other whites. Because they are a thicker material, dyes don’t tend to bleed onto them as readily as with delicate apparel. Still, inspect your towels regularly for any discoloration or bleed issues if mixing with colored items.


White sheets are another item that do fine when dried with colors or mixed laundry. The exception would be brand new sheets or sheets dried with brand new red or dark items. In those cases, bleeding could be an issue. Otherwise, sheets can be safely mixed without worry.

Best Practices for Drying Clothes

Whatever your decisions on separating versus mixing, here are some best practices for drying clothes in general:

  • Shake clothes out before drying – This reduces wrinkles and separates stuck together items.
  • Use lower heat settings – High heat can damage and shrink clothes over time.
  • Clean the lint filter frequently – This improves air circulation and prevent fires.
  • Sort delicates into a mesh bag – This prevents tangling and pulling.
  • Take clothes out right away – Leaving clothes in can lead to wrinkling and odor.
  • Use dryer balls or sheets – These help separate clothes and prevent static.
  • Inspect clothes as you remove them – Watch for any signs of bleeding or damage.

Following these tips will keep all your laundry looking great while avoiding any dye transfer issues – whether you separate colors or not.

The Verdict on Mixed Color Loads

At the end of the day, whether or not to dry mixed colors comes down to your own laundry habits, priorities, and willingness to take risks with your clothes. Here are some final thoughts:

  • Separating provides guaranteed protection but takes more time.
  • Mixing colors is more convenient but has some element of risk.
  • Know which fabrics and colors are most prone to bleeding.
  • Use your best judgement and proper precautions if mixing.
  • When in doubt, take the time to sort into colors for full protection.

Laundry doesn’t have to be an all or nothing affair. You can separate items prone to bleeding and be more liberal with staple items like t-shirts and jeans. Find the right balance for your lifestyle. With some prudence, even mixed color drying can be done successfully.


Drying mixed colors of laundry does carry some risks, mainly potential dye transfer and bleed issues. But with proper precautions – washing thoroughly, using color catchers, drying on low heat, and not over-drying – you can safely dry mixed loads. Items most prone to bleeding like new darks, delicates, and whites should be dried separately for maximum protection. Otherwise, use your judgement to decide when mixing colors is acceptable to save time and hassle. With some care taken, mixed color drying can work out just fine for everyday laundry loads.