Can You Dry Clothes in the Microwave? Uncover the Truth!

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The microwave oven has become an indispensable appliance in most homes. Its ability to quickly heat up or cook food makes it a huge time saver. But what about drying clothes – can a microwave oven get your clothes dry just as fast?

How Microwaves Work

Before we look at the clothes drying question, let’s first understand what microwaves are and how microwave ovens work.

Microwaves are a form of electromagnetic radiation that have a wavelength range between 1 meter and 1 millimeter. Microwave ovens work by generating microwaves using a magnetron tube that oscillates back and forth, creating microwaves that penetrate food.

These waves cause water molecules in the food to vibrate rapidly, creating friction and heat that cooks the food. Microwaves can only penetrate about 2.5 centimeters into food, so the heating happens from the outside in.

KindWavelength RangeFrequency Range
Radio waves>1 m3 kHz – 300 GHz
Microwaves1 mm – 1 m300 MHz – 300 GHz
Infrared700 nm – 1 mm300 GHz – 430 THz

This quick heating is what makes microwave ovens able to reheat foods and cook things much faster than conventional ovens.

Can Microwaves Dry Clothes Effectively?

Now back to our original question – with the way microwave ovens work, are they effective in drying wet clothes?

The short answer is no, microwave ovens cannot dry most clothes effectively.

There are a few key reasons why microwaves do not work well for drying wet clothes:

  • Microwaves only heat the surface – They can only penetrate about 2.5 cm into what they are heating. For drying, heat needs to fully penetrate fabric and evaporate interior moisture.
  • No airflow – Dryers work by blowing hot air through clothes continuously to evaporate moisture. Microwaves have no airflow, trapping humidity inside.
  • Heat damage – Microwaves heat unevenly and can create hotspots that damage fabrics. Dryers blow air evenly across fabrics.
  • Fire hazards – Metallic decorations, zippers and other metal on clothes can spark fires in a microwave. Dryers are specially designed to prevent this.

So while microwaves introduce quick heat that evaporates some surface moisture on clothes, the lack of deep penetration, airflow and potential for heat damage means they simply cannot dry most clothing effectively or safely.

When Is It Okay to Microwave Clothes?

While microwaves generally don’t work for drying full loads of laundry, there are some exceptions where you can microwave specific items of clothing safely and effectively:

100% Cotton Towels

Cotton towels and washcloths without any metallic decorations are usually safe to microwave. The cotton fibers can withstand brief exposure to microwaves without damage.

To dry a towel:

  • Moisten it first and wring out excess water
  • Microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute
  • Check temperature before use to avoid burns

The heat relaxes cotton fibers, making the towel softer. You can also add essential oils for aroma. Just avoid overheating.

Wet Socks and Gloves

For cotton socks and gloves without elastic or metallic threads, a brief 30 second microwave can eliminate dampness quickly before wearing. Check carefully for no elastic or polyester reinforcements. Remove promptly once heated.

Natural Fabric Heating Pads

For 100% cotton or wool heating pads without metallic connectors, a minute or two in the microwave can heat them up for sore muscle relief and warmth. Follow directions and don’t overheat.

Outside of these exceptions, microwaves are not well suited for drying wet laundry loads. Always check clothing fibers and labels first.

Risks of Microwaving Clothes

There are some significant risks involved in trying to microwave clothes to dry them:

  • Sparks and fire – Any metal objects like zippers, buttons, rivets, etc. can spark, ignite fabric and cause a fire.
  • Melting synthetics – Fabrics like polyester, nylon and spandex will melt under microwave heat and be destroyed.
  • Heat damage – Natural fabrics like wool and silk, and some cotton blends can become damaged, shrunken or hardened by microwave heat.
  • Ruined microwave – If metal parts on clothes spark, they can damage the interior of the microwave severely.

It’s simply not worth the risk of property damage or personal injury. Microwave ovens were designed for heating food, not drying laundry.

Tips for Safely Drying Clothes

Here are some tips for safely and effectively drying wet clothes:

  • Use an electric or gas clothes dryer – Dryers are designed specially to dry clothes without damage.
  • Hang dry delicate fabrics – Hang delicate fabrics and knits out of direct sunlight to avoid damage.
  • Lay flat to dry – Lay sweaters flat on a towel to dry to avoid stretching.
  • Use a drying rack indoors – Place a drying rack with wet clothes near a heating vent or dehumidifier.
  • Try a portable dryer – Portable compact dryers are affordable and work well in apartments.
  • Use a clothesline outside – Clotheslines outdoors provide free drying powered by the sun and breeze.


1. Can you use a microwave to dry socks?

Yes, you can dry socks in the microwave. Microwaves can deodorize and quickly dry socks when needed. Take care to microwave in short bursts to avoid overheating or damage.


In summary, while it may seem like a good idea, drying clothes in the microwave is generally not effective or safe for drying full laundry loads. The exceptions are towels, socks and gloves made of 100% cotton or wool without any metal.

But due to risks like fire, damage, and ruined microwaves, it’s best to stick to proper clothes drying methods. Leave the microwave for heating up food safely. With good ventilation and patience, you can dry clothes easily without taking unnecessary risks with your microwave oven.

By Rosie Elliott

I’m Rosie. I’m a professional chef with experience in Western, Mediterranean, and Italian cuisine. I’ve been cooking for over 15 years, and I have two daughters that keep me busy!

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