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Drying clothes in the microwave





ptolomeo
Once, to be on time in a meeting, I put my underwear in the microwave for it to dry. What happend is that it got very hot and I took it out, but it was still wet.

Has anyone had succes drying clothes in the microwave?
SonLight
It doesn't seem likely that a microwave will dry clothes effectively. Microwaves are good at making water hot. If the water becomes hot enough, it will boil, leaving the clothing dry. So if you want to dry clothes in the microwave, plan on heating them to the boiling point.
HalfBloodPrince
It's quite normal for it to become very hot but still wet; some people propose work-arounds to this (examples include wrapping the clothes in towel, paper, etc. (something that absorbs)). You CAN dry clothes in a microwave, but you SHOULDN'T dry clothes in a microwave; there are many threats like fire, possible explosion, and your clothes will probably get ruined. In these situations, use a hairdryer or something.

I would NOT recommend this, but if you're that desperate, I read somewhere about using the oven...DO NOT DO THIS, I'm just going on what I remember, they said something about leaving the oven door 25% open, pre-heating it, etc.

Again, DON'T try the oven technique until you research the crap out of it.

In conclusion, however, I would recommend just putting the clothes in the dryer a little earlier. Laughing
Bikerman
It should be impossible to leave the door open on any commercial microwave. They are designed to stop this from happening. If you CAN open the door whilst the microwave is operating then you need to get it serviced or chuck it out.
Drying clothes in a microwave is not a good idea. It is a horribly inefficient use of power.
HalfBloodPrince
^I meant keep the door open for the oven. If the microwave is working with the door open, there's something wrong Laughing
Afaceinthematrix
It doesn't surprise me that it didn't work. I would have been shocked if it did. Just because something is hot, doesn't mean that it is dry. You can have hot and wet things.
Indi
Actually, there's a good science lesson to be learned here. Despite what most people think, heat does not dry... wind dries. Heat just helps speed up the process.

Any water - whether it's trapped in a fabric, on the surface of your skin, or even in a puddle - is made up of H₂O molecules that are always in motion. Some of these molecules get enough kinetic energy to overcome the attraction of the other H₂O molecules, and literally "leap" out of the water into the air.

What happens next is key. If there is no air flow, the molecule that just leapt out of the fabric/drop/puddle will just float around in the air above where it leapt out, and very likely just fall back in. Thus, over time, the amount of water in the fabric/drop/puddle won't really change. In other words, no drying.

If there is an air flow, the molecule that leapt out of the fabric/drop/puddle will be blown away, and won't fall back in. Thus, over time, the amount of water in the fabric/drop/puddle will decrease. In other words, drying (which, by the way, is the same as evaporation).

There are a number of factors you have to control to control the rate of drying. To increase the drying rate, you should:
  • Use dryer air (air that is really humid can't really hold more water molecules, so molecules that leap out might just be forced back in, and molecules already in the air might fall in, too).
  • Use lower pressure air (air under pressure makes it harder for water molecules to get into the air).
  • Use faster flowing air (the more flow, the more molecules that get carried away).
  • Warm up the water (the more energy the water, the more molecules will be able to leap out).
  • Increase the surface area (the more area you have for molecules to jump from, the more can get out).
  • Anything else that makes more water molecules jump out, and/or get carried away (for example, the angle of the surface with respect to gravity matters, etc.).
As ptolomeo found out, warming up the water isn't enough - because in a microwave it has nowhere to go. In a clothes dryer, the clothes are not just heated, they are tossed around with air constantly being pumped through. The tossing around increases the surface area (by spreading out the clothes as they tumble), and the air that is pumped through creates the air flow for the water molecules to jump into.

ptolomeo, i'm not going to say putting clothes in the microwave is a good idea (the microwave is a lot hotter than the dryer, and you could end up with melted buttons - and there are occasionally other plastic inserts in some clothing - you could screw up the material - the elastic in the underwear would make me pause before trying it - and possibly start a fire), but if you did want to dry something fast and you were crazy enough to risk using the microwave, what you want to do is take the clothes out of the microwave while they're piping hot and drape them over a fan. Even better, hang the clothes vertically, and orient the fan to blow upwards, so you get vertical air streams on both sides of the cloth. If you're really in a rush, repeat the cycle every time the clothes cool down - warm them back up again, and hang them again until they cool again, then repeat.

But, as several people have pointed out, the microwave is a risky choice.
hdcruiser07
Oh my gosh do I feel better.I thought I was the only idiot to try this.I once put some socks in there but they didnt dry ,they just got smoking hot,but still just as wet.But what works well is a hair dryer
powers1983
Ive successfully dried a hand towel in a commercial microwave (1900W) at work from being soaked in water to dry enough to use in about 20 minutes. Just repeatedly get the towel heated in the microwave then remove and waft about a bit (careful cos it will be VERY hot) then put back in microwave and repeat. Just leaving it in will not work for all the reasons mentioned in previous posts.

I assume the method would work will a normal 600-900W microwave but just take a little longer (2-3 minutes at 1900W was more than enough to get it steaming when removed).

I only tried it cos I needed a dry towel, there were no customers, and I was fairly certain that the cotton fabric was not going to catch fire unless I left it in for a long time (initially I was checking every 15 seconds to make sure the temp was not too high). As Indi mentioned various other items of clothing may have lots of other materials that may not be as well behaved when exposed to microwaves so be very cautious about trying this at home lol.
badai
this remind me of mr bean movie (the one he went to LA museum for mother whistler painting) where he dry his underwear in the oven.
fx-trading-education
Oh my god, drying clothes in a microwave oven !
How could you get such an idea.
I am pretty sure you are a bachelor as any women would have common sense to forbid you to do it. I guess that you don't have a hair dryer as you would probably would have tried with that first.
GuidanceReader
I have never tried it, but I also figured it wouldn't work, as I already had the scientific understanding behind it. As mentioned before - the hairdryer would be my choice of weapon.
likeabreeze
Obviously, It has something to do with evaporation.
well, didn't your physics teacher tell you this lesson....
there are three things that can affect the evaporation speed:
1. the wind speed.
In your case, the clothes is put into microwave, no wind at all.
2. temperature.
microwave can do something about this, but the temperature is not high enough to dry your clothes..
3. Humidity.
the lower the humidity, the more evaporation, actually, the microwave is just a closed system, the humidity in it is pretty high. Exclamation Exclamation not to mention microwave, it wouldn't work well even if you put your clothes in a closed system and heat it with FIRE, considering the vapor get trapped in the system...

Well, in my opinion, there is another reason why you failed.
the space of microwave is relatively small... so you have to fold your clothes in order to put it in, which makes the contact area very small...
likeabreeze
hdcruiser07 wrote:
Oh my gosh do I feel better.I thought I was the only idiot to try this.I once put some socks in there but they didnt dry ,they just got smoking hot,but still just as wet.But what works well is a hair dryer

Put socks in microwave? Are you kidding?
Do you want to eat the food heated by microwave after you did this?
Bikerman
Well, thinking about it - a microwave is good at heating dipole molecules (such as water), so it will certainly raise the temp sufficient to 'steam-off' water from the clothes. The reason it won't function well as a dryer is simply that it doesn't vent that steam quickly enough for the purpose - so the clothes end up in a hot, extremely humid environment, rather than a large airflow (such as you find in a clothes-dryer) carrying off the steam. Anyone who has spent time in a hot humid climate (I spent some time in Darwin during the 'wet') will tell you that you NEVER get dry - clothes hung on an outside line will go mouldy before they dry and people use the fridge to keep things dry as much as to cool them.
macgyver68
Indi - of course heat dries. Otherwise, your iron couldn't use steam.
The rest of that was pretty much wrong, as well.

But then, my degrees are only in physics and engineering, so what do i know?

For the reasons that the buttons won't melt and the elastic won't catch fire, see How Stuff Works.

I would be most concerned about metal pieces on the clothing, which could, though not necessarily would, emit sparks and possibly start a fire.

It would work for socks or most underwear, but as has been said, it would not be efficient.

I would use an iron to dry damp clothing.
mpq2394
Hi All,

It does work but the key thing as mentioned before is airflow and getting the clothes hot enough for the water to steam up. Underwear = 3 min (in general). Once the microwave dings, pull them out and then while being careful of hot steam, wave the clothes around in the air creating as much flowing air thru them as possible! Underwear, hold your hands on the inside of them keeping them open kinda like a windsock and wave them about. This is the magic bit since it cause the steam to leave the fabric and billow off into the air thus not remaining in the clothes to then be condensed back into water (wet). Sometimes you have to do this microwaving process twice but I use it (ashamedly) all of the time!

My work is done here Wink
crazyfffan
The idea is cute but laughable.
if you leave a (small) glass of water under sun light it will probably dry after couple of hours.
The same amount of water will partly become vapour in the microwave, and the rest will stay inside the glass no matter how long you cook it, because there's such a thing called humidity saturation: one cubic metre of air cannot contain more than 30 grams of water.
So no, microwave can't dry your clothes.
And I double there's a microwave big enough to cook more than two pair of T-shirts at a time.
biolu
If you had metallic part on your clothe, the microwave could have exploded Razz
Ankhanu
biolu wrote:
If you had metallic part on your clothe, the microwave could have exploded Razz

No, not really... the microwave will not explode, but the metal will likely spark and get very hot making fire likely.
Bikerman
Yes, much nonsense exists on this issue. You can stick metal in microwaves with no problems - it depends on the oven and the design specs.
In general metal will act as an antenna and will accumulate charge, leading to 'arc'ing' - ie der spittzen und der sparken. This is the main reason that metal is generally not a good idea. But explosions? Nah....
windhw
It's impossable I think microwave will heat the water , not drying it
Bikerman
Heating the water will mean it is more likely to evaporate. The limiting factor will then be the humidity within the microwave - which will mostly depend on volume - since once a relative humidity of approaching 100% is achieved then obviously no more water will evaporate.
dansm01
HalfBloodPrince wrote:
^I meant keep the door open for the oven. If the microwave is working with the door open, there's something wrong Laughing

The clothes drying process relies more on airflow than temperature. Clothes hanging outside on a cool, windy day dry more quickly than clothes hanging outside on a hot, still day. So the best way to dry your underpants with a microwave is to a) place the garment in a microwave, and heat for 45 seconds on full heat, b) take garment out and place it on your head as if it were a cap, and c) go for a 10 minute run outside.
RidingaVespa
Hey microwave start burn the underwear. No good.

I got the wet clothes. okay and busy night. Yes the bambino sing in the bed al nite.
I have a vespa scooter.
Semplice ok. I think is simple
I ride the scooter down the Via della Conciliazione a bit speedy.
not too much veloce ok Polizia break me it with money.
Soon I am at work the clothes can be lovely dry.
zacky
This is really weird dude. Never even realiize that someone will thing to do it.

Anyway during that crisis where in rainy days and I really need to dry my clothes, I am just putting my close on the back of the refrigerator.

By the way, my refrigerator is kinda a old one having the metals are outside of the case of ref.
johans
Nah!.. it will never work that way. Microwave features melts or cook start at the middle. For drying it needs an air while microwave dont too much air to handle it.
Pippo90
LOL, I have never thought of using my microwave in this way. Now I want to try as well! Very Happy
nokick
lol. OMG you are the champion! I never thought of this before. Maybe you can try heating it up in 30seconds interval and taking it out for the water to vaporise and cool down first?

BTW, how did you wet your underwear??
Peterssidan
Instead of using a microwave you can use a toaster to dry your underwear. Don't put the underwear inside the toaster like you do with bread but let it hang some distance over it. Be careful though. You don't want to start a fire. You will probabyl have to turn on and off the toaster multiple times before it's dry enough to wear.
Iceaxe0410
As much as I don't like to admit I did once try to dry a pair of underwear in the microwave. It worked. You heat it up to the point where it gets hot. Then you just air dry it by hand to release the steam. Then put it back in reheat and start the process over. It doesn't take too many times. It dries quite fast. I was in a bit of a bind at that time. I ran out of clean underwear and I was pressed for time. I did not have any other option. Desperate times calls for desperate measures.
Insanity
That's is a very interesting idea. I would be very worried about setting fire to something, though. It sounds like it would be okay if you don't heat it up too hot, but that's a slippery slope to me. At what point would it be dangerous to keep microwaving and have your underwear burst into flames? You might be able to do something better with a space heater or maybe even the stove if you do it carefully.
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