Dryer mishaps are common and plastic items can potentially melt if they are intentionally placed or forgotten in the dryer.
Plastics will begin to melt in the dryer if it is subjected to a constant amount of heat for prolonged periods. Modern dryers operate within the temperature range of 125 to 135F, and if subjected long enough to heat, plastic items can melt and get stuck onto clothing or on the dryer drum.
This article will explain how different plastic items can melt in a dryer and what you can do to remove it from the dryer or from clothing if they do melt.
Plastic will melt in the dryer if subjected to a constant stream of heat for long periods even though the temperature does not reach its melting point.
Plastic will begin to soften and will start to stick to the parts of the dryer or even clothing items.
The hotter part of the dryer is the heating element and the area from which the airflow is coming into the dryer. Here the potential for plastics to start warping and melting is high.
A clogged lint filter or air ducting can cause the temperature within the dryer to build up to somewhere close temperature of the heating element, which can be around 1200 degrees Fahrenheit.
A protective mechanism built into the drier is the High-Limit Cut-Off switch.
HIGH-LIMIT THERMOSTAT CUT-OFF TEMPERATURE is 250 DEGREES.
At What Temperatures Does a Dryer Operate?
Understanding the temperatures that a dryer operates at can help you make informed decisions about what to put in your dryer.
Modern dryers have at least three general cycles with temperature ranges from 125-135 F.
- Low heat for delicates,
- Medium heat for permanent press
- High heat for regular clothes.
To maximize efficiency, clean lint traps, use dryer sheets for regular maintenance and adjust the heat control settings accordingly.
|Heat Settings||Temperature (°F)|
Making sure you understand how your dryer works will ensure you make smarter, more efficient choices when it comes to laundry day.
Different types of plastic have varying melting points, so it’s important to know which type you’re dealing with before putting it in the dryer.
|Type of Plastic||Wearable Items||MELT TEMPERATURE RANGE (℉)|
|ABS||Watch bands, eyeglass frames, fitness tracker bands||374-518|
|ABS/PC ALLOY||Protective helmet shells, smartwatch cases||473-509|
|ACETAL||Belt buckles, zippers, snap fasteners||356-410|
|ACRYLIC||Earrings, bracelets, necklaces, clear watch faces||428-482|
|HDPE||Wristbands, waterproof watch straps, shoe soles||410-518|
|LDPE||Disposable gloves, rain ponchos, shoe covers||356-464|
|NYLON 6||Watch straps, backpack straps, sportswear||446-554|
|NYLON 6 (30% GF)||Bicycle helmets, safety harnesses||482-554|
|NYLON 6/6||Watch bands, backpacks, belts||518-572|
|NYLON 6/6 (33% GF)||Impact-resistant helmets, body armor||536-572|
|NYLON 11||Breathable shoe uppers, sports apparel||428-482|
|NYLON 12||Ski boot shells, snowboard bindings||374-392|
|PEEK||Medical implants, prosthetics, high-performance sportswear||662-734|
|POLYCARBONATE||Sunglasses, safety goggles, smartwatch screens||536-608|
|POLYESTER PBT||Woven watch straps, shoelaces||464-527|
|PET (SEMI CRYSTALLINE)||Water bottles, smartwatch bands||500-536|
|PET (AMORPHOUS)||Clear phone cases, jewelry pendants||500-536|
|POLYPROPYLENE (COPOLYMER)||Flip-flop straps, medical masks||392-536|
|POLYPROPYLENE (HOMOPOLYMER)||Hinged bracelet cuffs, lightweight jewelry||392-536|
|POLYPROPYLENE (30% TALC FILLED)||Durable watch bands, bangles||464-554|
|POLYPROPYLENE (30% GF)||Motorcycle helmet shells, protective gear||482-554|
|POLYSTYRENE||Costume jewelry, hair accessories||338-536|
|POLYSTYRENE (30% GF)||Bicycle helmets, impact-resistant gear||482-554|
|PVC P||Waterproof watch straps, shoe insoles||338-374|
|PVC U||Raincoats, wristbands||320-410|
|SAN||Transparent watch straps, eyeglass temples||392-500|
|SAN (30% GF)||Durable watch bands, industrial safety equipment||482-518|
|TPE||Watch bands, fitness tracker straps, flexible bracelets||500-608|
Plastic safety should always be considered when selecting materials, as different plastics have different melting temperatures and durability.
If there is plastic material stuck to the dryer’s surface, it can be easily removed by reapplying heat. Yes the same heat that got it there in the first place.
1. Run The dryer to Soften the Plastic
Try running your dryer to soften the plastic. If you’ve accidentally melted plastic in the dryer, there are a few things to consider before turning it on:
Adjust the heat setting of your dryer and choose a hot temperature. This will help soften the plastic material.
2. Use a Solvent to Apply to the Softened Plastic
Once the plastic has softened, you can apply a solvent to it for removal. Solvents are one of the best ways to remove plastic from surfaces without damage.
The plastic can absorb solvents and chemicals, causing the plastic to soften and lose rigidity and strength.
Tetrahydrofuran (THF) is co the most universal and common solvent for many plastics. However, each plastic has its own solubility properties.
3. Clean The Area
Now that you’ve removed the plastic, it’s time to clean up the area and get rid of any residue.
Before you begin, make sure to gather your cleaning supplies: a cloth, soap, and water should do the job.
Once everything is ready, use a damp cloth with warm soapy water to wipe down the area where you removed the plastic from. This will remove any remaining residue and help keep your dryer running smoothly.
Removing melted plastic from clothes can be tricky because of the risk of damaging the clothing in the process.
Here is a handy trick that I use to remove plastic from my clothing:
Using a heat gun is an effective way to melt plastic without damaging it. The heat gun lets you control the temperature and direct the venting of the hot air, allowing for precise softening of plastic materials.
Note: The plastic should not be melted because it can further stick to clothes and will be even harder to remove.
Once the plastic’s softened, carefully pull it away from the clothing to prevent any further damage.
Use Laundry Detergent to clean the area
To effectively clean up after a plastic meltdown, try using laundry detergent – it’s gentle on fabrics and will make the area spotless.
Pre-treat any stains with fabric softener before starting the wash cycle for best results.
You may wonder if putting plastic items in the dryer is safe. Generally, avoiding heat and air drying are the best cleaning tips for plastic items.
There is no telling what can happen to plastic items inside a dryer. The best action is to avoid putting plastic items in the dryer in the first place.
Clothing should be inspected and plastic items should be removed before washing or drying.
Some common Plastic times that may end up in the dryer are:
- Bank Cards
- Lego Blocks
- Plastic Bags
- Plastic Protectors
- Lighters (which can explode)
However, depending on the type of plastic, some items can withstand low temperatures with careful heat settings.
- Different types of plastic have varying melting points.
- Inspect clothing for plastic material before washing.
- To remove plastic, it should be softened, not melted.
- If you are hearing knocking noises when washing, stop and inspect the washer/dryer for foreign objects.
- Solvent solutions quickly remove plastic but can damage delicate surfaces.