How to Flat-Dry a Top

Wicker basket of clothes pegs on a wire drying stand.

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If you've ever seen "lay flat to dry" on a clothing label and tossed it in the dryer anyway, you may be in for unexpected consequences. Some clothing, like cashmere sweaters and knit tops, will shrink, pill, fade or distort in the heat and friction of the dryer, leaving you with a top that looks nothing like it did before it was washed. To keep these tops looking their best for as long as possible, avoid the laundry room and let them air-dry.

Hand wash or use the hand-wash setting on your washing machine to wash your top, which will minimize stretching and misshaping.

Check your top's label. Some clothing that requires flat drying also recommends a brief tumble in the dryer, which keeps the fabric from becoming too stiff. If the label suggests it, tumble dry for 10 to 15 minutes without heat.

Lay a clean, dry towel on a non-porous surface, such as a countertop, or set your drying rack in dry place away from direct sunlight. Place a fan nearby or choose an area near a heat source, depending on the season, to help speed drying.

Lay your shirt on the towel or drying rack. Smooth the neck and torso of your shirt into the approximate size and shape they should be when dry, and arrange the sleeves so that they aren't twisted or wrinkled. Washing may have stretched your top slightly, and arranging it helps prevents misshaping as it dries.

Turn your top over once as it dries to ensure your top dries evenly. Reshape your top if necessary during the drying process.

Fold or hang your top once it's completely dry. Hanging or folding while wet can cause stretching or wrinkling.