Is there any truth to the claim the a dry towel can actually speed up the drying process?

There are numerous different sources that I've heard claim this, here is one on voices.yahoo

A few months back when I was in a hurry to dry a load of jeans I had forgotten the night before, my friend shared a trick that would help dry the clothes faster. She said to add a dry absorbent bath towel to the load of wet clothes in the dryer. Adding the dry towel to the load of clothes cut several minutes off the usual drying time, and now I add a dry towel each and every time I dry a load of clothes. I have one towel that I use exclusively for this purpose, and it's a very soft and very absorbent full-size bath towel. The dry towel helps absorb the moisture, and as a result it seems to disperse and evaporate faster.

You can again see the claim mirrored in Tipnut,

If you’re in a rush for a load of laundry to dry–try tossing a clean, thick cotton towel in the dryer with the wet clothes. The towel will absorb some of the moisture and clothes will dry faster. If it’s a large load of laundry, throw in two or three towels.

eHow also repeats the claim.

Here's an energy-saving laundry tip for you: Placing a dry towel in the clothes dryer with a load of wet laundry reduces drying time, cutting down on energy usage and utility bills. The idea is that by adding a dry and absorbent material, some of the moisture from the wet fabrics is wicked away by the dry towel. This reduces the moisture inside the dryer, allowing each item to dry out more quickly. Experiment at home to see how much you can reduce the drying time in your dryer with this method.

To me, it seems counter-intuitive on both the science, and the likelyhood of oversight. I imagine if a dry-towel was an energy efficient drying mechanism (lowered dry time) then dryer manufacturers would be building fabric into the agitators and compartments. Further, while I can understand the wet towel absorbing moisture, it seems unlikely that getting that moisture out of more mass would be quicker. Unless we're just just re-defining a completed dry load as simply "nominally wet with less concentration."

  • 6
    I could think about surface magnification
    – bummi
    Mar 26 '13 at 7:44
  • 6
    This is exactly analogous to a heatsink. The outflow/drying is proportional to surface area. You'll have mass transport from the wet stuff to dry towel which gives the surface area magnification that @bummi mentions. The only questions are if a towel is a large enough "heat sink" or if its presence otherwise interferes with drying (such as blocking air flow) such that the gains are offset by losses. My guess, would be that for small loads (like a couple of jeans) it helps but for larger loads the airflow restriction makes it worse. Mar 27 '13 at 17:31
  • 3
    @denten I don't think this is on topic for skeptics. It's obviously physically possible but its effectiveness will vary from "impediment" to "huge enhancement" depending on your setup and load size. Jun 3 '13 at 21:35
  • 1
    Someone tested this tip: youtube.com/watch?v=o5QXi_ZdE3c . Results: "So, in short: Do put a dry towel in the dryer with your wet clothes for faster drying time, but take it out 15-20 minutes after."
    – stephenbez
    Jan 12 '14 at 23:32
  • 4
    Requires original research. Migrate to physics.
    – denten
    Feb 13 '17 at 1:20

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