Tumble dryer reviews: Features explained

Here we talk you through some of the most common tumble dryer features and programs so you're armed with all the information you need to choose the best tumble dryer for you when you hit the shops. Once you've decided what features you'd like from your next tumble dryer, head to our full to find out which are the Best Buy tumble dryers Which? experts recommend.
Tumble dryer program dial

Sensor dryers choose drying times for you

What features should I look out for when buying a tumble dryer?

Some dryers have almost no features - it’ll just be a case of putting your clothes in, selecting a time and pressing start. Others offer a raft of features. Here are some useful ones to watch out for:

  • Sensor drying - this means the tumble dryer will automatically detect how wet your laundry is and stop when it's dry.
  • Child locks - this enables you to lock the control panel to stop kids fiddling with the controls and settings while you’re not looking.
  • Time remaining display - many sensor dryers will estimate how long your washing will take to dry. Some dryers ask you to enter the spin speed of your washing machine in order to provide a more accurate estimate.
  • Delay start - this allows you to delay the start of the drying cycle meaning you can set the dryer to come on later in the day.
  • Reversible door - unlike the majority of washing machines, some tumble dryers will allow you to swap the direction in which the door opens, which helps increase the number of areas it can be installed in your home.
  • Program buttons - some machines allow you to take extra care of delicate fabrics, dry more quickly, delay the start time or have an anti-crease phase at the end.
  • Program stage LEDs - these indicate that the clothes inside the dryer have reached different stages of dryness, or are in the cooling or anti-crease phases.
  • Temperature selector - you select high for drying cottons and low for heat-sensitive fabrics. Check the icons on your clothes' care labels for which to use.
  • Buzzer button - allows you to choose whether or not to have an audible end-of-program alarm.
  • Warning LEDs - these light up to remind you to empty the water container or clean the lint filter and keep your machine running at peak efficiency.
  • Program or timer dial - chooses the drying program on sensor dryers, or the specific drying time. You can read the remaining program time from the dial on most timer dryers.
Gas tumble dryers save money

Using a gas tumble dryer can save you money

What are the most useful tumble dryer programs?

A manual dryer will typically just have two temperature settings to choose from - high or low. But dryers that have a sensor will have different programs, in the same way that a washing machine does. Here are the most useful.

  • Cupboard dry - clothes should come out of the drum dry enough to put straight into the cupboard.
  • Extra dry - a longer program for multi-layered or thick fabrics such as bed sheets, towelling bathrobes or socks.
  • Iron dry - damp clothes are easier to iron than clothes that are completely dry, so an iron dry program should leave clothes slightly moist.
  • Synthetics/Easy care - programs for drying synthetic clothing (like garments made from polyester) typically allow you to dry about half the amount of clothing as you could dry if you were doing a cotton load. Most 7kg capacity dryers, for example, will let you dry either 3kg or 3.5kg of synthetic clothing in one go.
  • Wool/delicates - this is for tumble drying woollens or delicate fabrics with gentle heat and minimal tumbling.
  • Cool - clothes will be cooled at the end of the program so they're easier to handle. You can also use the cool setting to refresh clothes that haven’t been washed – tumbling with cool air knocks the smells and lived-in feel out of clothes, which is ideal if you've been in a smoky atmosphere, for example.
  • Easy iron - useful for already-dry clothing, this program usually involves a few minutes of heat followed by a short, cool tumble to relax the fibres of creased fabrics and make them easier to iron.
  • Anti-crease - some dryers will make the drum move occasionally after the end of a drying cycle until you open the door. The aim of this is to stop creases from forming in the clothes.

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