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How to avoid a tumble dryer with this most common fault when you’re shopping in the January sales

And which brands you can rely on

When you buy a tumble dryer, you want to buy one that will last. A recent Which? investigation into product reliability has revealed the top faults that can occur in dryers, and which brands you can rely on.

Our research found that, on average, consumers replace their tumble dryers after at least 11 years, but we discovered that some need replacing in almost half that time.


See which models we’ve rated as the best tumble dryers.


Top tumble dryer faults

Sensor problems

Problems with the drying sensors or poor clothes drying is the most common fault in tumble dryers. Almost one in five owners get stuck with this.

Sensors monitor the moisture levels of your clothes during drying in most modern tumble dryers. They adjust program times to finish early when they detect that your laundry is dried and ready to be taken out.

The sensors come in varying shapes and sizes and are always located inside the drum, either in the drum itself or around the lint filter. Most of them look like long, thin metal bars. But if they’re broken, you’ll have difficulty fixing the problem yourself and should call someone in for repairs.

How to prevent this

There’s a chance that it just needs a clean, though. Every few months you should give the drum of your dryer a good wipe with white vinegar or stainless-steel cleaner to keep your sensor in good working order.

However, it might not be a maintenance issue or a fault – our expert tests find that some sensors are just poorly made and never work as they should.

A sensor that’s not doing it’s job can be responsible for clothes being dried unevenly. This means you’ll find odd wet items mixed in with the dry ones after the program has finished.

Find out which dryers have the most accurate sensors in our tumble dryer reviews.

Blockages in condenser or filter

Consumers also commonly reported blockages in the condenser or filter of their dryer.

These are also parts that will need professional repair or replacement if they’re genuinely faulty, but, again, it’s possible to reduce your chance of experiencing this if you keep your dryer well maintained.

How to prevent this

We advise checking and cleaning the lint filter after each use, and the condenser (also called a heat exchanger) also needs regular cleaning. Both experience a rapid build-up of fluff when the tumble dryer is in use, and blockages are caused when they’re not cleaned often enough.

Condensers come in varying shapes and sizes, so it’s best to check your user manual or contact the manufacturer to find out exactly how often it’s recommended you should clean it.

The condenser usually sits below the drum of the dryer, and can be accessed via a kick panel. Some are removable and can be cleaned and rinsed under a tap, but some are not. In these cases you’ll need to use your vacuum to remove the fluff instead.

For more advice on keeping your tumble dryer in tip-top condition, check out our guide on tumble dryers tips and maintenance.

Most and least reliable tumble dryer brands

In autumn 2019 we surveyed 2,178 tumble dryer owners who are also Which? members. We asked them about the tumble dryers they own, the faults they experience, when they happen, and how satisfied they are with the brand.

Our survey only found one brand that had no reported problems with sensor drying: John Lewis.

Check out the full results and find out which is the most reliable brand overall in our Which tumble dryer brand to buy in 2020 rundown.

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