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16 Apr 2021

Washer-dryer vs washing machine and tumble dryer - which is better?

Find out how the cost, energy usage, cleaning and drying abilities of washer-dryers compares with washing machines and tumble dryers

Washer-dryers have long been an option for those short on space but still want to be able to dry clothes, bedding and towels quickly. But how do they compare with a separate washing machine and tumble dryer setup?

To help you decide which to go for, we've compared price and analysed our test data to calculate how much they cost to run, and how well they wash and dry laundry.

Best Buy laundry detergent - see which are great at banishing stains

Best Buy washer-dryers are pricey

It's a bit of a no-brainer that buying one appliance is cheaper than buying two. On average, a washing machine costs roughly £480, a tumble dryer £550 and washer-dryer £675.

But this saving disappears when you look at our Best Buys.

The cheapest Best Buy washing machine is £200 and the cheapest Best Buy tumble dryer is £399. But you need to pay more to get a Best Buy washer-dryer. The cheapest costs £599 - exactly the same as buying two separate machines.

And cost more to run in energy

When it comes to just washing, washer-dryers cost a very similar amount to run to washing machines. On average, you'll pay £36 a year to run four cotton 40°C washes, compared with £38 a year for a washing machine.

The biggest difference comes from drying. Most washer-dryers use condenser drying technology, which means they cost a lot to run.

Drying three loads a week in a washer-dryer is £93 on average a year, while with a heat-pump dryer this is just £39.

Over the lifetime of your dryer this could easily add up to almost £1,000.

Condenser and vented dryers are similar to washer-dryers, at £90 and £81 each per year.

Read more: Why heat-pump tumble dryers cost less to run and use less energy

Washer-dryers clean just as well as washing machines

Washer-dryers are pretty much on par with washing machines in terms of stain-busting powers and cleaning your laundry. Both can handle stains on synthetics and occasionally struggle to shift tough stains on cottons.

Each usually takes three to four hours for a cotton wash and around one and half to two hours for a synthetic wash.

But dry slowly and unevenly

This is a noticeably worse area. Washer-dryers tend to have a smaller drying capacity than tumble dryers, yet take longer to dry everything. The accuracy of the level of drying also tends to be worse.

Tumble dryers take 90 minutes to two hours to dry, depending on the dryer capacity. The drying sensors tend to work well, but how evenly dried your clothes are can still vary quite a lot.

Learn more about all the different ways you can dry your laundry: what's the best way to dry your laundry?

Which? expert verdict:

Our testing shows you aren't getting the best of both worlds with washer-dryers.

Most washer-dryers are actually bad, slow and inefficient at drying compared with a proper tumble dryer.

With energy-efficient heat-pump dryers getting cheaper, we think it's best to go for a separate washing machine and tumble dryer.

If you don't have the space but still want the option of quick drying, consider whether you can use another method to save money and energy, such as a heated clothes horse or a dehumidifier.