Tumble dryer FAQs
By Matt Stevens
How much do I need to spend – and how much do tumble dryers add to my energy bills? Get the answers to these questions and more from the experts at Which?.
Whether you want to find out whether you can keep your tumble dryer in a shed or garage, what a heat pump dryer is, or how much using a tumble dryer will add to your bills, we have the answers.
We dry more than 1,500kg of clothes a year to find the best tumble dryers on the market, making us experts in all things laundry.
If you want to find out which are tumble dryers are best, head straight to our tumble dryer reviews.
To get your questions answered quickly, use the links below to head straight to the answer.
- How much do I need to spend and how much do tumble dryers add to my bills?
- Is a condenser dryer better than a vented one?
- Should I buy a heat pump dryer?
- How do automatic dryers work and are they a good investment?
- Is a washer-dryer a better option?
- Can I stack a tumble dryer on top of my washing machine?
- Which tumble dryer is best for a garage?
- How can I prevent tumble dryer accidents?
- Which tumble dryers are being recalled and have caught fire?
- What can't go in a tumble dryer?
- How hot does a tumble dryer get?
- What are your top tips for drying clothes?
- How can I shrink jeans in a tumble dryer?
There are a few different types of tumble dryers – vented, condenser, heat-pump and gas. Upfront costs and energy use vary depending on the type.
Typically, vented models add around £100 to your annual electricity bills, but that figure will vary with the size of the drum. As a rough guide, expect a 6kg-capacity model to add £78 to your annual bills, a 7kg-capacity drum to add £87, and an 8kg-capacity drum to add £113.50.
Condenser dryers are a bit more expensive than vented dryers to buy. Prices start at around £190 – but you'll need to pay slightly more for a good condenser dryer. We have found Best Buy condenser dryers that cost around £250, but you might end up having to pay more.
Average energy running costs are about £92, but you can expect to pay about £76 a year for a 6kg-capacity drum, £92 for a 7kg-capacity drum and £104 for an 8kg-capacity drum.
Heat-pump condenser dryers have much lower running costs than vented or condenser dryers but cost significantly more in the shops, reducing the potential savings. We have seen a heat-pump condenser dryer that costs under £500, but a more likely cost is £600-£700. That said, prices are coming down.
Heat-pump dryers tend to do well in our tests, not because of speedy drying, but because of their very low running costs, typically around £33.
Gas vented tumble dryers have similar running costs to heat pump condenser models. They are rare in the UK and will require a Gas Safe engineer to both install and service them, so it's important to read up about gas tumble dryers before buying one.
The gas tumble dryers we've tested are from White Knight and will cost you around £300, plus installation. Running costs are about £45 a year.
Use our tumble dryer energy costs calculator to give you a comparison of how much it costs to run all the tumble dryers we've tested over their lifetimes.
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Condenser dryers collect moisture from the wet clothes into a water reservoir, which you must empty when it is full. Vented dryers simply expel the moist air from the tumble dryer through a hose that is vented outside the house.
Condenser dryers are usually seen as more convenient as you don't have to place them near a wall vent or hang a hose out of a window. However, they're more expensive to buy than vented machines and use more electricity. Find out more in our complete guide to condenser dryers.
Check out the condensation efficiency rating in the test results section of our reviews to avoid condenser dryers that will steam up your home.
Should I buy a heat pump dryer?
Some condenser dryers come with a heat pump, designed to reheat and reuse air inside the dryer. This makes them much more energy efficient than standard condenser dryers, although it can mean longer running times.
See all our heat pump tumble dryer reviews to find a model that's right for you.
Automatic dryers, also called sensor dryers, have humidity sensors that detect how moist your washing is and stop the machine when it's dry.
They should take the guesswork out of setting the machine, but we've found that sensors don't always deliver perfectly dry laundry.
You can help your sensor to work better by separating your washing so you're drying similar fabrics together. Mixed loads – for example thick denim jeans with thin cotton pillowcases – can confuse the sensor.
Buying a washer-dryer may seem tempting if you want to save space or money.
Bear in mind, though, that they have to repaired more frequently than separate washing machines and tumble dryers – possibly because you're asking them to do twice as much work.
Our 2017 reliability survey showed that about 28% of six-year-old washer-dryers needed to be repaired, compared with about 24% of washing machines.
Washer-dryers can usually wash more clothes than they can dry, meaning a single washing load may need to be dried in two or more loads.
If you're interested in a washer-dryer, head to our washer-dryer reviews to find the best.
If both your appliances are made by the same manufacturer, you should be able to buy a stacking kit to fix your dryer on top of your washing machine. These kits can be bought from manufacturers or department stores, and are an alternative to a washer dryer if you're short on space: you two appliances with the footprint of one.
You can also buy universal stacking kits if you have a washer and dryer from two different brands. These kits are designed to fix any dryer on top of any front-loading washing machine – though a brand-specific kit may fix them more firmly.
It's not advisable to simply place a tumble dryer on top of your washing machine. Any jolts or the vibration of a high spin could dislodge the tumble dryer and cause damage.
See our guide on how to design a utility room for more laundry room inspiration.
The type of tumble dryer you have in your garage will depend on how it needs to be installed. All types will need a supply of either electricity or gas. As mentioned above, vented dryers will need somewhere to run a pipe outside, such as through a vent in the wall or poked out of a window.
Condenser and heat-pump dryers are the easiest to install as they recycle the heat and steam within the machine, so you won’t need a pipe for the water to escape through, although you can get versions with this. You will need to ensure that there is space around the machine and that the room is well-ventilated, though.
But it’s worth keeping in mind that, generally speaking, tumble dryers don't work as well and can develop faults in extreme conditions, such as a very cold or hot space. Condenser and heat-pump dryers are usually more susceptible to issues as they need the right temperature of air around them to work efficiently. Make sure to read your machine's manual for the manufacturer's advice on installing in a garage.
If you're concerned about your children or pets being injured in a tumble dryer, then follow these precautions to help ensure they're safe:
- Unplug your dryer when it's not in use.
- Turn the program dial to the off position if you remove your clothes mid-cycle.
- Avoid dryers with a handle-operated catch on the door, as these can not be opened from the inside.
- Look for an electronic child lock as this prevents children from turning dryers on or changing the program settings.
- Ensure that your dryer has a door that can be opened if it's pushed from the inside. Some driers require too much force.
- Many older dryers restart automatically if you interrupt the cycle - choose a machine that doesn't do this if you're concerned about children or pets playing near the machine.
- A mechanical child lock can be engaged after each cycle. It prevents the door from closing, so a child can't become trapped inside.
There has been a lot in the media about appliance recalls and fires. We’ve been lobbying companies and government to act quicker when it comes to recalls and fixing affected models.
Below is a list of the tumble dryers that have been recalled due to there being a potential fire risk. If you think you might have an affected model, stop using the model and contact the manufacturer immediately to find out what the next course of action should be.
Logik LVD7W15 tumble dryers manufactured between March and April 2016. If you think your dryer might be affected, call 0344 561 6202.
Hotpoint, Indesit and Creda
Hotpoint, Indesit and Creda tumble dryers manufactured between April 2004 and September 2015. If your dryer has a green dot sticker somewhere on it, it’s not part of the safety recall.
Read our news story on the Hotpoint, Indesit and Creda fire safety recalls to see a full list of all the affected model numbers. You can also contact Hotpoint on 0800 151 0905 for more information.
Beko and Blomberg
Beko and Blomberg 8kg and 9kg condenser tumble dryers manufactured between May and November 2012 with the following model numbers:
• Beko DCU9330W
• Beko DCU9330R
• Beko DCU8230
• Beko DSC85W
• Blomberg TKF8439A
Read more about the Beko and Blomberg recall in our news story. You can contact Beko on 0800 917 2018.
Beko 6kg and 7kg condenser tumble dryers manufactured between May and October 2012 with the following model numbers:
White Knight tumble dryers manufactured between October 2010 and June 2011 with the following model numbers:
• 0312 76A 15002 (77AW)
• 0312 767 15009 (767C)
• 0312 76A 15010 (77AW)
• 0312 76A 15330 (77AS)
• 0312 76A 31000 (CL76AWH)
Siemens tumble dryers manufactured in 2002. Please call Siemens on 0800 0285 348 for more details.
For more information, you can visit the Government website and its page on large appliances recalled due to fire risk.
Whether or not you have an affected machine, it’s also a fire risk to let fluff build up in your dryer, so regular maintenance is a must.
You should clean all lint filters every time you use the machine to maintain good airflow. Wipe the drum with a damp cloth regularly, and check the vent outlet and hose of vented driers for fluff.
The heat exchanger in condenser models needs washing out about five times a year, more often for heavy users. Some machines have a light that shows when this needs to be done.
It's tempting to throw your pile of wet laundry into the dryer, but watch out as some items just don't mix with the heat. Get it wrong and you could end up with frayed, saggy or ruined clothes. It's best to leave these things out to dry naturally:
- Bras. Even on a dedicated delicates program the dryer isn't always kind to bras. The heat could bend them out of shape and cause them to lose elasticity.
- Tights. You'll spend longer untangling them post dryer than they would have taken to dry on your radiator in the first place. The delicate material is also likely to tear.
- Swimming costumes. The spandex in swimming costumes can distort and break in the dryer, so it's best to leave them out.
- Bath mats with rubber backs. The heat could cause the rubber to crumble and break.
- Embellished clothes. Sequins can snag easily and metal stones or beads can melt in the heat.
- Sports shoes. The rubber can shrink in the heat, meaning you'll use your support and cushioning. However, it's fine to tumble dry non-sports trainers (any shoe without the support). Put them in a low-heat cycle with some heavy towels to stop them banging into the drum.
Tumble dryers tend to get to around 175°C, but it depends on the type of tumble dryer you have, what you're drying and how long you use it for.
Any type of dryer will make the room it's in warmer, but this can be more apparent with condenser and heat-pump tumble dryers. This is because, unlike vented tumble dryers, which expel the hot air and steam they produce out of the house through a hose, heat-pumps and condensers keep the heat within them. Depending on how large your room is, this may cause condensation.
- Separate out fabrics and dry similar clothes together. This reduces the drying time and increases the evenness of drying.
- Loosen your laundry when you take it out of the washing machine. This prevents lengthy running times and creasing.
- Don't dry large objects, such as duvets, because there won't be enough space for air to circulate. This can overheat the dryer.
- Clean the lint filter after every drying cycle – not doing so will mean your dryer will not be as efficient and will cost you more money.
- If you're washing your bedclothes, remember to fasten the duvet cover. This will stop smaller items like pillowcases from getting inside and staying damp.
How to shrink jeans in a tumble dryer
If you've found your jeans getting a little baggy recently, you could try and shrink them in your tumble dryer, although this isn't something we have ever tested.
All you need to do is wash them first on a high temperature, using a normal setting, not a delicate one. Then transfer them to the tumble dryer and crank up the heat.
Dry them completely in the machine, and consider leaving them a little longer if they're still not quite the size you want.
You may need to repeat the whole process, too. But be careful not to over shrink them – do it gradually if you're not sure.
Remember, too, that this is likely to make them shorter as well as smaller.