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Tumble dryer glossary

By Matt Stevens

There's a lot of jargon out there, from anti-crease to lint filter, so use this handy tumble dryer glossary to make sense of it all.

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Confused by technical terminology? Don't know the difference between a vented and condenser dryer? Stumped by indecipherable tumble dryer programs and symbols? You've come to the right place.

We've collated a list of all the potentially baffling tumble dryer terms you might have been stumped by, and explained them in plain English.

Scroll down to find out what they all mean, or if you just want to find the best tumble dryer for you, head straight to the best tumble dryers we've reviewed.

A

Anti-crease

Some dryers will make the drum move occasionally after the end of a drying cycle until you open the door. This is designed to stop creases from forming in the clothes.

B

Buzzer button

Allows you to choose whether or not to have an audible end-of-program alarm.

C

Child lock

This enables you to lock the control panel to stop children from playing with the controls and settings while you’re not looking.

 

Condenser dryer

As the name suggests, condenser tumble dryers condense the warm damp air from inside the drum into water, which is then deposited into a container that you have to empty. As this process is contained within the machine, condenser dryers can be installed anywhere in your property. 

We've reviewed more than 50 condenser tumble dryers. Our reviews can tell you how well each actually dries - you'd be surprised by how many don't do a great job - and how much energy and money they use.

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.

Cupboard dry

Clothes dried on this setting should come out of the drum dry enough to put straight into the cupboard, but some manufacturers have different definitions of cupboard dry. It's worth checking the instructions manual first.

D

Delay start

This allows you to delay the start of the drying cycle, so you can set the dryer to come on later in the day.

Delicates/Wool

This is for tumble drying woollens or delicate fabrics with gentle heat and minimal tumbling.

E

Easy care/Synthetics

Programs for drying synthetics (clothes made from polyester, for example) will typically allow you to dry about half the amount of clothing you would put in a cottons load. The drying capacities for synthetic programs are normally lower that the overall capacity of the machine (see synthetics capacity below).

When we test tumble dryers, we dry clothes on four different settings, including the easy case/synthetics program. We give a star rating for how quickly machines dry on each. 

To dry one kg of laundry, some take less than 15 minutes, and others more than half an hour. You can imagine, therefore, that if you're drying a larger load, it could take quite some time - and money.

Easy iron

Useful for clothing that is already dry, 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.

Extra dry

A longer program for multi-layered or thick fabrics such as bed sheets, towelling bathrobes or blankets.

G

Gas dryer

Gas vented, condenser and heat-pump tumble dryers work in the same way as electric ones, but use gas as their heat source to dry the laundry. Gas dryers have to be installed by a Gas Safe registered engineer.

There are very few gas tumble dryers on the market - and the only brand of gas tumble dryer you can buy in the UK is White Knight. It’s rare to find gas tumble dryers in the shops, so if you like to see things in store before buying, you’ll need to contact the manufacturer to find local stockists.

H

Heat exchanger

Condenser dryers have a heat exchanger that cools warm, moist air to condense the water from your laundry, which is how it ends up in the water container. The heat exchanger will need to be cleaned regularly to stay effective, but some models have self-cleaning technology to save you the job.

For more information on condenser tumble dryers, please visit our dedicated condenser tumble dryer advice page.

Heat-pump dryer

Heat pump tumble dryers work by reheating air that's sucked out of your washing on one side, and cooling the air to condense it back into water on the other. 

Condensed water is collected in the machine as with a normal condenser tumble dryer, and the reuse of hot air means energy is kept within the machine instead of being allowed to escape. They can be expensive to buy, but are usually cheap to run.

See all our heat-pump tumble dryer reviews to find the most efficient model for the best price.

I

Iron dry

Slightly wet clothes are easier to iron than clothes that are completely dry, so an iron dry program should leave clothes damp to the touch.

L

Lint filter

Fluff from your laundry is caught by the lint filter. This must be emptied after every use to reduce the risk of fires and to keep your dryer running as efficiently as possible. Check the manual for instructions about how to remove and clean the lint filter.

M

Maximum capacity

The maximum capacity of a tumble dryer is the largest amount of laundry you can fit into the machine at once. Capacities range from as little as 3kg to a whopping 10kg, but most are around 7kg.

But it's worth keeping in mind that you don't want to cram the machine so full that the hot air can't circulate around the clothes to dry them.

Visit our page on how to buy the best tumble dryer for more details on how many clothes you're likely to be able to fit into the different capacities so you can work our which machine is best for you.

 

Micro filter

Heat pump dryers have a micro filter that will have to be cleaned. It’s a good idea to make sure the micro filter is easy to get to before you buy.

P

Program buttons

Some machines have buttons on the control panel for extra features like taking extra care of delicate fabrics, drying more quickly, delaying the start time or having an anti-crease phase at the end.

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.

Program stage LEDs

These indicate the different stages of dryness that your laundry loads go through, or whether they are in the cooling or anti-crease phases.

R

Reversible door

Unlike the majority of washing machines, some tumble dryers will allow you to swap the direction in which the door opens, which gives you more options for where it can be installed in your home.

S

Sensor drying

This means the tumble dryer will automatically detect how wet your laundry is and stop when it's dry. 

We've found that these sensors don't always work as they should. A bad sensor may stop the drum when the clothes are still damp and need more drying - or alternatively it might over-dry the clothes, which will also add more to your energy bills. 

Stacking kit

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 for space: you get the function of two appliances with the footprint of one.

Steam tumble dryers

Steam tumble dryers are effectively ones that include a steam program. These programs can be used on damp clothes to help take creases out of them, or to freshen clothes that haven't been washed.

Synthetics/Easy care

Programs for drying synthetics (clothes made from polyester, for example) will typically allow you to dry about half the amount of clothing you would put in a cottons load. The drying capacities for synthetic programs are normally lower that the overall capacity of the machine (see synthetics capacity below).

Synthetics capacity

The amount you can dry on certain programs, such as the synthetics setting, is usually less than the tumble dryer's overall capacity. In fact, it's often as much as half the capacity. For example, most 7kg capacity dryers will let you dry either 3kg or 3.5kg of synthetic clothing in one go.

T

Temperature selector

Select high for drying cottons and low for heat-sensitive fabrics. Check the icons on your clothes' care labels for which to use.

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.

Timer (or program) 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.

V

Vented dryer

Vented dryers pump the warm damp air from the drum out through a hose, which has to be connected to a wall or window vent. As this hose will need to be installed, vented tumble dryers aren’t suitable for all homes.

Visit our vented tumble dryer reviews to find the best one for you.

W

Warning LEDs

These light up to remind you to empty the water container or clean the lint filter to keep your machine running at peak efficiency.

Wool/Delicates

This is for tumble drying woollens or delicate fabrics with gentle heat and minimal tumbling.

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