When used correctly, a tumble dryer is a safe appliance to have in your home. But as it produces a lot of heat to get your clothes dry, there are steps you can take to make sure you’re drying as safely as possible.
This guide explains how to use a tumble dryer safely and the risks you need to know about.
Plus, find out information about the significant tumble dryer product safety recalls of recent years, including the Whirlpool recall of 5.2 million fire-risk tumble dryers, in case you're looking to buy a second-hand tumble dryer and you want to make sure it's safe.
Follow our six-point plan to make sure you’re drying clothes in your tumble dryer as safely as you can.
Some of these steps will also help your tumble dryer to dry as efficiently as possible, which will save you time and money.
Tumble dryers need air to circulate around the drum to safely and effectively dry clothes. If the drum is too full, drying clothes will take longer, the quality of drying will be reduced and heat could build up in the drum.
Every tumble dryer will have a set capacity for cottons and another smaller capacity for synthetics, the synthetics capacity is usually half that of cottons.
So, when drying clothes always make sure your dryer isn’t too full. If you’re drying a full load of cottons, the drum will feel fullish but there should still be plenty of space at the top for air to circulate.
When drying synthetics to the capacity of the machine for that kind of load, the drum will feel very roomy and that’s completely fine for this kind of load.
But if you feel like you are jamming the drum full, you definitely have too many clothes in your dryer.
Clothes can get very hot inside a tumble dryer and this is normal. The heat is needed to dry the clothes and at the end of the drying cycle, cool air is blown through the load to bring everything inside the machine down to a safe temperature.
If you stop the dryer mid-cycle you’ll find that metal items, such as buttons on jeans or zips on jackets will be very hot and they could cause burns when you touch them.
So always let the drying program run to the end and if you have to stop it before then, leave the clothes in the drum until they are cool and set the dial to the off position.
Cleaning your tumble dryer’s lint filter will save you money as it allows hot air to circulate freely so the dryer doesn’t have to work as hard.
It could also save your life, as lint can very occasionally get caught on the dryer’s element and catch light.
So wipe the lint filter, which you’ll find in and around the door and rim, after every use. Most tumble dryers we’ve reviewed have a handy light that comes on to remind you, but don’t wait for that. For your dryer to be working at optimum efficiency, the lint filter should be cleaned at the end of each drying program.
The risk of fire is thankfully small, but you should keep safety in mind when you use your dryer. So, only use your dryer when you’re at home and awake and if you use your dryer’s delay timer, again make sure to only set it for when you’ll be at home and awake.
If you smell burning or see smoke coming from your dryer stop using it immediately and unplug it from the mains.
Extremely flammable oil stains are really bad news for your tumble dryer. The heat inside the dryer can cause it to combust, and your laundry can catch light, sparking a fire inside the drum.
If you use cloths to wipe up spills in your kitchen or accidentally splash your clothes with cooking oil, make sure to wash them on a high heat cycle to get rid of any residue before giving them a spin in your tumble dryer.
The heat exchanger is a chilled metal box inside the machine that warm damp air passes through. When the air hits the cold metal, water condenses from it and is captured in a tank, with the air flowing out of the machine.
As the air passes through the heat exchanger, hair and fluff is captured by a grill and this needs to be cleaned to keep your dryer working effectively.
This is another measure you can take to make sure that air flow through your machine is optimised and this will help your machine to dry efficiently and safely.
If you've bought a tumble dryer and the manufacturer issues a recall notice due to a safety concern, the manufacturer should either offer to repair or replace the faulty product free of charge.
Registering your product after you buy it is crucial, as it means that the manufacturer can easily get in touch with you should they need to.
If your tumble dryer is being recalled or if there's a safety notice issued against it, to be on the safe side we would unplug it immediately and not use it until it's been fixed.
You should claim for any out-of-pocket expenses you’ve had as a result of not being able to use your machine from the retailer that sold it to you – as long as those expenses are reasonable and foreseeable and you've kept a record of them. For example, any launderette charges you’ve paid while waiting for a fix are foreseeable and you can make a claim.
If you've bought the tumble dryer second hand, you'll need to speak directly to the manufacturer.
A handful of tumble dryer brands have issued recalls for their machines in recent years.
Here’s a rundown of the recalls we know about, what the tumble dryer safety problems are and what owners of affected dryers need to do.
Whirlpool announced in 2015 that it had a safety problem with Hotpoint, Indesit, Creda, Swan and Proline tumble dryers made between April 2004 and September 2015.
Fluff was found to gather on the heating element and this caused 750 fires.
In all 5.2 million tumble dryers were affected by the fire problem.
If a dryer has a green dot sticker on the door rim, the door or on the back, it has already been factory modified and Whirlpool says it will be safe to use.
Add your model into the search bar below to check if your tumble dryer is affected.
If your tumble dryer is on the list and was bought between April 2004 and September 2015 you will need to stop using it and contact Whirlpool, which owns all the affected brands, to register with it.
Once you have done that, you will be able to choose from these options:
In 2017 Currys announced a recall of the Logik LVD7W15 tumble dryers manufactured between March and April 2016.
Currys told us that the heating element in a small number of machines might pose a safety hazard, leading to overheating and fire.
If you own one of these Logik dryers, stop using it now and contact Currys on 0344 561 6202. You will be asked for the serial number of your machine and your postcode at the time of purchase.
The serial number is on the inside of the door and on the rating label on the back of the machine.
Beko and Blomberg tumble dryers safety recall.
Beko and Blomberg 6kg, 7kg, 8kg and 9kg condenser tumble dryers manufactured between May and November 2012 could pose a safety risk and have been recalled by the manufacturer.
Beko says it was made aware of a small number of incidents involving the dryers where an electrical component failed and overheated, which led to the risk of fire.
These are the affected 6kg and 7kg capacity tumble dryers:
These are the affected 8kg and 9kg capacity Beko and Blomberg tumble dryers:
You can also call 0800 917 2018 to find out if any of the above tumble dryers have been recalled.
Around 1,800 White Knight condenser tumble dryers manufactured between October 2010 and June 2011 and with the following model numbers could overheat and catch fire.
These are the affected White Knight models:
0312 76A 15010 (77AW)
0312 76A 15002 (77AW)
0312 767 15009 (767C)
0312 76A 15330 (77AS)
0312 76A 31000 (CL76AWH)
If you own one of these machines, contact White Knight on 0800 988 1323.
We've reviewed the latest tumble dryers from all the leading brands, including AEG, Beko, Bosch, Hotpoint, Indesit, Miele, White Knight and Zanussi.
Every single tumble dryer we review goes through the same set of tests, including drying quality, speed, noise and energy use – so you can compare our reviews with confidence.
Each tumble dryer gets a Which? review score so you can immediately see, at a glance, which are the best and the worst. And you can compare models on their different features and specifications.
Our tests cover all price ranges and brands of tumble dryer and include all the latest vented, condenser and heat pump tumble dryers, both integrated and freestanding.
If we find that a tumble dryer is bad enough to be a Don’t Buy, you can be sure that it’s one to avoid. No matter how attractive the price may be, it won’t do a good job in your home and is best left in the shop.