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Tumble dryer tips and maintenance

By Matt Stevens

It's important to keep your tumble dryer clean and well maintained. To get the best results from your tumble dryer follow our simple tips.

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From simple maintenance tips to answering your common questions around tumble dryer upkeep and solving problems, our guide will tell you all you need to know about keeping your machine in tip-top condition.

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Simple tumble dryer cleaning and maintenance tips 

Cleaning the sensor

If your tumble dryer uses a sensor - which detects how wet your clothes are and therefore how much drying time they need - you’ll need to wipe the drum every few months with white vinegar or stainless-steel cleaner to keep the sensor working well.

Cleaning the lint filters

To keep your tumble dryer running at peak efficiency, you should clean the lint filter every time you use the dryer. If there is a lint filter in the door and/or rim, clear the entire rim at the same time.

Cleaning the heat exchanger (condenser dryers only)

Regularly remove and clean the heat exchanger (which turns the steam back into water) by running it under a tap. You'll find this located at the bottom of the machine, under the drum. Washing this will help to get rid of any built-up dirt and hair.

Emptying the water reservoir (condenser dryers only)

You should do this after each load to ensure you can run a drying cycle with a full load without having to stop halfway through to empty the tank.

Want to know which tumble dryer is best for you? Take a look at all of our tumble dryer reviews.

Where to find your tumble dryers model number 

Where the model number (sometimes labelled 'mod') is located will vary from machine to machine. Generally speaking though, they can usually be found in one of the following places:

  • on either side of the machine;
  • on the back of the dryer;
  • on the inside of the door, either on the door itself, or the machine (see example image below);
  • behind the ‘kick plate’ (the panel at the bottom on the front of the machine);
  • inside the flap over the filter at the bottom of the machine.

You should be able to find out exactly where it is by reading your instruction manual, or calling by the manufacturer.

Why is my tumble dryer not drying/heating up? 

There are a number of reasons why your tumble dryer might not be drying or heating up. Before you call out a professional, it’s worth taking a look at a few things to see if you can fix it yourself.

The problem may be down to the heating element malfunctioning, or the thermal overload cutting out (a mechanism built into the machine to stop it working if it overheats). Both problems are often down to there not being a proper airflow through the machine.

First of all, clean the sensor, lint filters and heat exchanger (if you have a condenser dryer) as mentioned above, to see if that helps.

If you have a vented tumble dryer, it's worth checking the hose to make sure this isn't obstructed or bent, stopping air from circulating out of the machine.

A dryer not heating is often caused by air not being able to circulate properly.

If these steps don't solve the issue, it may be that you're overloading the machine with clothes. Cramming the machine too full will stop the air being able to circulate freely, and therefore overheat the machine.

Opening the door during the cycle can also cause problems as this can interrupt how the air heats up and cools down.

If it is the thermal overload that has cut out, you may be able to simply reset it. To do this:

  1. unplug the machine;
  2. pull the tumble dryer out as far as you can;
  3. take the back panel off by unscrewing it;
  4. where you can see a collection of wires and small black box, either on the panel itself or the back of the machine, press the red button in. 

If it has tripped, you should hear a click. 

If you continue to have issues, the heating element is probably broken. Before you call in a professional to fix it, first check your warranty to see if it can still be repaired by the retailer or manufacturer.

You can see our advice on product faults and warranties on our Which? Consumer Rights website.

Why is my tumble dryer tripping my fuse box? 

If your tumble dryer is tripping your electrics, it could be as simple as water or fluff having built up inside the machine. Clean all elements, as mentioned above, and look for any dampness or damage. If anything is wet, leave the machine open to dry for as long as possible.

If that doesn't work, it could be down to there being an electrical issue with the heating element. 

To investigate, first turn off the machine and unplug it. The location of the heating element, and the connections to it, may vary depending on the brand and model of tumble dryer you have. 

Once you have located the heating element, disconnect it from the wires it's plugged into. You'll need a multimeter to test it. This is a device that can detect and measure electrical current, voltage and resistance. They can be bought online for as little as £10.

Use a low-resistance setting on the meter. If the reading you get is lower than 20 or higher than 100 ohms, it's faulty and will need replacing.  

 

The problem could be caused by fluff or water building up in the machine.

Another cause might be the mains filter, which works to stop 'interference' from the mains supply getting into the tumble dryer and damaging it. They are normally located at the back of the machine at the top or bottom. 

Again, make sure you turn your dryer off and unplug it first. Once you have, look for any burn marks, bulges or liquid at the bottom, like you will have with the rest of the machine. 

You can also use a multimeter here to test for faults. Again, use a low-resistance setting. If the reading is less than three or four ohms, it's faulty. 

Lastly, the issue could be to do with the control board. As this is responsible for so many things on the dryer, it can be hard to find the exact cause. 

Try checking for faults in the circuits of the different elements - such as the motor that powers water being drained or to lock the door - to see if one of those is the cause. If not, it's likely to be the panel as a whole.

If you're not confident with checking electrical elements, then call in a professional. You can use our website, Which? Trusted Traders, to find recommended electricians, plumbers and appliance specialists in your area.

Why is my tumble dryer not turning? 

The first thing to do is to check whether the tumble dryer belt, which is what rotates the drum, has slipped out of position, stretched or broken. You can do this by spinning the drum - if it's easier than normal to spin, it's likely that there is an issue with the belt.

You can also ascertain whether the belt is the cause by listening to the dryer. If the motor sounds like it's running at a faster pace, possibly making a high-pitched noise to, a defective belt is the likely culprit.

However, if you find it harder to spin than normal, it may be that the drum has seized up. This can be a result of a bearing having worn through, a damaged pulley or the support shaft being cut off.

 

Tumble dryer belts can break because the machine has been overloaded.

It may also be that the motor or start capacitor has failed. If this is the case, it's likely that there will still be lights on the machine, but no noise coming from it, or a low humming noise.

You can also tell this by spinning the drum by hand and quickly closing the door. If it keeps spinning, the start capacitor is probably broken, but if it stops, the motor is likely to be the problem

Because replacing a tumble dryer belt is a complicated job, and motors and starter capacitors can hold a lot of potentially dangerous electrical charge, you'd be best to call someone in to fix it.

As mentioned above, it is worth taking a look at your warranty before you call someone in. However, if your belt is the problem, it may not be covered. This is because belts can be classed as natural 'wear and tear' items. In addition, the cause of a belt fault can be down to overloading the machine.

Tumble dryer hose and tumble dryer vent kit 

Tumble dryer hoses can only be found on vented tumble dryers. This is because they are needed to expel the hot and damp air from the machine. Condenser and heat-pump dryers, on the other hand, condense and recycle the hot air within the machine.

If you're buying a vented tumble dryer, a lot of them will come with all you need to vent it, so you won't need to buy a separate tumble dryer hose or vent kit. However, with some, you will need to buy them as an additional item. 

You can buy hoses for as little as £5, but you'll need to buy adaptors to fit it to the machine, while vent kits, which costs around £15 to £20, come with all you need to fix it in place. Both are universal, so will fit onto any vented machine.

Tumble dryer symbols 

On most clothes you’ll find a care label, which will tell you how you can and can’t wash and dry it.

For tumble dryers, there are four, which you can see below. These mean:

  • Square with empty circle - can be tumble dried.
  • Square with one dot in the circle - can be tumble dried on a low heat setting.
  • Square with two dots in the circle - can be tumble dried on a high heat setting.
  • Square and empty circle with cross through - cannot be tumble dried.

Tumble dryer balls and dryer sheets 

Dryer balls 

Dryer balls, which have a number of bumps on their surface, work to help your clothes drying quicker. They do this by knock the fibres of your laundry around. This action can help to make clothes softer, too.

Dryer sheets

Dryer sheets are designed to help stop clothes creasing, soften them, stop static from forming and keep them fresh.

Dryer sheets have been known to reduce the absorbency of certain fabrics, such as towels, in the same way fabric conditioners can.

We’ve never used tumble dryer balls or sheets in our tests, but we have found that Best Buy tumble dryers do the job of drying clothes evenly and quickly, and minimise creases with no additional help.

Tumble drying tips 

Separate fabrics before tumble drying.

Simply taking a mixed load of clothes from your washing machine and loading it into your tumble dryer might feel like the easiest way to get the laundry done, but it's not the most efficient way to dry clothes. 

To reduce drying times and save energy, separate different fabrics and dry similar clothes together. This also increases the evenness of drying.

Loosen laundry before drying.

A tightly bound bundle of wet laundry will take a long time to dry in a tumble dryer. However much the machine tumbles the load, some bundled-together clothes will end up dry while some will still be damp. 

So, when you take your laundry out of the washing machine, loosen it. This will help to prevent lengthy drying times, will help clothes dry evenly and will help to reduce creasing.

Avoid tumble drying extremely large items such as duvets and blankets

Don't overload your tumble dryer.

Because of their size, some items will never be suitable for a tumble dryer, so always avoid tumble drying extremely large items such as duvets and blankets. 

Even if you have one of the new breed of 10kg drum dryers, there won't be enough space for air to circulate, and this can overheat the dryer.

Overloading the machine can also lead to other problems, such as the belt that turns the drum breaking.

Check the care labels.

Different types of fabrics can withstand different levels of heat, and some shouldn't be tumble dried at all. See our advice on tumble dryer symbols above for more. 

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