Tumble Dryers

A tumble drying is a real boon for large, often time-poor families, but which is best for you? This is our guide to help you decide.

Most models have sensors in the drum that detect moisture levels and adjust cycle times accordingly – reducing drying times, saving you time and money.

Freestanding tumble dryers: If you like taking your appliances with you when you move house, or want the flexibility to move things around, freestanding tumble dryers are the option for you. Generally, these are sized to fit under a standard worktop height of 85cm with a depth of 60cm.

Integrated tumble dryers: For maximum sophistication and style, hide away your tumble dryer behind doors that match your decor. Integrated tumble dryers have a slightly smaller capacity than freestanding units with a typical depth of 53cm. They also tend to be slightly pricier than equivalent freestanding units.

Semi-integrated tumble dryers: Also costing more than freestanding models, these combine the style of integrated tumble dryers with the practicality of having the control panel visible.

Vented, condenser or heat pump?

There are three types of tumble dryers to choose from.

Vented: Vented models work by venting the damp, hot air from the drum through a flexible pipe. Generally speaking, this means you’ll need to place your tumble dryer against an outside wall or, at the very least, near a window that you can hang the pipe out of. Whilst the window method does work, it isn’t ideal when the weather is cold and wet. Most models will come with a vent kit. Vented models are a more traditional type of dryer and, spec for spec, are generally cheaper than condensor models.

Condenser: These work by condensing the steam inside the machine, turning it into water. This water is stored in a removable container – simply empty it into the sink when full. As you don’t need a vent pipe, you have a lot more flexibility as regards its location. You still need a well-ventilated room though.

Heat pump: More expensive, but cheaper to run, these machines use clever technology to use hot air to extract water from the load, which then evaporates in a tank.


Tumble dryers have always been perceived as using a lot of energy. To address this, manufacturers have introduced sensors that monitor load humidity. If they detect less than expected moisture, they can shorten the cycle length, in theory saving you money, although sensor models will be more expensive to purchase.

Manual and timed tumble dryers

Without any sensor technology, you have to programme the machine yourself. The big disadvantage is that you may find that you are drying the load for longer than necessary, costing you money and damaging your clothing.


Tumble dryers are simple to operate. Manual models have at least two or three settings: cottons, synthetics, and delicates. Sensor dryers usually have more programs, allowing you to choose the most suitable setting.

Most tumble dryers will have three degrees of dryness for both cotton and synthetic settings:

Iron dry: This setting leaves the laundry slightly damp, to make ironing easier, although you have to do that ironing as soon as the cycle has finished

Cupboard dry: This setting makes sure the laundry is dry enough to be put away once the cycle has ended

Extra dry: This is best for larger items such as duvets or pillows as it makes sure everything is totally dry

Other settings to look out for include:

Wool: Make sure the machine has been approved by the Woolmark Company. It will say this in the manual and/or have a small wool symbol by the setting on the tumble dryer

Mixed: This is the setting to use when you’re drying a variety of different materials

Shoes: Some tumble dryers come with a shoe rack – these will suspend the shoes in the middle of the drum as the drum rotates

Drum size

Typically, drum sizes range as follows: 

7kg35 t-shirts/double duvetBest for small families
8kg40 t-shirts/queen duvetBest for medium families
9kg45 t-shirts/king duvetBest for large families
10kg50 t-shirts/king duvetBest for large families

What to look out for

Water filter: Check the filter is easy to remove and the water tank is in an accessible position.

Child locks: Never accidentally dry Lego bricks or car keys again.

Time remaining display: Some sensor dryers will estimate how long your washing will take to dry.

Delay start: With this feature, you can choose to start drying your load at a time that is convenient or more sociable.

Reversible doors: This allows you to swap your door hinge position so that you always have the best access possible.

Warning LEDs: Simple warning lights that let you know when you need to empty the water container or clean the filter

Reverse drum: The drum turns in both directions, aiding the drying process and helping to avoid creasing.

Anti-crease action: The drum continues to turn at the end of a cycle to help prevent tangling and make ironing easier

Energy efficiency

It is possible to get a dryer rated A+++, although these tend to be pricey. The more viable option will be to go for A++ machines. While the latest sensor models are considerably better than traditional machines, the running costs often depend on how much time the machine is drying for and how hard it has to work. A higher spin on your washing machine, for instance, will mean less work for your tumble dryer. Loosening laundry after the wash before you put it in the tumble dryer is another way to prevent lengthy drying times. You can also keep costs down by not overloading the machine or by drying similar fabrics together.

Before you buy a new tumble dryer

Make sure that your clothes are suitable for dry cleaning. If you have problems, you may need to decrease your load size or change your settings (to “cupboard dry”, for instance) to avoid shrinkage.

Separate fabrics before tumble-drying. This can reduce drying time and save energy as well as ensure fabric types are dried at the correct temperature for the care label.

Clumped-together fabrics take longer to dry. Shake out your clothing and sheets before putting them in the tumble dryer. 

Don’t overload your tumble dryer and avoid adding really heavy items like duvets and blankets. There may not be enough air to circulate and you could overheat the dryer. Check the manual to see what you can and can’t dry.

Clean the lint filters after each cycle to keep your machine running at peak efficiency and, every few months, wipe the drum with white vinegar or stainless-steel cleaner to keep the sensor working well. If you have a condenser dryer, check your user guide to find out how to remove the heat exchanger (which turns the steam back into water) and then clean it under a running a tap.