Tumble dryer buying guide

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While it’s not essential, a tumble dryer is a godsend if you have a large family that gets through a lot of laundry every week, or if you don’t have space to hang washing to dry.

Most models also feature the latest sensor technology. These sensors, found inside the drum, detect the amount of moisture in the drum and automatically tailor the program and length of the cycle based on the sensor reading. The sensors help to reduce drying times, offering greater energy efficiency and saving time.

Before you buy a new tumble dryer

Think about where your tumble dryer is going to sit. It doesn’t have to be in the kitchen, it could live in the utility room, or even a spare room. Just make sure the room is well ventilated.

Freestanding tumble dryers: A freestanding dryer offers the most flexibility if you want the option to move it from one location to another. Standard dimensions should fit under most kitchen worktops at a height of 85cm and a width and depth of 60cm.

Integrated tumble dryers: These machines are designed to be installed within a kitchen unit and hidden behind a door matching your other cupboards. This type can be pricier and slightly smaller than freestanding machines, with the same height and width of freestanding ones but less depth, at 53cm.

Semi-integrated tumble dryers: These can also cost more than freestanding models. The control panel is visible, while the dryer drum is hidden behind a door. You’ll need a door panel from your kitchen supplier to match your kitchen units.

What’s the difference between vented, condenser and heat pump dryers?

There are three dryer types of tumble dryer to choose from:


Vented models pump out the hot and damp air from the drum through a flexible hose to the outside, so you will need the dryer to be next to a wall or window. The machine can be permanently vented through an outside wall using a venting kit - most models come with their own kit. Or you can temporarily hang a flexible hose out of a window when the machine is in use. This is a temporary method that’s not ideal during cold or wet weather. Vented tumble dryers are the more traditional type of dryer, and tend to be the cheapest models.


With condensers, you don’t need to connect the exhaust hose through a vent to the outside, and these dryers can be put anywhere in your home that’s well ventilated. They work by condensing the steam inside the machine and turning it into water. This is collected in a removable container or reservoir. The containers easily pull out and can be emptied into the sink when full. Most machines will have an indicator light to let you know when the container needs to be emptied.

Heat pump

The newest heat-pump operated models use clever technology to dry your laundry by using hot air to extract water from the load, which then evaporates in a tank. These tend to be the most expensive models with the most sophisticated features. Heat-pump dryers are also more energy-efficient than the other types.

The GHI’s top tumble dryers Best tumble dryer DV90N8289AW Samsung johnlewis.com £869.99 Buy now This is Samsung’s newest tumble dryer and is the most energy-efficient model we’ve ever tested. It has a generous 9kg load capacity that makes it great for large families. This model also works with a user-friendly app that lets you start and stop your cycle, and find out which programme would work best for the laundry you’ve put in the drum. Unfortunately, you won’t get away without having to iron. In our tests, both cotton and synthetic laundry was left creased. But this machine dries both cotton and synthetic laundry quickly. Cottons took around an hour and 40 minutes, and synthetics dried in a speedy 45 minutes. It also comes with a dedicated shoe-drying rack too. While it’s a pricey upfront investment, this model pays dividends in the end because it costs so little to run. Runner-up tumble dryer GTN38267GC Grundig £599.99 Buy now This tumble dryer impressed us with its drying speed and straightforward control panel. While this model doesn’t feature any app connectivity or shoe drying rack like the winning Samsung, it’s still a top performer. It’s faster than its timer initially suggested, but at the end of the cotton cycle, the display timer kept saying that there was between a minute remaining and three minutes remaining for around 10 minutes – which shows you can’t rely on the timer. Cottons took nearly two hours to dry, and it took just 40 minutes for synthetics to dry. You’ll be able to get away with not having to iron synthetic shirts, but cotton shirts came out very creased. When drying cottons, all the water was removed and it used minimal energy. However, we found synthetics weren’t left as dry. On average, 92% of the water was removed, leaving it feeling slightly damp. Best budget tumble dryer Grundig GTN27110GW Grundig £329.99 Buy now This budget Grundig has one of the smallest drums of the models we’ve tried, so it’s better suited to smaller families. We were glad to see that this dryer caused no shrinkage, but you’ll have to iron any cotton shirts, although synthetic shirts came out looking as good as new. Like the other Grundig models from our tests, we had issues with the sensor. On test, this model stopped both the cotton and synthetic drying cycles prematurely. Both loads needed around 20 minutes more drying time. It’s also worth bearing in mind that the power consumption is quite high, so it may cost more than average to run. Fastest tumble dryer DTGC7000W Beko £199.00 Buy now This budget model from Beko is the fastest on our roundup on both the cotton and synthetic settings that we tested. It took just over an hour on the cotton cycle and only 25 minutes to dry synthetic fabrics. It has a simple design, and this model doesn’t have a progress indicator display to show you how long it has left (something all other models on the list have). But we were glad to see that this dryer caused no significant shrinkage and that synthetic shirts weren’t creased after drying. The sensor worked well, stopping the cycle as soon as the clothing was dry. We were disappointed to see very high consumption on the relatively fast cotton cycle, but it was low for the synthetic cycle. The dryer comes with an anti-crease function which automatically rotates the drum at the end of the cycle to separate clothes and to minimise creasing.
What to consider before buying a tumble dryer

Sensor technology

Tumble dryers have always been seen as appliances that use a lot of energy. The brands that manufacture them have tried to address this by creating sensors. These sensors monitor the humidity in the drum throughout the cycle and stop the dryer as soon as your laundry is dry, saving you time and money. On test, we found that on some models, the laundry still came out slightly damp. While tumble dryers with sensors are generally more expensive, when they work well they should help you save on running costs in the long run.

Manual and timed tumble dryers

These are generally cheaper than sensor dryers, but you’ll have to program the machine yourself and may find you’re drying the load for longer than necessary. Overdrying laundry can add extra costs to your energy bills and damage your clothing.


Tumble dryers are simple to operate. There are two main types: manual and sensor. 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 – you have to do the 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

A large-capacity tumble dryer is the most energy-efficient way of drying your laundry, as clothes tend to take less time to dry than smaller or compact dryers. Generally, the capacity for regular, freestanding machines ranges from 7kg – 10kg. This approximately equates to the following:

7kg: 35 T-Shirts/double duvet. Best for small families

8kg: 40 T-Shirts/Queen duvet. Best for medium families

9kg: 45 T-Shirts/summer King duvet. Best for large families

10kg: 50 T-Shirts/winter King duvet. Best 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 – waist height is ideal to save you from bending

Child locks: These are useful to stop children from fiddling with the controls

Time remaining display: Some sensor models will estimate how long your washing will take to dry, but take this with a pinch of salt as on some of our tests we found the timer inaccurate

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

Reversible doors: Rather like fridge doors, some models allow you to swap the direction the door opens – this gives you more flexibility about where to locate your machine

Warning LEDs: It can be useful to have warning light which comes on to let you know when you need to empty the water container or clean the lint filter

Reverse drum: The drum can turn in both direction, clockwise and anti-clockwise, 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

Washer-dryers vs tumble dryers

Investing in both a washing machine and a tumble dryer can be expensive, and you may not have enough room to store two big appliances. This is where washer-dryers come in handy. There’s a lot to consider before you buy one, as they’re two appliances in one, but they can be a great solution if you’re short on space or looking for an all-in-one laundry machine.

The ‘washer’ part works like any standard washing machine. You fill it up with laundry, the drum fills with water and mixes with the detergent, soaking into the clothing. The drum moves around using an agitator. After that, it drains and refills with water to rinse out the detergent. It drains again then spins to remove any excess water.

The ‘dryer’ part works like a heat-pump tumble dryer. They reheat the air that’s sucked out of the laundry during the cycle and cools it so it condenses back to water, which is then drained.

In our tests, we’ve found that washer-dryers usually aren’t as good as using a separate washing machine and dryer, but this is because they can have drying capacities that are half – if not more – than their washing capacity. You have to factor in that while you may be able to wash 10kg, you might only be able to dry 4kg in the same machine.

We test washer-dryers to find out if they live up to their promises, and we’ve washed and dried hundreds of kilos of laundry to find the best ones you can buy.

The GHI’s top washer-dryers Best washer-dryer WD14U520GB Washer Dryer Siemens £776.00 Buy now This Siemens model is one of the more high-end washer-dryers in the brand’s range and the winner of our tests. It has a generous 10kg capacity and good stain removal, making it a great choice for a family. We thought the ‘reload’ function that allows you to pause the wash and anything you’ve forgotten was a useful feature. This machine performed very well for stain removal on cottons, removing an impressive 85% of stains, compared to 82% of stains from synthetics. In our tests, it dried efficiently and very quickly too, taking just over an hour to dry cottons and 55 minutes to dry synthetics. Its electricity consumption was low compared to other models we tried, but the cotton drying cycle left clothes very creased. Runner-up washer-dryer Serie 6 WDU28560GB Washer Dryer Bosch £879.00 Buy now While pricey, this is one of Bosch’s mid-range freestanding models. It has a jog wheel control which is clearly labelled and the touch screen is intuitive. It’s really simple to operate and we like that some cycles can be paused to allow you to add forgotten items into the wash, like the winner. Anyone who is sensitive to washing detergents will be pleased to know the default rinsing cycles are effective compared to other models tested. You can also choose an option for an even more thorough rinse. We did notice some timer inaccuracy during the cotton wash cycle, and this wasn’t the case with our winner. The timer said that there was one minute remaining before the rinse had finished. After displaying one minute for a while, it suddenly switched to over an hour remaining. The synthetic drying cycle is quick and clothes weren’t overly creased. The cotton drying cycle is also speedy, clothes were almost perfectly dried but heavily creased. Both the wash cycles and the combined wash and dry cycle used an average amount of energy. Consumption on the drying cycles was low on the whole, though not lower than the winner. Most economical WTF121WPM Washer Dryer Miele £1,699.00 Buy now As always with Miele, you pay a premium price for a premium product. This model is really quiet, the control panel is intuitive, and the large display screen is clear with helpful prompts. It removed 71% of stains on cotton and 82% of stains on synthetics, which would be fine for laundry with ordinary dirt and staining. Helpfully, for heavily stained clothes, there’s an intensive option which can be activated for most cycles if you need better stain removal. During the combined wash and dry cycle, we noticed that the timer got stuck and said there were 12 minutes remaining for over an hour. This model is the most energy-efficient on the list. The consumption for the wash cycles was very low – lower than our winner. And this Miele scored full marks for low energy usage on our drying cycles and the combined wash and dry test. The cotton drying programme over dried our clothes, leaving them very creased, while the synthetic programme left clothes a little damp. Though expensive, this is a quiet machine with lots of programmes and straightforward controls – it’s an upfront cost that’ll save money in the long run. Best budget washer-dryer WDA914401 Beko £566.00 Buy now This is one of the more basic washer-dryers in Beko’s range. We were impressed by the overall design of this Beko washer-dryer. It’s intuitive, has a good drum size and an attractive appearance. It also scored highly for its drying efficiency and we were pleased with its separate wash cycle stain removal. However, the drying was so strong that it did over-dry some laundry in places, causing it to harden. This indicates that the maximum drying capacity was too high and it found it difficult to dry evenly. The combination wash failed to remove stains as effectively as a separate wash too. We also saw a lot of shrinkage on our cotton drying test. The energy consumption was neither markedly high or particularly efficient on our separate wash and dry tests. Unfortunately, the combined wash and dry cycle used a significant amount of energy, despite it being one of the fastest machines on this list.
Energy efficiency

All machines receive a letter grade from A to G (with A+++ being the most economical). And 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.

Maintenance & care

Most fabrics can withstand tumble-drying but always check the care labels for suitability because some aren’t suitable for tumble-drying. 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 ensuring fabric types are dried at the correct temperature for the care label.

Shake out your clothing and sheets before putting them in the tumble dryer. This will help your clothing dry faster, as clumped-together fabrics take longer to dry.

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.

Also, 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.

How we test tumble dryers

To put tumble dryers to the test, we wash the maximum loads of cotton and synthetic sheets, towels, and shirts in a standard washing machine using our own tumble-dryer testing setting. Once the washing cycle has finished, we weigh the wet laundry and record it. Then we put all of that wet laundry in the tumble dryer and set it to dry cotton or synthetics, depending on the test. We make a note of the time the dryer suggests it’ll take to dry the load, and set our own timer at the same time too – we’ve seen some machines get to the end of the cycle and say they’ve got ‘one minute to go’ for nearly 15 minutes. We also run every test twice to make sure our results are accurate.

Once it’s finished, we weigh the dried laundry to find out how much water the dryer removed. We also check if the laundry feels damp, if there are any specific damp patches, how creased shirts are, and how tangled it is. On our cotton test, we also include a shrinkage square in with the load. We measure this before and after to see if any shrinkage happens while it’s drying.

During every test we measure energy consumption to find out how economical the tumble dryer is. On some tests, we can find that one program is more economical than others. We assess the ease of use and design too.

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