Tumble dryers buying guide

You can't always hang your washing out to dry, and if you've a busy household or no garden, getting the washing dry can be a problem. Tumble drying speeds up the laundry process and will leave fabrics soft and fluffy - and today's machines are much more energy-efficient. We can even remove your old machineView our range of tumble dryers.

Watch our videos on John Lewis and Hotpoint tumble dryers.

Choosing a tumble dryer

Most full-sized tumble dryers are about the same size and usually dry a similar weight or load to their corresponding washing machines, i.e. around 6kg dry weight of cottons or 2.5kg synthetics.

If you're short of floor space, you may be able to stack your tumble dryer on top of your washing machine, or use it in a spare room or garage.

If the machine is to go under a worktop or into a confined space, please ensure you measure up available space before ordering and don't forget to measure areas of access too.

Vented or condenser?

You will need to choose between a vented or condenser tumble dryer.

vented machine takes the damp air produced by the drying process and discharges it outside the home using a 2m plastic hose (sometimes supplied) to prevent condensation. A permanent vent can be fitted in an outside wall or you can simply hang the hose out of an open window. Vented machines are cheaper than condenser models and normally use less energy, but you will need to install the appliance near an outside wall or window which may not always be possible, especially if you live in a flat.

If you pay a little more you can buy a condenser dryer where the machine separates water from the moist air into a container which is emptied after drying, or sometimes pumped out via the washing machine plumbing if appropriate. You can install a condenser dryer in any well-ventilated room, and though the majority are a little more expensive to run you may prefer the freedom of not having to use a hose. (A growing number of condenser models feature clever heat pump technology that results in an energy rating of 'A'.)

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The tumble drying process

Tumble dryers have larger drums than washing machines, because the larger the drum, the better the efficiency of hot air flow through the machine resulting in faster drying times. Allowing fabrics plenty of room to tumble also means less creasing. The best quality machines have long lasting stainless steel drums, and provide a smooth finish so fabrics don't catch.

Most machines have two heat settings, for cottons or synthetics. There are a few with three settings, with the third usually for delicates. They also have a timer or sensor to control the length of the drying cycle. During the last ten minutes or so of the cycle, the heating element is turned off and the fabrics tumble in cooling air back to ambient room temperature. This reduces the effect of static and 'fibre shock', which causes creasing. Some machines have a cool air setting which can be used to air fabrics stored away for some time.

Most full-size machines have a reverse tumble feature which means that the drum rotates both ways, pausing in between. This keeps laundry separated and dries it more evenly and quickly. Some machines even have a crease care feature; they'll continue to give fabrics an intermittent tumble for half an hour or more at the end of the cycle so they don't get creased in the drum if you can't empty the machine straight away.

Your tumble dryer will also have a filter, often on the inside of the door, which collects stray fibres and needs to be cleaned out regularly to ensure best drying performance.

Fabrics

May be tumble dried May be tumble dried
Tumble dry on a low heat setting Tumble dry at a low heat setting
Tumble dry on a high heat setting Tumble dry at a high heat setting
Do not tumble dry Do not tumble dry

Many fabrics will withstand tumble drying, but do check wash care labels for the relevant symbol. Use this handy table as a guide.

Energy efficiency and the environment

All machines receive an energy and drying performance grading A -G, A being the most economical. Standardised tests, monitored by Trading Standards, are carried out across the industry and manufacturers are responsible for grading their own appliances. Running costs will depend on how much time the machine is drying for and how hard it has to work.

Dryers cost more to run than washing machines, but you could invest in an A-rated heat pump condenser model to help you use less energy. Another way of helping to keep costs down is by by ensuring that you don't overload the machine, dry similar fabrics together, and spin dry your washload at the highest spin speed as possible before loading the dryer.

Some machines will have a timer delay so you can use the machine overnight on a cheaper electricity tariff. Others have sensors which tell them when the washing is dry and then shut off the heater, saving energy and preventing over-drying; you'll pay a bit more but will save on running costs.

Delivery, recycling and disposal

If you live within the delivery area of a John Lewis shop (you can check your postcode on the specific product page), your new appliance will be delivered by one of our vans. You will also be able to arrange for collection and recycling of your old appliance (at a cost of £9) so that we can dispose of it safely.

Disposal must be booked and paid for when you place your order, and we can only remove the old appliance if it has been disconnected. Once your old appliance has been removed, it is deemed of no value and we will be unable to return it to you.

Alternatively, you can take your old appliance to a local recycling centre to be recycled free of charge (visit www.recycle-more.co.uk to find you nearest site). If you live outside a delivery area, then your new appliance will be delivered by one of our couriers who are unable to collect, so you will need to take your old appliance to a local recycling centre.

Washer dryers

These provide a practical space-saving solution if you don't have room for both a washing machine and tumble dryer, and are also useful for small households where the amount of laundry done doesn't warrant a full sized drying machine.

Washer dryers have all the usual functions of a washing machine, but they are more limited in their tumble drying function because of the size of the drum, which will restrict you to drying only half a wash load at a time. Of course you'll also only be able to wash or dry at one time, so for larger households or large laundry loads, this option can be impractical.

Bear in mind that the drum size means wetter laundry takes longer to dry in a washer dryer, and that it uses a wet condenser system which actually uses cold water for the drying process, so increasing water consumption. However, because this water

is removed via the machine's outlet hose, the bonus is that there's no need to vent or to empty water. Because cold water rather than cold air is being used to cool the hot moist air in the latter stages of the cycle, your washing won't feel completely dry when you take it out of the machine - but this is just surface moisture which evaporates quickly. In all other respects, the washer dryer works in the same way as a separate machine.

Although they do use more energy, they still come equipped with timers or sensors and use a turbo drying system to force air around the clothes to help them dry more quickly. The washing machine part of the washer dryer will be as sophisticated or basic as a separate machine, and the more you pay, the more features you get, most of which help to save you energy.