Tumble dryers buying guide

If you've a busy household or no garden, getting the washing dry in the colder months 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. In this guide we'll explain the differences between different types and help you choose the kind of dryer that's best for you. 

View our range of tumble dryers, which includes a number of models that are available for express delivery; and remember that we can also remove your old machine when we deliver your new one.


How to choose a tumble dryer


If your machine is to go under a worktop or into a confined space:

  • Measure up available space before ordering
  • Measure areas of delivery access too

Short of floor space?

  • You may be able to stack your tumble dryer on top of your washing machine
  • Consider putting it in a spare room or garage
  • We don't recommend an external location for dryers with heat pump technology though, as they need to operate within a minimum ambient temperature range


Capacity and the drum

Most full-sized tumble dryers are about the same size:

  • They'll usually dry a similar load to their corresponding washing machines; a kilo equals roughly an outfit such as a pair of trousers, top, underwear and socks
  • Dryers have larger drums than washers - the larger the drum, the better the efficiency of hot air flow through the machine, the faster the drying time
  • Allowing fabrics plenty of room to tumble also means less creasing
  • Best quality machines have long lasting stainless steel drums, and provide a smooth finish so fabrics don't catch
  • 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


Vented or condenser tumble dryer?

Vented dryers:

  • 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
  • You can fit a permanent vent  in an outside wall,  or simply hang the hose out of an open window
  • Vented machines are cheaper than condenser models and normally use less energy, but you the vent or hose limits the location of the machine in your home

Condenser dryers:

  • Separate water from the moist air into a container which you empty after drying
  • Some machines pumped the moisture out via the washing machine plumbing 
  • You can install a condenser dryer in any well-ventilated room
  • Though the majority are a little more expensive to run, you may prefer the freedom of being hose-free

Heat pump technology

  • This features in a growing number of condenser models and results in an A energy rating
  • Heat pump tumble dryers re-circulate warm air used in the dryer rather than letting it escape
  • Hot, humid air from the dryer is passed through a heat pump for re-use
  • This method means that the dryer avoids the need for ducting and conserves much of its heat, using up to 50% less energy.
  • Don't locate a dryer with a heat pump in a garage or outbuilding as it needs to operate within a minimum ambient temperature range

Tumble dryer features, and fabric symbols


Heat settings

  • There are a few with three settings, for cottons, synthetics and a third usually for delicates
  • They also have a timer or sensor to control the length of the drying cycle
  • A final cool tumble means that during the last 10 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
  • Sensor drying works by detecting when your clothes are dry and stops the cycle accordingly, saving energy
  • 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 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


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 as shown above.

Energy efficiency and the environment

All tumble dryers 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 if you want to save energy:

  • Invest in an A-rated heat pump condenser model or one with sensor drying to help you use less energy
  • Don't overload the machine
  • Dry similar fabrics together
  • Spin dry your washload at the highest spin speed possible before loading the dryer so that clothes aren't too wet
  • A timer delay on a machine means you can use the machine overnight on a cheaper electricity tariff

Delivery, recycling and disposal

We'll collect and recycle your old appliance:

  • 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 usually be delivered by one of our green vans
  • If you've chosen a vented machine, we canconnect the vent hose to an existing wall duct for £8
  • We'll remove and dispose of all packaging responsibly
  • For £9 you'll also be able to arrange for collection and recycling of your old appliance so that we can dispose of it safely
  • This service isn't available if your machine is delivered direct to you by one of our approved suppliers

Book and pay for installation and/or disposal when you place your order:

You can also  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 our delivery area, or select a machine that's delivered by one of our approved suppliers, we're sorry that we can't offer a collection service, so you'll need to take your old appliance to a local recycling centre or arrange for it to be collected by your local council.

Washer dryers

Washer dryers have all the usual functions of a separate appliances, but it’s worth considering the pros and cons:

  • Pros

  • They provide a practical space-saving solution if you don't have room for both a washing machine and tumble dryer
  • They’re useful for small households where the amount of laundry done doesn't warrant a full-sized tumble dryer
  • 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 - the more you pay, the more features you get, most of which help to save you energy
  • They have a wet condenser system that uses cold water for the drying process; this water is removed via the machine's outlet hose, so you don't need to vent or empty water
  • Some brands feature a heat pump in their washer dryers, which recycles the heat in the drum
  • Cons

  • They're more limited in their tumble drying function because of the size of the drum, which will usually restrict you to drying a load that’s smaller than the one you’ve just washed
  • A washer dryer may not be practical for larger households, or large laundry loads
  • The smaller drum size means wetter laundry takes longer to dry than in a separate tumble dryer
  • Because they have a wet condenser system that uses cold water for the drying process, you'll use more water
  • Cold water rather than cold air is used in the latter stages of the cycle to cool the hot moist air, so your laundry may not feel completely dry when you take it out - but it's just surface moisture