The best way to dry laundry in winter
How do you dry when the weather turns grim?
At my place over winter, the sun apologetically creeps over the hills for a few hours a day – if it appears at all. So, with my outdoor clothes line hamstrung by this gloomy weather, what’s the best way to dry my washing?
I needed data. I put together a 3kg trial load of bath and tea towels, T-shirts, socks, jeans and synthetic sportswear. I gathered scales, a power meter and a sensor that records temperature and humidity. After being washed in my front-loading machine and spun at 1100rpm, my trial load weighed 4.2kg. That’s 1.2L of water I needed to remove. My ideal method would be minimal hassle, cheap, good for the environment, and it wouldn’t leave my home damp.
I tried five different drying methods and found a clear winner: my vented clothes dryer. It was easy to use, sent all the moisture outside, gave consistent results and, while it wasn’t free, forward-planning minimised the cost to my pocket and the environment. Whenever I can’t dry clothes outside, my dryer will shoulder the workload this winter.
TIP: Use the fastest spin your washing machine will allow and clothing can handle. Spinning at 1100rpm instead of 800rpm removed an extra third (600ml) of moisture from my test load.
Outside on a line
Best for cost, environment and home health, but weather-dependent and a hassle.
On a calm, sunny winter day, six hours on the clothes line shifted just over 40% of the moisture in my washing. The method required me hanging my load out in the morning before I left for work, and remembering to pull it in before the sun dropped and the damp evening undid all my good work. One day of outside hanging didn’t dry my washing, but it was quicker and used less energy to finish it off in my dryer. On a good day, outside line drying costs nothing and has no environmental impact at all.
TIP: A breezy, overcast winter day is better at drying washing than a calm, sunny one.
Indoor on a rack
No cost or environmental impact, but fills your home with moisture.
It’s easier hanging washing on a rack indoors than pegging it outside, and the method works even on filthy-wet days. It comes at zero cost to your wallet and uses no energy. However, my trial found a drying rack was far from a perfect solution. I set mine up in an unheated back room. Though large windows meant the rack was exposed to winter sun, there was no airflow around the wet clothes and I shifted just a third of the moisture in six hours. However, I could leave the load on the rack all day and night to dry. The biggest downside was to the health of my home – all of the moisture from my washing ended up in my back room.
TIP: Make like a DOC Hut: putting the drying rack next to (or above) an electric heater or woodburner will dry clothes faster and keep moisture airborne. You must ventilate the room well though (open a window or two), otherwise you’ll end up with an unhealthy living space full of warm, moist air.
TIP: Put the drying rack in your bathroom and run the extractor fan. It’ll add a few cents to your electricity bill, but the fan will suck some of the moisture outside, and the rest will be in a room designed to cope with damp.
Inside on a rack with a dehumidifier
A dehumidifier makes an indoor drying rack a better option (for a price).
Running a dehumidifier next to the clothes rack adds cost, but you get a triple-whammy of benefits: the dehumidifier heats the room, creates a breeze to help the laundry dry, and sucks up moisture. When I tried a Mitsubishi Electric model running full bore on “laundry” mode next to the drying rack, my clothes were dry in five hours and my room ended up 3°C warmer, with lower humidity than when I started. However, the dehumidifier used 1.9kWh of electricity (costing about 50¢). While I couldn’t fault the increased drying performance, the impact on my wallet was surprisingly high, and the dehumidifier’s noise rendered the room uninhabitable for five hours.
Which dehumidifiers score best for water removal, energy efficiency and quietness? Find out with our test results.
In a clothes dryer
Minimal hassle and drying time, a healthy home, but a lighter wallet and environmental niggles.
Drying the load in my $600 Electrolux vented dryer (using a sensor program) took an hour. All the moisture vented outside. I was expecting it to be the most expensive option, the price I paid for convenience, but it used 1.9kWh – the same as running the dehumidifier for five hours. Looking at my dryer’s specifications, it makes sense: it has a 2100W heating element and a small motor to turn the drum, so an hour of sensor-controlled use should use about 2kW.
TIP: Check whether your electricity plan has cheaper periods, so you can save a few cents per load - some plans offer reduced off-peak rates or even free power for a short period each day. Make sure you're not paying a premium to dry your clothes at peak times.
We’ve tested heat-pump, condenser and vented clothes dryers. Find the most efficient, easiest to use and fastest with our test results.
Supercharge your drying
Just like a heat pump that warms your lounge, heat pump dryers are two to three times more efficient than vented models that use resistance heating. But there’s a catch: they cost two to three times more to buy – expect to pay upwards of $1800. If you plan to work one hard all year round, it could be worth the investment eventually, but don’t expect to retire early on the savings you make over the machine’s lifetime.
Kogan Portable Heated Drying Rack
In my search for the ideal winter drying solution, I turned to the Kogan Portable Heated Drying Rack. It claims: “… you can have your freshly washed clothes dried and toasty-warm in record time, without the hassle of large appliances or all-day drying on a clothes horse”. No hassle? No all-day drying? Toasty-warm clothes? I’m all over that.
The device is about the size of a Dalek (or a large oil drum mounted on a short tripod). My wife wondered what “that alien” was in our back room. The premise is: you hang clothes inside a semi-sealed tent. Its fan heater warms the air inside the tent, pushing moisture from the clothes and out through vents in the top. I feared it would create a clothing sauna, leaving my washing warm and damp. Spoiler alert: it did.
Before I reached that point, I had to load wet washing into the tent, which wasn’t easy. The device has eight plastic “arms” at the top of the frame. Washing has to be hung on or pegged to hangers, which are then hung from the arms. I spaced my 3kg load out as much as possible to allow air to circulate, but it was a tight fit. Towels needed to be folded in half to fit on hangers and within the height of the tent.
The heater and fan inflated the tent like a balloon. Positive pressure expelled all the moisture extracted from my washing through the vents in the top. It heated up very quickly, and after two hours the inside of the tent was at 48°C. My unventilated room (about 16m²) warmed by 14°C and its windows were dripping with condensation.
Not all the moisture ended up in the room, though. After two hours, about a third of it (400ml) was still in my damp washing – mainly in those folded towels. The synthetic sports gear and T-shirts were mostly dry. My disappointment was compounded when I looked at the power meter. The Kogan rack had sucked up 1.7kWh of electricity – only a few cents-worth less than my dryer used to dry the load completely. It took a further half hour and 0.7kWh in the dryer to finish it off.
...the Kogan tent had burned through 2.5kWh of electricity, more than any other method I tried.
The timer on the heater goes up to three hours, so I tried it again. After three hours my clothes were almost dry – waistbands of trousers and the inside of folded towels were still damp. My scales told me I had just less than 10% of water left in the load. Not bad, but the power meter made my eyes water more than my dripping windows – the Kogan tent had burned through 2.5kWh of electricity, more than any other method I tried.
I can’t recommend this device, even if you live in an apartment or have limited drying space. It left me with damp washing, a hole in my wallet and a dripping wet (but warm) room.
Specs: Kogan Portable Heated Drying Rack
Availability: Dick Smith
Weight capacity: 10kg
Heater power: 1000w