At my place in winter, the sun apologetically creeps over the hills for just a few hours a day – if it appears at all. My outdoor clothes line remains folded and unloved for most of the colder months. But clothes washing waits for no one. So how am I to dry my washing over winter without filling my home with moisture or over-stretching my power bill?

I needed data. So I put together a 3kg trial load of 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-loader and spun at 1100rpm, my trial load weighed 4.4kg. That’s 1.4L of water I needed to remove. I tried 4 methods:

1. Outdoor line-drying

My preferred option, but is it viable during winter? I chose a mostly sunny day, with temperature creeping up to 12°C and a very light breeze. The clothes line was loaded at 9.30am and brought in at 3.30pm, until the sun had gone for the day. For my efforts I got a damp load of washing: only 43% of the water had evaporated. But at least none of that moisture went into my home and it didn’t cost me a cent.

2. Indoor on a clothes airer

Wet load carefully positioned on my clothes airer to maximise airflow: check. Room capturing the best of the winter sun: check. Reasonably sunny winter day: check. I gave it the best chance, and drying inside still came up short. Just 31% of water was removed from 9.30am to 3.30pm, and all of that (400ml) went into my home. The relative humidity of the room rose 6% and the temperature dropped by a degree. At least it didn’t cost anything.

3. Clothes dryer

Biting the bullet and sucking up the cost, the third trial load went straight into my clothes dryer. I have a vented model, with sensor drying, that sends the moisture-laden air outside. In a little over an hour, the machine chimes signalled a dry load. The dryer had removed 99% of the water, with none adding to the dampness inside my home. My load was soft and warm. However, it came at a price. The power meter showed 1.9kWh of electricity used, about 50¢ worth.

4. Indoor with dehumidifier

I set up the load on my clothes airer exactly as in trial 2 on a similar, mostly sunny, day. This time a Consumer Recommended Mitsubishi Oasis MJ-E22VX-A1-W was stationed next to the airer with its vent set to blast straight at the wet load. I’d set the dehumidifier to “laundry mode”, where it runs full bore until turned off. I left the room – it was noisy in there – only returning a couple of hours later to turn the clothes airer around. Five hours after turning it on, I had dry clothes. The Oasis collected 1.3L of water. The net effect was a 12% reduction in room humidity (some moisture likely escaped through my draughty windows) and a temperature rise of almost 3°C. However, there was a sting in the tail: energy use. The dehumidifier running for 5 hours used 1.8kWh of power: about the same 50¢ cost as running my clothes dryer for an hour.

What did I learn?

My trial was specific to my home, so it’s unlikely you’ll get these exact results. However, I can point to 3 findings you might find useful:

  • If you have a clothes dryer – use it. It costs less per load than you think.
  • If you can, hang your clothes outside. While they might not dry completely, it’ll save time in the dryer.
  • If you dry inside, use a dehumidifier.


By Paul Smith
Head of Testing