Clothes dryers

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Choosing the right dryer pays off in the long run.

We’ve tested heat-pump, condenser and vented clothes dryers to find the most efficient, easiest to use and fastest.

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What type of dryer?

Vented dryers

Mechanically, vented dryers are simple beasts.

They suck in air and heat it before blowing it through the clothes. Water in the clothes evaporates – and this hot humid air is blown out of the dryer, preferably through a duct to the outside of your house.

Pros
  • Cheaper to buy than condenser and heat pump dryers.
Cons
  • They expel moist air – so you need a well-ventilated laundry or ducting to the outside world to prevent soggy walls and mould.
  • Expensive to run.

Condenser dryers

Condenser dryers use a heat exchanger to remove heat and water from air that has passed through your clothes.

The water is collected in a reservoir or funnelled down a drain.

Pros
  • Condenser dryers don't need to be vented or ducted outdoors, although they will increase the temperature of your laundry.
Cons
  • They're often double the price of vented dryers.

Heat-pump dryers

Heat-pump dryers use a small heat pump to heat the air that dries your clothes. The warm, damp air is then cooled to remove the water, which is collected in a reservoir or funnelled down a drain. The cooled air is then reheated and recycled within the dryer. This “closed loop” system means there’s no hot air or moisture released from the dryer. They’re ideal for places where external venting isn’t possible, like apartments.

Pros
  • Heat pump dryers are energy efficient. They don't need to be vented or ducted outdoors.
Cons
  • They're expensive to buy – over 4 times the price of some vented models.
  • They’re cheaper to run but you have to use it at least daily to compensate for the hefty purchase price.
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What about a washer-dryer?

A washer-dryer does the job of a washing machine and clothes dryer in a single appliance. Is one right for you?

Learn more

Physical features

In the market for a dryer? Consider the following features.

  • Size: Larger capacity generally means a physically bigger dryer – so the capacity of your dryer is likely to be determined by the available space in your laundry area.
  • Ducting: Vented clothes dryers generate lots of warm moist air – a model that can be ducted outside is preferable. Ducting to the outside prevents dripping walls and mouldy ceilings. Some dryers come with ducting kits supplied, kits for other models are an optional extra. You can pick up universal ducting kits from appliance stores like Noel Leeming and Bond & Bond (priced between $50 and $70).
  • Wall mountable or stackable: You'll save space if your dryer can be mounted on the wall or stacked on top of a front-loading washing machine. Vented dryers (see "What type of dryer?", above) are generally the only dryers that you can wall mount. Stackable models are designed to be mounted on top of a front-loading washing machine of the same brand. If you want to stack your dryer, check on this before you buy it.
  • Drying racks: These are used for drying shoes and other non-fabric items so they don't tumble as they dry. Racks are usually an optional extra, available in internal and external types. External racks only work with non-ducted models with an exhaust grille in the front door.

Electronic features

"Extra dry" or "cupboard dry"? Here are the essential electronic features.

  • Sensor-and-timer or timer-only: A sensor detects when the clothes are dry enough and automatically turns off the dryer. Some members have complained that sensors switch off the machine before the load has fully dried. Models with a sensor usually have a timer as well, so if you don’t think the sensor is working, try using the timer instead.

Sensor-and-timer models tend to be more expensive than timer-only. Think about how often you'll use the sensor: there's no point paying for sensor drying if you use it only occasionally.

  • Reverse tumbling: Many models reverse the direction of their drum at regular intervals. This minimises tangling and dries your clothes more evenly.
  • Settings: Some dryers come packed with automatic settings: "extra dry", "very dry", "cupboard dry" and so on. Don't pay more for a machine with extra settings you won't use – a more limited number of settings (such as "high" and "low") should do you just fine.
  • Drying time: This varies between models, and depends on the capacity of the machine, and the weight of clothes being dried. The quickest models can dry a load of clothes in about 2 hours. Slower models can take up to 90 minutes longer.
  • Manual restart: Dryers that automatically start tumbling again if you open and close the door mid-cycle are dangerous for young children who might climb inside the drum and shut the door behind them. All of the dryers we've tested need to be manually restarted.

Dryer economics

It’s all well and good to buy a dryer that costs next to nothing to run. But if your new dryer costs you several thousand dollars more to buy in the first place than a cheaper, less energy-efficient model, you’ll need to make that money back through lower running costs.

That’s why we calculate life-cycle costs, which show the real cost of a dryer over 10 years. Inflation and interest rates mean each dollar spent on a dryer now is worth more than a dollar saved through reduced running costs in the future. We also factored in a yearly power price hike of 1%.

We plotted the average life-cycle cost over 10 years for the top-performing models in each category. The result’s a bit grim for heat pump dryers, with 383 loads required every year to make them a better option than condenser models.

The numbers are even more daunting if your house is suitable for a vented dryer. You’ll need to dry 549 loads a year to make heat pump dryers cheaper to buy and run than vented models.

This means heat pump dryers will only offer true savings if you’re running at least one load every day. While this could suit some large families or workplaces, it’s not viable for most of us. For the typical family, vented dryers will be the cheapest option to buy and run. However, if your home isn’t suitable for ducting, or you don’t have a well-ventilated space for a vented dryer, then a condenser model won’t cost you too much more.

Average dryer life-cycle cost over 10 years

GUIDE TO THE FIGURE We’ve charted the average 10-year life-cycle costs for the models in each category which perform well enough to earn our recommended tick. The intersection of the lines is the number of loads per year required to make heat pump dryers economic with respect to condenser or vented models. Results are shown for a 3.5kg load.

Reliable brands

1256 members told us about their clothes dryers in our 2016 appliance reliability survey.

Become a paying Consumer member or log in to find out which brands rated best.

Repair or replace?

Become a paying Consumer member to find out our estimate of how long a clothes dryer should last, and when it's more economic to replace rather than repair.

Money-saving tips

Here are some tips to help save money when using a clothes dryer:

  • Line dry your washing – the ultimate cost saver! It’s free to dry washing on the line so use it whenever you can. Save your clothes dryer for rainy days or to finish off a still-damp load.
  • Clean the lint filter – after every load. This makes it easier for air to circulate through your clothes so the dryer is running efficiently. A full lint filter is also a fire hazard.
  • Use the highest spin speed on your washing machine – this extracts more water, which means your washing needs less time and energy to dry your load. If you’re thinking of replacing your washing machine, front loaders generally spin at faster speeds than top loaders.
  • Separate loads – into heavy and lightweight materials (lighter clothes dry quicker) and shake out your clothes before drying them (tight wads of clothes take longer to dry).
  • Choose an energy-efficient dryer. If you need a dryer to use year-round (for example, because you live in an apartment), go for a heat pump dryer. They cost more to buy but are cheaper to run.
  • Ventilate. Duct your vented dryer outside as venting moisture back into your laundry space just makes your dryer work harder to dry your clothes, costing you more. If you can't vent, consider a condenser or heat pump condenser dryer as it won't leave you with water dripping from the ceiling and running down the walls.

Dryer safety

Before you throw laundry into the clothes dryer, make sure you've taken these basic safety steps.

  • Lint build-up is a fire hazard. It can cause overheating and also reduces drying efficiency. Clean the lint filter after each use – and regularly move your dryer and vacuum up lint from the surrounding walls. If the dryer is ducted to the outside, clean any lint from the duct and the exhaust vent.
  • Plastic items (such as shower caps and plastic-backed baby bibs) shouldn't go into the dryer: they'll melt.
  • Items made of rubber can catch fire. Keep them out of the dryer, too.
  • Watch out for clothes or towels that have been in contact with oils, waxes or products containing petroleum or alcohol (like hair-styling products) – they may be flammable. Make sure they've been washed in hot water before you put them in the clothes dryer.
  • Always let the dryer complete its cool-down cycle then remove the load and spread it out.
  • If you have to turn off the dryer before it’s finished, remove the load and spread it out to cool. Clothes left bundled up are more likely to catch fire by spontaneous combustion.
  • Turn off the dryer whenever you're away from the house or are asleep.

Dryer maintenance

Although tedious, a bit of TLC will keep your dryer in tip-top condition. Here are some simple maintenance tips:

  • The heat exchangers in condenser dryers get clogged with fluff circulating in the air. Clean the heat exchanger at least 4 or 5 times a year.
  • The water reservoirs in condenser and heat-pump dryers need to be emptied after nearly every load. This is easier if the reservoir is at the top of your dryer rather than the bottom – and you can avoid the hassle completely by plumbing your machine to a drain.
  • Lint filters should be cleaned after every load. This improves drying efficiency and reduces the risk of fire. Cleaning will be easier if the lint filter’s near the front of your machine or on the door. Some dryers have more filters than others.
  • Sensors won't work effectively unless you wipe the drum with white vinegar or stainless-steel cleaner every few months.

Troubleshooting your sensor dryer

Is your sensor clothes dryer stopping short of drying your clothes? A sensor clothes dryer should detect when a load is dry and stop running. This prevents over-drying, which can damage your clothes. Because it’s not running any longer than it needs to, you’ll save money on your power bill too. But what if your clothes dryer stops and you open the door to a still-damp load?

Trouble-shooting tips

If you’re having trouble getting your sensor dryer to fully dry a load, try these tips:

Clean the moisture sensors: These are 2 metal strips that are usually inside the drum underneath the door. Over time, residue from washing powder and fabric softener can accumulate on the sensors, which reduces sensitivity. To clean them, switch the dryer off at the wall and wipe with a soft cloth and mild soap.

Sort your load: Mixed loads – for example, lightweight T-shirts and heavyweight jeans – can be challenging for a sensor dryer. For even results, dry similar-weight items together.

Use the right setting: Clothes dryers are becoming more sophisticated, with settings for different fabrics and items such as sheets and sportswear. It pays to read the user guide to check you’re using the most suitable setting for the type of items you throw in your dryer. For example, if your dryer has a “sheets” setting, use it as it will alternate the tumbling direction to prevent sheets tangling into a damp-centred ball.

Up to standard?

According to the Australia New Zealand Standard our test is based on, clothes dryers must be capable of drying a full load to a moisture level of 6% or less. However, not all settings achieve this. While the setting stated on the dryer’s energy rating label must be able to dry clothes to this required moisture level, some settings are programmed to leave items damp so they’re easier to iron.

If you’re using the energy rating label setting and haven’t overloaded your dryer and you’re still getting damp clothes, then your dryer isn’t doing its job properly.

Our clothes dryers test uses a standard load of cotton bed sheets, small towels and pillow cases. This allows us to compare clothes dryers fairly and repeat the test year after year. We test using a 3.5kg (dry weight) load, which gets a lot heavier when wet at a 90% moisture level. This is the same size load we use when testing washing machines – it’s about the average amount a consumer washes at one time.

A load with a moisture level of 6% will meet the Australia New Zealand Standard but we look for better than that in our testing. So when we test clothes dryers, we’re looking for a moisture level closer to 2-3% by the end of the drying time. It’s not often that we find a clothes dryer that can’t achieve a moisture level of less than 3%. When we do, we apply a penalty to the overall score. This is because we think any dryer should be capable of drying your clothes to the point where you can hang them in your wardrobe or put them in a drawer straightaway.

Buying second-hand

A clothes dryer is a basic appliance and you can buy one cheaply second-hand.

  • Buy only if the dryer looks tidy and well cared for. Stick to well-known brands.
  • Check that the door opens and shuts properly.
  • Under the Electricity Act, all electrical appliances for sale must be safe – whether they're new or second-hand, bought privately or from a dealer.
  • If you buy from a second-hand dealer and then discover the dryer's faulty, you're covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act. If you buy privately, you're not.
  • Check whether the dryer automatically restarts if you open and close the door mid-cycle. Dryers that automatically restart can be dangerous if you have young children about.
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Asko Drying Cabinet

The Asko Drying Cabinet is a scaled-down electric drying room. It uses natural convection to dry clothes. Heated air is forced down the middle of the cabinet to the base where it rises up the sides again. The cabinet also features a "cold dry" function.

The cabinet is tall enough at 1.7m to let you hang unwieldy items like wetsuits and jackets in it. It's also versatile enough to have shoe and glove racks. Farmers, trampers, skiers and surfers would probably find it handy.

According to Asko, the cabinet has a drying capacity that's equivalent to 16 metres of clothes line.

The cabinet won't suit everybody:

  • It's expensive (prices we found ranged from $2299 to $2499)
  • It requires ducting or a well-ventilated area to operate properly
  • It needs to be fastened to a wall to stop it falling over.

Performance
Asko's website says the cabinet will dry everything from linen to boots in less than 4 hours. The company also claims energy savings over conventional dryers.

We packed the cabinet with a cotton washing load equivalent to Asko’s advertising claim of 16 metres of clothes line. This worked out to 4.325kg – 24 percent more than Asko's technical specification of 3.5kg. Nobody (other than test labs) weighs clothes before they wash or dry them, so we think our test load was reasonable.

We tested it on 2 auto functions – auto normal dry and auto extra dry. A load that had been well spun in a top-loader washing machine and put on the auto extra dry programme was dry after 2 hours and 38 minutes. Energy use and running times were comparable to small conventional tumble-dryers.

After our test results were sent to Asko's distributor, Asko said it suggests the cabinet is "used as an accompaniment" to a normal dryer – that is, for items that shouldn't be tumble-dried.

Our view

  • The cabinet doesn't perform as well as you might expect for the price.
  • Check out our test results of conventional dryers.

Miele awarded Top Brand

The Top Brand award recognises brands that perform consistently well across product testing, reliability and customer satisfaction.

Miele performed well across all measures, with excellent customer satisfaction. Consumers can be confident a brand touting this award has delivered top results both in the lab and in our surveys.

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