tthere’s something extremely satisfying about taking a load of warm, fresh laundry out of a tumble dryer. But as a general rule, if you have the time, space and weather to dry your laundry on a clothesline, you should. It is energy efficient, cheaper and much gentler on your clothes.
But because line drying isn’t always practical or possible, experts explain the nuances of using a tumble dryer here.
To tumble or not to tumble
It may seem obvious, but when deciding what to put in the dryer, be sure to check the care label. Gina Dimakopoulos, the manager of appliance store Hart en Co, says: “you have to follow the guidelines of the clothes you have”.
In general, harder cottons and some polyester blends should be suitable for tumble drying, but for other fibers it will depend on the finishes and treatments used during the garment’s manufacture.
The heat and excitement in the dryer can damage clothes in a variety of ways, from aging and stretching elastane to shrinking wool and other delicate materials. Reading care labels is therefore very important.
The price to pay
Given the current state of the energy market, it’s important to note that some tumble dryers use a lot of energy and can drive up your bills.
According to Alan Pears, a sustainable energy and climate policy activist, “a typical dryer uses more than three kilowatt-hours per load and scores two stars on the energy label.” He says: “at pre-July prices” [this was] about 75 cents” per load.
Pears refers to the most common type of clothes dryer, a vented dryer. There are two other types of dryers on the market: heat pump and condenser. Each uses different technology and consumes resources in different ways.
The least efficient
Ashley Iredale, a white goods expert with consumer platform Choice, says, “Dryers with vents are just a big box with a fan, heater and motor inside to spin the drum”. They are called a vented dryer because they have an outlet that blows the resulting moisture out, so they must be attached to a vent to prevent condensation from building up in the house.
Although they cost more to run, vented dryers are cheaper to buy. So, Iredale says, if you don’t use your dryer often, a vented model may end up being more cost-effective. Plus, he says vented dryers typically last longer than more efficient dryers like heat pump dryers, “because there’s just nothing in there to break.”
The most efficient
Every expert I spoke to said that while heat pump dryers are more expensive to buy, they are the most efficient dryers to run. They work by blowing hot air while removing the moisture from your laundry.
Pears says that because heat pump dryers “take the heat from the exhaust air and recycle it,” they use a third of the electricity a vented dryer would, and sometimes even less. They also catch the water that condenses in a container, so they don’t cause condensation problems.
And the other
Pears says condenser dryers are “about as inefficient as traditional dryers.” They work by taking the moisture out of your clothes and converting it into water that is stored in the machine until you empty it. But because they rely on tap water to condense the water vapor in the exhaust air, they use a lot of water for cooling, making them even less resource-efficient. Iredale says this is the technology used in washer dryers.
How to choose the right one?
Your choice can also be determined by the space and ventilation in your laundry. Condenser and heat pump dryers, for example, are too heavy to be bolted to the wall like a vented dryer, so they may need to be stacked on top of your washing machine. If you have laundry with poor ventilation, choose a condenser or heat pump dryer to prevent condensation inside.
How to run a dryer efficiently?
Every drop counts, so start by using the fastest spin speed on your washing machine, says Iredale. “The more water you can extract…the less work the dryer has to do.” However, keep in mind that you are spinning delicates through a quick spin.
Then sort your clothes by weight or fabric type to make sure you dry as with similar. “If you stuff really fine items with thick towels and denim in them, the lighter items will dry much faster and can become too dry and damaged,” he says.
“To be sold in Australia, a dryer must be able to reduce contents to 6% or less residual moisture,” says Iredale, so you need to be confident that your clothes are dry at the end of the drying cycle.
Finally, make sure you don’t overload your dryer so that your laundry has enough room to circulate the air evenly.
Dimakopoulos says there are some overlooked features common to most dryers that can give you better results. She recommends the steam finishing function because it relaxes the fibers, reducing ironing time and extending the life of your clothes.
Iredale is a fan of reverse tumbling. To make sure your laundry doesn’t get tangled up in a ball, he also loves the anti-crease feature, which “turns the clothes in the wash at regular intervals after drying to avoid creasing”.
If you don’t know how to find these settings on your dryer, reading your dryer manual, as tedious as it may be, should help clarify what the buttons and symbols mean. If you’ve lost the manual, a quick online search, including the brand name and model, should yield some instructions.
Maintenance of your dryer
A clean lint filter is the most important aspect of dryer maintenance, Iredale says, and it should be done after each use. “Lift buildup is a fire hazard, but it also hinders airflow, so your dryer has to work harder and will cost you more to run.”
Lint is not the only fire risk. “Don’t put flammable materials or clothes soaked in solvents or accelerators in the dryer,” warns Iredale. And don’t run the dryer when you’re not at home.
Finally, he suggests leaving the dryer door ajar between cycles as this will help the seals keep their shape.
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