Tumble dryers are great if you want your clothes ready to wear in a jiffy. They make life simpler, saving us from hanging clothes on radiators or the washing line. Thankfully, using a tumble dryer isn’t rocket science. Still, there are a few tips you can learn about how to use a tumble dryer for best results.

Get your tumble dryer ready to use

There are two by-products of tumble drying: water and lint (clothes fibres). Both of these need to be removed from the tumble dryer for it to work properly.

For a condenser tumble dryer, you may need to empty the condenser drawer before each cycle. This is only if the dryer doesn’t have a hose that drains the water away automatically. Leaving the drawer full before a cycle will stop the dryer from removing water from your clothes.

It's also important to clean the lint filter before doing any drying. If it’s blocked, the machine will take longer to dry your clothes.

Front loading tumble dryers usually have the lint filter inside a flap under the door, or on the top of the dryer near the control knobs. Top loading dryers can have their filter inside the door or near the controls on top.

What can you put in the tumble dryer?

First, a safety message: no kind of oil should go in the tumble dryer, including essential oils. All oils are flammable, and the heat of a dryer can ignite those oils and cause a fire.

You need to check all your clothes for the tumble dry symbol. If the symbol has an X through it, this means ‘not suitable for tumble drying’. One dot on the symbol means low heat, two dots means medium, and three dots means high.

If an item doesn’t have a label, you can tell from the material whether it can be tumble dried. Materials that shouldn't be tumble dried include:

  • Leather and faux leather
  • Rubber and foam rubber or latex
  • Waterproofs
  • Silk
  • Some wools
  • Suede
  • Nylon tights
  • Clothes with metallic parts
  • Clothes with PVC seals
  • Fur and faux fur

Also be aware that wired bras may lose their shape in the tumble dryer.

Load your tumble dryer

Before putting clothes in the tumble dryer, you should make a few quick checks.

  • Are your clothes dry enough? If they’re sopping wet, put them in the washing machine for another spin cycle.
  • Are all the clothes suitable for tumble drying? Look at each item’s label to see if it can be tumble dried and at what temperature.
  • Are the lights and darks separated? Dark clothes can stain light clothes in the tumble dryer, so dry them separately.
  • Is anything tangled? Make sure all the clothes can move freely before putting them in the tumble dryer.

Now you’re ready to load. Filling the drum about half way is a good rule of thumb. Any more than that, and it may not dry all the clothes completely.

If you like, you can add a dryer sheet to the load. This helps to stop static from building up on the clothes. Dryer sheets can be scented or unscented, depending on what you prefer.

Top tip: put a dry towel in with the wet clothes — it will help soak up water and get things dry faster.

Use the right program

Programs vary between brands and models of tumble dryer. However, we can give you an idea of the basic range of settings that most dryers have. For more detail, it’s best to check your dryer’s manual.

Let’s look at the heat settings your dryer might have first.

  • High heat: this setting is best for cotton and things that take longer to dry, such as jumpers or towels.
  • Low heat: this is good for delicate clothes, like those with a loose weave, beads or sequins. Stretchy sports clothing is best dried on this setting, to retain its shape.
  • No heat: this just moves the clothes around at normal room temperature. You can remove dust or lint this way, but it will take a long time to dry wet clothes.

Then there are settings for different fabric types. These include:

  • Cotton: for resilient, heat-resistant clothes made of cotton or linen.
  • Easy care: for synthetic or blended fabrics.
  • Sportswear: for waterproof fabrics.
  • Towels: for towels and dressing gowns made of cotton.
  • Mixed: for a combination of cottons and synthetic-based fabrics.
  • Wool: for clothes made of or including wool, which are machine washable.
  • Shirts: for blouses or shirts made of cotton, linen, synthetic or blended fabrics.
  • Delicate: for delicate washable items made of satin or synthetic or blended fabrics.

What to do when the dryer has finished

When the dryer has finished its cycle, take the clothes out and have a look at them. Open up any large items and see if any pockets or interior parts are still wet. If they’re dry, then usually the rest of the load is as well. If not, you can put them back in the dryer for a short cycle.

It’s best to fold or hang the clothes while they’re still hot, as this will stop creases from forming.

Finally, clean the lint filter and empty the condenser drawer ready for the next time.

Have questions?

To get you answers quickly, we’ve gathered the most frequently asked questions on the internet around tumble dryers for you here.

Just over 50% of UK households have a tumble dryer. So if you’ve recently got one for the first time, it’s natural to have some questions. While you’re here, have you thought about getting a protection policy for your tumble dryer?

About the author

Josh Allen

Josh is a copywriter at Domestic & General who works across our digital journeys and beyond. Starting out in journalism and travel writing 10 years ago, he's since turned his hand to technology and insurance. Josh is also a published short story writer with a novel in the works, and he's known to twang a tune on the guitar and banjo.

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