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What’s the best way to dry clothes in winter?


During a typical British winter hanging clothes out to dry just isn’t possible. But running a tumble dryer can be costly. Are there any other options, asks writer Maria McCarthy.


It was a dull, misty October day and my heart sank. I had a machine load of washing but how was I going to dry it all?

The halcyon summer days of hanging it on the line were over – and even then a sudden shower would drench it  when I was out, leaving me having to re-wash and hang it out all over again, grinding my teeth in annoyance.

In the past I've tried indoor airers, hung sheets over bannisters and so on, but it takes ages to dry and I hate having my home look so untidy.

However, when I brought up the subject of buying a tumble dryer, several of my friends were shocked at the very suggestion.

“Sometimes I put the tumble dryer on if I'm desperate,” said my friend Ella. “But I can sense it eating up money.”

Others were horrified at how energy-wasting tumble dryers are and reacted as if I'd be personally responsible for melting ice floes and making polar bears  unhappy if I got one.

But are tumble dryers really that bad?

The cost of tumble drying

Katie Hill, laundry expert at Which? consumer magazine says that while they're one of the most energy-intensive appliances in the home, they've improved a lot in recent years.

“If you're buying a new machine it's important to look out for the energy rating. Tumble dryers are rated from A to F for energy use, with A being the most efficient.

“In a recent test we ran, an A-rated electric tumble dryer cost 14p per 7kg load, while a C-rated one cost £49p per load.

“If you dry a load once every two days then it'll cost £26 and £89 per year respectively.” 

However, if you've already got an older, less efficient machine then the cost of replacing it will probably offset any savings you might make, so it's important to check out prices and your individual laundry needs before making a decision.

Either way, be grateful that you don't have a 1959 tumble dryer. In today's money they cost a staggering £200 per year to run.

How to cut the cost

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Electric tumble dryers are common but there are also gas versions which are cheaper to run but they do need to be professionally installed.

If you want to tumble without it costing you the earth, look at the models recommended by the Energy Saving Trust.

Other energy smart tumble drier tips:

  • Make sure you're on the cheapest energy tariff available. And if you're on one which gives you cheaper electricity at off-peak times then run your dryer then, using a timer if necessary. 

  • Use the maximum spin cycle for your laundry so it's as dry as possible before putting clothes in the dryer.

  • The final part of tumble drying is the most energy-intensive so remove the clothes when they're still slightly damp and let them dry naturally.

  • Clean the lint filter every time you use the machine as a blocked filter stops the air from circulating freely so clothes take longer to dry.

Another way: Heated indoor airers

But is there a halfway house available? Something that doesn’t involve shelling out for a tumble dryer but is more speedy than bog-standard indoor airers?

Yes, there is! My own washday blues are no more thanks to my discovery of heated airers.

I came across the Dry-Soon Heated Tower Dryer at home retailer Lakeland. It costs £79.99 and it has loads of drying space, dries clothes quickly and costs less than 5p an hour to run.

Lakeland says it is experiencing an “unprecedented demand” on this product.

My friend Rachel has gone one further and bought a Lakeland Dry-Soon Drying Pod – a Heath Robinson style contraption where you hang clothes up on a vertical airer inside a pod.

It costs £64.99 and a fan in the base of the pod circulates hot hair to dry clothes and it costs less than 14p an hour.

Energy-saving and cost efficient, that’s a job well done.


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