Tumble dryer tips and maintenance


How can I prevent tumble dryer accidents?
Tumble dryer child lock used 468914
If you’re concerned about your children or pets being injured in a tumble dryer, then follow these precautions to help ensure they’re safe:

  • Unplug your dryer when it’s not in use.
  • Turn the program dial to the off position if you remove your clothes mid-cycle.
  • Avoid dryers with a handle-operated catch on the door, as these can not be opened from the inside.
  • Look for an electronic child lock as this prevents children from turning dryers on or changing the program settings.
  • Ensure that your dryer has a door that can be opened if it’s pushed from the inside. Some driers require too much force.
  • Many older dryers restart automatically if you interrupt the cycle – choose a machine that doesn’t do this if you’re concerned about children or pets playing near the machine.
  • A mechanical child lock can be engaged after each cycle. It prevents the door from closing, so a child can’t become trapped inside.

Simple tumble dryer cleaning and maintenance tips
Cleaning the sensor
The drying sensor – sometimes called the humidity sensor – is found in the drum, usually below the door opening. It’s made of two strips of metal that detect moisture and switch the dryer off when the clothes are dry enough.

But a dirty sensor will lead to inaccurate drying, with clothes either being left too wet or over-dried. So, keep the drying sensor clean and the rest of the drum clean with white vinegar and a cloth or a cleaning wipe.

Cleaning the lint filters
Fluff and dust from tumbling clothes ends up in the lint filter, which you’ll find in or in and around your dryer’s door.

It’s important to clean the lint filter after every use because a clogged filter restricts the flow of air through your dryer and this will make drying less efficient and if airflow is restricted, dryers can heat up.

They’re all built with thermal cut-offs, which should stop the machine from continuing to produce heat if it gets too hot inside. But if the fail-safes fail and dryers end up getting far too hot, they can catch fire. So, the best thing you can do to keep your dryer safe and running efficiently is to clean the filter.

Tumble dryer vent
Cleaning the heat exchanger (condenser/heat pump dryers only)
The heat exchanger turns the steam from the drum back into water and among the steam and air passing through it are fibres that, over time, can become clogged and dirty.

A clogged-up heat exchanger will slow the flow of air through your machine making it less efficient, so make a point of removing it and cleaning it under the tap every month or so.

If you own a condenser dryer, you’ll find the heat-exchanger at the front of the machine, below the drum and behind a door or panel. Once removed, you can clean away big lumps of fluff by hand and get rid of the rest under the tap.

Heat exchangers are just shoebox sized bits of metal and plastic, so running them under the tap is perfectly safe. Read more about heat exchangers in our condenser dryers advice guide.

Emptying the water reservoir (condenser/heat pump dryers only)
A water tank on a tumble dryer can usually hold more water than is contained in the clothes from one load but not enough for two loads.

To ensure you can run a drying cycle with a full load without having to stop halfway through to empty the tank, empty it every time you use your machine.

Want to know which tumble dryer is best for you? Take a look at all of our tumble dryer reviews.

Checking the hose isn’t kinked (vented dryers only)
The hose takes warm and damp air away from the drum and a kinked hose on a vented tumble dryer will restrict airflow, which can make your machine less efficient and could mean that drying takes longer.

Pulling out the machine to check the hose is all you need to do.

Cleaning the lower filter (heat pump dryers dryers only)
Cleaning the lower filter on a heat pump tumble dryer
Choosing a heat pump tumble dryer over a vented or condenser dryer is a great way to reduce your energy bills – but only if you remember to clean your dryer’s lower filter.

Our tests show that failing to clean the lower filter can result in longer drying times, steamier windows and, worst of all, mounting energy costs.

It’s relatively quick and straightforward to rinse your dryer’s lower filter and we’d recommend cleaning it every 10 or so cycles.

You’ll find it in the bottom corner of your heat pump dryer, in front of the heat exchanger. You might need to push two small levers inwards to unlock it. Once unlocked, remove the sponge filter. Pick out bits of fluff and hair from the exchanger and its casing.

Rinse the filter under a cold tap until the water runs clear. Wait until it’s completely dry before you put it back.

What can’t go in a tumble dryer?
It’s tempting to throw your pile of wet laundry into the dryer, but watch out as some items just don’t mix with the heat. Get it wrong and you could end up with frayed, saggy or ruined clothes.

It’s best to leave these things out to dry naturally:

  • Bras: Even on a dedicated delicates program the dryer isn’t always kind to bras. The heat could bend them out of shape and cause them to lose elasticity.
  • Tights: You’ll spend longer untangling them post dryer than they would have taken to dry on your radiator in the first place. The delicate material is also likely to tear.
  • Swimming costumes: The spandex in swimming costumes can distort and break in the dryer, so it’s best to leave them out.
  • Bath mats with rubber backs: The heat could cause the rubber to crumble and break.
  • Embellished clothes: Sequins can snag easily and metal stones or beads can melt in the heat.
  • Sports shoes: The rubber can shrink in the heat, meaning you’ll use your support and cushioning

However, it’s fine to tumble dry non-sports trainers (any shoe without the support). Put them in a low-heat cycle with some heavy towels to stop them banging into the drum.
How to shrink jeans in a tumble dryer
Tumble dryer filled with clothes used 468441
If you’ve found your jeans getting a little baggy recently, you could try and shrink them in your tumble dryer, although this isn’t something we have ever tested.

All you need to do is wash them first on a high temperature, using a normal setting, not a delicate one. Then transfer them to the tumble dryer and crank up the heat.

Dry them completely in the machine, and consider leaving them a little longer if they’re still not quite the size you want. You may need to repeat the whole process, too. But be careful not to over shrink them – do it gradually if you’re not sure.

Remember, too, that this is likely to make them shorter as well as smaller.

Where to find your tumble dryer’s model number
Where the model number (sometimes labelled ‘mod’) is located will vary from machine to machine. Generally speaking though, they can usually be found in one of the following places:

  • on either side of the machine
  • on the back of the dryer
  • on the inside of the door, either on the door itself, or the machine (see example image below)
  • behind the ‘kick plate’ (the panel at the bottom on the front of the machine)
  • inside the flap over the filter at the bottom of the machine.

You should be able to find out exactly where it is by reading your instruction manual, or calling by the manufacturer.

Why is my tumble dryer not drying/heating up?
There are a number of reasons why your tumble dryer might not be drying or heating up. Before you call out a professional, it’s worth taking a look at a few things to see if you can fix it yourself.

The problem may be down to the heating element malfunctioning, or the thermal overload cutting out (a mechanism built into the machine to stop it working if it overheats). Both problems are often down to there not being a proper airflow through the machine.

First of all, clean the sensor, lint filters and heat exchanger (if you have a condenser/heat pump dryer) as mentioned above, to see if that helps.

If you have a vented tumble dryer, it’s worth checking the hose to make sure this isn’t obstructed or bent, stopping air from circulating out of the machine.

A dryer not heating is often caused by air not being able to circulate properly.

If these steps don’t solve the issue, it may be that you’re overloading the machine with clothes. Cramming the machine too full will stop the air being able to circulate freely, and therefore overheat the machine.

Opening the door during the cycle can also cause problems as this can interrupt how the air heats up and cools down.

If it is the thermal overload that has cut out, you may be able to simply reset it. To do this:

  • unplug the machine
  • pull the tumble dryer out as far as you can
  • take the back panel off by unscrewing it
  • where you can see a collection of wires and small black box, either on the panel itself or the back of the machine, press the red button in.

If it has tripped, you should hear a click.

If you continue to have issues, the heating element is probably broken. Before you call in a professional to fix it, first check your warranty to see if it can still be repaired by the retailer or manufacturer.

You can see our advice on product faults and warranties on our Which? Consumer Rights website.

Why is my tumble dryer tripping my fuse box?
If your tumble dryer is tripping your electrics, it could be as simple as water or fluff having built up inside the machine. Clean all elements, as mentioned above, and look for any dampness or damage. If anything is wet, leave the machine open to dry for as long as possible.

If that doesn’t work, it could be down to there being an electrical issue with the heating element.

To investigate, first turn off the machine and unplug it. The location of the heating element, and the connections to it, may vary depending on the brand and model of tumble dryer you have.

Once you have located the heating element, disconnect it from the wires it’s plugged into. You’ll need a multimeter to test it. This is a device that can detect and measure electrical current, voltage and resistance. They can be bought online for as little as £10.

Use a low-resistance setting on the meter. If the reading you get is lower than 20 or higher than 100 ohms, it’s faulty and will need replacing.

The problem could be caused by fluff or water building up in the machine.

Another cause might be the mains filter, which works to stop ‘interference’ from the mains supply getting into the tumble dryer and damaging it. They are normally located at the back of the machine at the top or bottom.

Again, make sure you turn your dryer off and unplug it first. Once you have, look for any burn marks, bulges or liquid at the bottom, like you will have with the rest of the machine.

You can also use a multimeter here to test for faults. Again, use a low-resistance setting. If the reading is less than three or four ohms, it’s faulty.

Lastly, the issue could be to do with the control board. As this is responsible for so many things on the dryer, it can be hard to find the exact cause.

Try checking for faults in the circuits of the different elements – such as the motor that powers water being drained or to lock the door – to see if one of those is the cause. If not, it’s likely to be the panel as a whole.

If you’re not confident with checking electrical elements, then call in a professional. You can use our website, Which? Trusted Traders, to find recommended electricians, plumbers and appliance specialists in your area.

Why is my tumble dryer not turning?
The first thing to do is to check whether the tumble dryer belt, which is what rotates the drum, has slipped out of position, stretched or broken. You can do this by spinning the drum – if it’s easier than normal to spin, it’s likely that there is an issue with the belt.

You can also ascertain whether the belt is the cause by listening to the dryer. If the motor sounds like it’s running at a faster pace, possibly making a high-pitched noise too, a defective belt is the likely culprit.

However, if you find it harder to spin than normal, it may be that the drum has seized up. This can be a result of a bearing having worn through, a damaged pulley or the support shaft being cut off.

Tumble dryer belts can break because the machine has been overloaded.

It may also be that the motor or start capacitor has failed. If this is the case, it’s likely that there will still be lights on the machine, but no noise coming from it, or a low humming noise.

You can also tell this by spinning the drum by hand and quickly closing the door. If it keeps spinning, the start capacitor is probably broken, but if it stops, the motor is likely to be the problem.

Because replacing a tumble dryer belt is a complicated job, and motors and starter capacitors can hold a lot of potentially dangerous electrical charge, you’d be best to call someone in to fix it.

As mentioned above, it is worth taking a look at your warranty before you call someone in. However, if your belt is the problem, it may not be covered. This is because belts can be classed as natural ‘wear and tear’ items. In addition, the cause of a belt fault can be down to overloading the machine.

Tumble dryer hose and tumble dryer vent kit
Tumble dryer hoses can only be found on vented tumble dryers . This is because they are needed to expel the hot and damp air from the machine. Condenser and heat pump dryers, on the other hand, condense and recycle the hot air within the machine.

If you’re buying a vented tumble dryer, a lot of them will come with all you need to vent it, so you won’t need to buy a separate tumble dryer hose or vent kit. However, with some, you will need to buy them as an additional item.

You can buy hoses for as little as £5, but you’ll need to buy adaptors to fit it to the machine, while vent kits, which costs around £15 to £20, come with all you need to fix it in place. Both are universal, so will fit onto any vented machine.

Fixing or replacing your tumble dryer
If the problem is serious, you’ll want professional attention. To find a reliable repairer in your area, use Which? Trusted Traders to find one that has been assessed and checked by Which? trading standards professionals.

You can also take a look at our guide to domestic appliance repairs to find out the average costs for a range of jobs, as quoted by Which? Trusted Traders from their years of experience.

If you’re considering replacing your tumble dryer, our guide to the most reliable tumble dryer brands reveals which brands are less likely to let you down, based on the data we’ve collected from thousands of tumble dryer owners.

Tumble dryer symbols
On most clothes you’ll find a care label, which will tell you how you can and can’t wash and dry it.

For tumble dryers, there are four, which you can see below. These mean:

  • Square with empty circle – can be tumble dried.
  • Square with one dot in the circle – can be tumble dried on a low heat setting.
  • Square with two dots in the circle – can be tumble dried on a high heat setting.
  • Square and empty circle with cross through – cannot be tumble dried.

Tumble dryer balls and dryer sheets
Dryer balls
Dryer balls, which have a number of bumps on their surface, work to help your clothes drying quicker. They do this by knocking the fibres of your laundry around. This action is claimed to make clothes softer, too.

Dryer sheets
Dryer sheets are designed to help stop clothes creasing, soften them, stop static from forming and keep them fresh.

Dryer sheets have been known to reduce the absorbency of certain fabrics, such as towels, in the same way fabric conditioners can.

We’ve never used tumble dryer balls or sheets in our tests, but we have found that the best tumble dryers do the job of drying clothes evenly and quickly, and minimise creases with no additional help.

Tumble drying tips
Separate fabrics before tumble drying.

Simply taking a mixed load of clothes from your washing machine and loading it into your tumble dryer might feel like the easiest way to get the laundry done, but it’s not the most efficient way to dry clothes.

To reduce drying times and save energy, separate different fabrics and dry similar clothes together. This also increases the evenness of drying.

Loosen laundry before drying.

A tightly bound bundle of wet laundry will take a long time to dry in a tumble dryer. However much the machine tumbles the load, some bundled-together clothes will end up dry while some will still be damp.

So, when you take your laundry out of the washing machine, loosen it. This will help to prevent lengthy drying times, will help clothes dry evenly and will help to reduce creasing.

Avoid tumble drying extremely large items such as duvets and blankets

Don’t overload your tumble dryer.

Because of their size, some items will never really be suitable for a tumble dryer, so avoid tumble drying extremely large items such as duvets and blankets.

Even if you have a large 10kg or even 11kg capacity drum dryer, there probably won’t be enough space for air to circulate, and this can overheat the dryer.

Overloading the machine can also lead to other problems, such as the belt that turns the drum breaking.

About the author

Olivia Wilson
By Olivia Wilson


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