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Clothes dryers

Clothes dryer buying guide

Last updated: September 2015

Getting started

Dryer capacities keep growing to keep up with the ever-increasing capacities of washing machines. New features keep being added, but a moisture sensor remains the most important. It automatically stops the dryer when the laundry is dry.  

How to choose

Our years of testing show that gas and electric dryers perform comparably. Gas dryers cost about $50 to $150 more than comparable electric models, but the likely savings in fuel costs should more than make up the difference in the long run. An electric dryer requires a 240-volt outlet, a gas dryer needs a gas hookup and a 120-volt outlet. (Note: Consumer Reports now tests only electric dryers, which account for about 80 percent of the models sold, but equivalent gas models are listed in the Ratings, which are available to subscribers.)

Start with a moisture sensor

Our tests have found that dryers with a moisture sensor tend to recognize when laundry is dry more quickly than dryers that use a traditional thermostat. Because they don't subject clothing to unnecessary heat, moisture-sensor dryers are easier on fabrics. And since they shut themselves off when laundry is dry they use less energy. Sensors are now offered on many dryers, even lower priced models. Thermostat-only dryers are generally the most basic models. Our Ratings indicated which dryers have moisture sensors and other features.

Check capacity

Dryer capacities keep increasing to keep up with larger washer capacities. Manufacturers describe dryer capacity with terms such as extra large, super, and super plus. Most full-sized dryers can hold a typical wash load. If you want to dry big, bulky items, choose a model judged very good or excellent for capacity in our Ratings. Keep in mind that dryers with sensors are designed to handle full loads. When you toss in just a few items the dryer might shut off before your clothes are dry because the items didn't touch the sensor frequently enough. In that case use a timed cycle for drying small loads.

Focus on the features you need

Higher-priced dryers might offer a dozen or more features, including specialty cycles such as "speed dry" (15 minutes of high heat, for example). These can usually be replicated with standard settings. A choice of heat level, timed and auto-dry, and a few fabric types (regular/cotton and permanent press/delicate) is usually plenty for most households. Touchpads look impressive and might allow you to save custom settings but don't improve performance. Nor do stainless-steel tubs (unlike washers where they can make a difference).

Consider location

If your dryer will be near the family room or bedrooms, look for a model judged very good or excellent for noise. You'll know they're working but they shouldn't disturb you. Dryers that scored good or lower make sustained sounds that can be annoying. Also pick a dryer that lets you silence the end-of-cycle signal. We note features in our Ratings.

For more information on dryers and washers, see the following

Types

Most full-sized dryers are 27 inches wide, but some jumbo capacity models are 29 or 30. Manufacturers often describe capacity with superlatives such as extra large, super, and super-plus. Most full-sized models can manage a typical wash load—about 6 to 8 cubic feet-—but some can now hold more than 9 cubic feet. A dryer that scores excellent in capacity can handle over 25 pounds of laundry. If you want to dry comforters and other bulky items, check our Ratings for models that scored very good or excellent for capacity.

 

Full-sized dryers are the most practical type for most homeowners. Front-mounted controls on some let you stack a front-loading dryer on top of a front-loading washer, though shorter people might have to stretch to reach the controls or empty the drum.

Compact models are typically 24 inches wide or less. Our current Ratings do not include compact dryers.

 

Pros: These might be a good choice for apartment dwellers and singles. You can stack some front-loading compact dryers atop a front-loading washer.

 

Cons: Compacts have half the drum capacity of full-sized models, about 3½ cubic feet. Their small opening makes them more difficult to load and unload than a full-sized dryer.

These combine the dryer and washer in one unit and may be full-sized or compact, gas or electric. Our current Ratings do not include washer-dryer laundry centers.

 

Pros: Performance is generally equal to that of a full-sized machine.

 

Cons: The dryer component, though full-sized, typically holds less than a stand-alone full-sized dryer.

Features


Look for features that increase convenience and improve performance and efficiency, and avoid the expensive extras. When using an automatic setting (which we generally recommend) rather than a timed one, set the control to the midpoint and raise or lower it as needed. Using the "more dry" setting routinely can overdry clothes and waste energy. Use the "less dry" setting to leave clothing damp for ironing. On some machines, you don't have to worry if you don't hear the buzzer at the end of a cycle because an optional extended-tumble setting without heat prevents wrinkles if you don't remove clothes immediately.

Moisture sensor

It's more accurate than a thermostat in determining when laundry is dry. Moisture-sensor dryers are easier on fabrics because they don't subject your laundry to unnecessary heat. And the dryers use less energy by shutting themselves off as soon as laundry is dry.

Auto-dry cycles

Full-sized machines often offer three or more cycles, which shut off the unit when the clothes reach the desired dryness. Each cycle may have a complete-dry setting, a less-dry setting to allow for damp ironing, and gradations in between. A separate temperature control in most dryers lets you choose lower heat for delicate fabrics. These features increase flexibility.

Controls

Dial-control models are easy to use. Electronic controls with a dial, push button, or touchpad tend to be more versatile, letting you save favorite settings, for instance. Some models offer dedicated cycles for fabrics such as silk and denim. Touchscreens are available on some higher-end models and have a display with a progression of menus with customized programs. Though they can be tough to learn and navigate, they generally offer the most options.

Extended tumble

This setting keeps tumbling the clothes after they're dry. Some dryers tumble without heat; others cycle on and off. It reduces wrinkling if you aren't able to remove clothing immediately after drying.

Drum rack

It attaches inside the drum and lets you dry items, such as sweaters or stuffed animals, without tumbling.

Remote control

Some higher priced dryers from LG, Samsung, and Whirlpool are Wi-Fi enabled and let you start and monitor cycles via an app on your smart device.

Steam setting

A growing number of dryers include a steam setting that promises to reduce wrinkles, remove odors, or both. Our tests have found mixed results, however. They can do a good job of odor removal but shirts remained wrinkled.

Top-mounted lint filter

It might be easier to clean than one inside the drum. Many dryers have a warning light that reminds you to clean the filter. A clogged filter reduces efficiency and could be a fire hazard.

Vent-blockage indicator

The vent-blockage indicator is designed to sense when a vent is blocked. Lint-filled dryer ducts increase drying time and energy costs, problems this feature is meant to address. They do not call the indicator a safety feature, even though lint-filled ducts can cause dryer fires. Our past tests found the indicators were too inconsistent to count on. But more recent tests found the Airflow Alert and Check Vent indicators on Maytag and Whirlpool dryers, LG's FlowSense, and Samsung's VentSensor all detect fully blocked vents more reliably. LG's sensor even stopped the dryer in our tests, and a Whirlpool dryer app can send you an e-mail or text if there's a problem. But they weren't as good at detecting partially blocked vents.

Brands

Frigidaire arrow  |  GE arrow  |  Kenmore arrow  |  LG arrow  |  Maytag arrow  |  Samsung arrow  |  Whirlpool arrow

Here's a glimpse at the brands. 

Frigidaire

Frigidaire and Frigidaire Affinity dryers are included in our Ratings. 

GE

This brand offers dryers under both the GE and GE Profile lines. 

Kenmore

Kenmore and Kenmore Elite brands are sold at Sears. 

LG

This South Korean company keeps increasing capacities and adding features. 

Maytag

This Whirlpool-owned brand is priced a bit lower than Whirlpool-branded products. Maytag includes the Bravos and Maxima lines. 

Samsung

Samsung, a South Korean company, continues to up the capacities and add features. 

Whirlpool

This brand includes the Cabrio and Duet lines. 

   

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