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10 clothes dryer mistakes and how to avoid them

We reveal the easy errors to avoid, from over-drying and using dryer balls to not emptying lint filters and more.

cleaning lint filter common dryer mistakes
Last updated: 03 March 2022

Who doesn't love the convenience of a clothes dryer on a wet, miserable day? The only thing that could really beat it might be the invention of an automatic folder-and-put-away-er to finish the job.

But are you getting the most out of your dryer? It's possible you're making a few laundry faux pas that have the potential to cost you money, waste energy and even ruin your clothes.

Whether you use your dryer every day or only on the odd occasion, CHOICE whitegoods guru Ashley Iredale has identified 10 common mistakes you could be making that may jeopardise not only the quality and lifespan of your clothes and appliance, but also your bank balance.

dirty lint filter in a dryer

A full lint filter is inefficient and a fire hazard.

1. Not cleaning your lint filter

The task of removing the excess lint from your dryer's lint trap after every use may be annoying, but to continually forget and let the lint build up inside your dryer could not only be reducing your dryer's efficiency, but also creating a potential fire hazard, says Ashley.

"A blocked lint filter makes it harder for air to circulate through your clothes, making your dryer less efficient and creating a fire hazard," he says. "You should clean your dryer's filter after every load."

2. Setting clothes to dry longer than necessary 

In the long term, over-drying your clothes in the dryer may degrade your clothing with excessive wrinkling or shrinkage, according to Ashley. "Most modern dryers have an auto sensor, but there are still some new models, as well as a bunch of older dryers in peoples' homes, that use a timer only," he says.

Over-drying also wastes energy, which can be an unnecessary expense. Save energy and money by going old-school and hanging your clothes on a line to dry. "Clothes dryers use a lot of energy to run, but sunlight is free," Ashley says.

3. Drying woollens in the dryer

You'll want to avoid tumble drying your favourite woollen jumper as it may well irrevocably damage the fibres, says Ashley. 

"When wool is spun and made into clothing, the fibres are stretched out and straightened. When you apply heat, that stretch can relax and the fibres can retract, like a recoiling spring," he says. 

"There are ways you can try and stretch them out again, but it's not always successful and you're better off avoiding the problem in the first place."

That said, some dryers do have a 'woollens' setting but, Ashley says, using it could be risky. "Although woollens settings in dryers are designed to be gentler than the regular settings and use lower heat, you're safest not to use any heat or mechanical action at all. If you have the option of air drying then it's better not to risk it."

Instead, dry your woollen items outside, but not in direct sunlight as this may cause colour fading. Dry in a shaded area and lay the garment flat to ensure the clothing maintains its shape. 

condensation on laundry window

Not ventilating when your dryer is running can quickly lead to mould.

4. Not opening a window for ventilation

If you have a vented dryer, make sure you have enough ventilation in your laundry to avoid a build-up of moisture whenever it's in use. Otherwise you're creating an optimum environment for mould spores to grow, especially on gyprock and fabric materials stored in and around the laundry.  

"Venting moisture back into your laundry space just makes your dryer work harder to dry your clothes, costing you more," Ashley says. "If you can't vent, consider a condenser or heat pump condenser dryer – they cost more to buy but are cheaper to run so they can save you money in the long run, and won't leave you with water dripping from the ceiling and down the walls."

5. Assuming expensive brands will dry better

Thanks to our extensive lab testing, we know that the price of the drier doesn't necessarily equate to its performance.

"We had a recent Asko heat pump dryer that failed to meet its 6% moisture content in our test," says Ashley. Under the Australian standard, dryers must be able to reach 6% or better to be fit for sale. 

"For this reason we can't recommend the Asko, even though it scored well otherwise."

The cheap and cheerful vented dryers we tested all do meet the standard.

"We're also increasingly seeing ultra-efficient heat pump dryers (with 9- and 10-star energy ratings) that don't offer reverse tumbling, because to achieve that level of efficiency they need to run everything off a single motor – reversing the drum would reverse everything else, which is bad for the machine. So as energy efficient as they are, no reverse tumbling means large bed sheets can wad up into a tight ball in the dryer and not dry properly, to the point where we'd question if the dryer is actually fit for purpose."

using dryer ball in clothes dryer

Our testing of dryer balls shows they don't deliver what they promise.

6. Using a dryer ball

Don't get sucked into buying one of these gimmicks, says Ashley. According to his testing of a range of dryer ball products at CHOICE, they just don't work. 

"Some people will tell you that adding these to your dryer will reduce the time and energy required to dry your clothes. We tested dryer balls and found the only thing they dried up fast were the liquid assets in your wallet."

7. Mixing thick, bulky items with thinner, delicate ones 

While it may be tempting to throw a whole load into the dryer at once, Ashley reckons you'll get better results if you dry like items with like. 

"Different weight fabrics can hold greater or lesser amounts of moisture, so they'll dry at different rates – a thin satin garment will dry much quicker than a heavy denim or a towel, so that means you could be over-drying (and therefore damaging) some clothes while others are still damp," Ashley advises.

The same can also be said for the dryer itself. When buying a dryer, choose a size that suits your household's needs rather than the biggest and best on the market. If you have a big dryer and are only putting a few things into each load, you're not getting the best value in the long term.

using washing machine spin cycle

Use the highest spin speed your washing instructions allow in order to reduce drying time.

8. Not making the most of your washer's spin speed

The spin cycle on your washing machine extracts moisture from your clothes to prepare them for faster drying.

"Use the highest spin speed on your washing machine and, if you're shopping for a new washing machine, look for one with a high spin speed so your washing will take less time and energy to dry," Ashley says.

9. Choosing the wrong type of dryer for your needs 

There are several types of clothes dryer on the market – vented, heat pump, condenser, gas – and which one you choose should depend on your circumstances and priorities. 

Don't buy an expensive heat pump dryer if you'll only use it a couple of times a year, or an energy-hungry vented dryer if you' be using it every day.

"If you can't avoid using your dryer all year round, opt for one with a high energy-efficiency score or a heat pump condenser dryer," Ashley says. "They cost more to buy but are cheaper to run so they can save you money in the long run. The more you use your dryer, the better an option this becomes."

10. Wasting the water collected by condenser or heat pump dryers 

If you have a condenser or heat pump dryer, you can use the water collected when drying your laundry to water the garden and house plants.

"The water your dryer extracts from your clothes is considered greywater – it's going to contain traces of detergents, chemicals from synthetic clothes and dyes, and microparticles," Ashley says. 

"You can't drink it, but you can use it in the garden – it has far fewer impurities than greywater from other sources. Just follow the same guidelines as you would for regular greywater."

Alternatively, to avoid hefting the water tank from your condenser or heat pump dryer to the sink after every load, some makes and models allow you to plumb it into a drain. Review your dryer's manual or contact the manufacturer to determine whether yours has this ability.

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.