Dehumidifier Vs Tumble Dryer For Drying Clothes: which is better?

Living in an area where the weather cannot be relied on to get clothes dry outdoors even during the summer months, means we need to find an alternative way of dealing with wet washing. There are a few different ways we can go but in this article we’ll be concentrating on whether it’s better to use a tumble dryer or a dehumidifier to get clothes dry.

If you’re having problems getting your laundry dry, and can’t decide whether to buy a tumble dryer or a dehumidifier, keep reading.

What’s The Key Differences Between A Dehumidifier And A Tumble Dryer?

There are several differences between these two appliances, not least of all the size. Tumble dryers are as big as washing machines whereas dehumidifiers are around the same size as a PC tower give or take.

Functionality and positioning are also huge differences between these two appliances. Tumble dryers need to be sited in a permanent position (often near an outside wall depending on the type), whereas dehumidifiers are completely portable and can be moved from room to room in your home.

A tumble dryer’s primary (and only) function is to dry wet laundry. Dehumidifiers on the other hand, can be used in any room and for drying anything that’s wet. For instance, wet washing on a clothes airer can be dried faster using a dehumidifier, but the dehumidifier can also be used to speed up the drying time of wet plaster, drying paint, wallpaper etc.

In many homes condensation is a big problem especially in cold winter months when opening windows can be problematic. Running a dehumidifier can help to remove moisture in a laundry caused by drying clothes, in the kitchen boiling food on a hob, using a microwave oven, in a bathroom caused by steam and so on.

What Is A Dehumidifier?


Dehumidifiers work by drawing in damp air which passes across a refrigerated coil. This cools the air which condenses the water vapour which is then stored in a reservoir.

The cooled air is then passed across the condenser where it gets reheated and sent back into the room only at a lower level of humidity. So a dehumidifier takes moisture from the air which in the case of drying clothes, allows more moisture to be expelled by the wet clothes.

It also releases warm air which helps speed up the drying process. In many ways a dehumidifier does a similar job to a tumble dryer. It removes damp air and replaces it with warm dry air which gets the clothes dry. However, it takes a dehumidifier much more time to dry clothes than a tumble dryer.

Some dehumidifiers have a “laundry drying” function which works by keeping humidity levels within the best range for optimum drying.

For more information on the best dehumidifier for drying clothes, click here.

What Are The Pros & Cons Of Drying Clothes With A Dehumidifier?

Let’s take a quick look at the reasons for and against drying clothes using a dehumidifier.

The Benefits

The main benefits of using a dehumidifier to dry clothes include;

  • Running Costs Are Lower
    It costs on average around 12 times less to run a dehumidifier to dry your clothes compared to a tumble dryer.
  • Better For The Environment
    As dehumidifiers use far less energy than a tumble dryer, (even though dehumidifiers run for more time) it is a more environmentally friendly option.
  • Protects Against Condensation
    Dehumidifiers remove moist air from the room and will work whether there’s wet laundry in the room or not. This means your home is less likely to get any build up of condensation which often leads to mould, mildew as well as rotting wood etc.
  • Heats Up The Room
    As the recycled air has been heated to around twice its original temperature, the dehumidifier can help to warm up the room. This can help to reduce heating costs, which is a big benefit especially with current energy prices.
  • Gentler On Clothes
    Compared to the mechanical action and excessive heat employed by a tumble dryer to dry clothes, a dehumidifier is much kinder and gentler on your clothes. There will be no damage to the fabric, no stiffening of the fibres and no shrinkage.
  • Can Help Allergy Sufferers
    The mould and mildew spores often associated with bringing on asthma attacks and other breathing difficulties thrive in damp conditions. Dehumidifiers remove moist air from your home which gives you the added benefit of having an appliance that will reduce the likelihood of mould and mildew forming. This will allow these with allergies to breathe easier.
  • It’s Portable
    Can be transported easily from room to room. This gives you the ability to remove moisture from any room in your home.
  • Prevents Clothes From Smelling Musty
    When clothes are left indoors to dry on an airer, they often end up smelling damp and musty. The reason for that is too much moisture. Using a dehumidifier removes that moisture and eliminates the mustiness preventing the clothes from smelling.

The Disadvantages

The main disadvantages of using a dehumidifier to dry your clothes include;

  • Takes Longer
    The average drying cycle on a tumble dryer is around 40 minutes, drying clothes on an airer using a dehumidifier can take up to 5 or 6 hours.
  • Takes Up More Space
    A tumble dryer sits in one position often in a utility room or even stacked on top of the washing machine. Whereas drying laundry using a dehumidifier means spreading your wet clothes out on a clothes airer or drying rack. You then need to position the dehumidifier slightly away from the airer to allow the air to flow freely. This takes up a considerable amount of space, it’s OK if you’re fortunate enough to have a spare room, but if not, all of that drying paraphernalia takes up your living space.
  • Can Look Unsightly
    As we just said, drying clothes using a dehumidifier takes up a considerable amount of space. If you don’t have a spare room, that encroaches on your living space which can make the place look untidy.
  • Needs Emptying
    The water tank on a dehumidifier will need to be emptied pretty often. This is both a blessing and a curse because it’s good that the unit is removing so much water. But 10 litres of water is quite heavy to be lugging around every time it needs emptying.

What Is A Tumble Dryer?

Tumble Dryer

Tumble dryers look like washing machines – they’re the same size and shape and are often situated in utility rooms. There are 3 types of tumble dryers which are;

  1. Vented Tumble Dryers
    These work by turning a metal drum which is filled with wet laundry. The drum is full of holes and is subjected to heat which forces the moisture in the clothes to evaporate. This wet air is then pumped out of the dryer via a vent hose which is either attached to an outside wall or draped through an open window or door. Vented dryers tend to be the least expensive of the 3 types of dryers and the most simplest in design.
  2. Condenser Tumble Dryers
    These dryers work using very similar principles to vented dryers except instead of a vent hose to extract the moist air, they use a cooling system that condenses the water vapour and collects it in a reservoir that needs to be emptied frequently. As there is no need for external venting, condenser dryers can be placed anywhere and are not limited to being placed near outside walls. They also have the shortest drying times of all 3 types.
  3. Heat Pump Tumble Dryers
    These dryers work in a similar way to condenser dryers except some of the extracted hot air is pumped back into the dryer to pass over the clothes again to remove moisture. They still have reservoirs that need emptying, but as they reuse hot air, heat pump dryers are the most energy efficient of the 3. The downside is they cost the most too. Added to which their drying cycle is far longer than the others as well.

For more information on the different types of tumble dryers follow this link.

What Are The Pros & Cons Of Drying Clothes With A Tumble Dryer?

Let’s now take a quick look at the reasons for and against using a tumble dryer to dry your clothes.

The Benefits

  • Dries Clothes Quicker
    A full load of laundry can be dried in a tumble dryer in as little as 40 minutes. The same load could take 5 or 6 hours on a clothes rack using a dehumidifier.
  • Takes Up Less Space
    The tumble dryer becomes a permanent feature of the room. Whereas a clothes rack and dehumidifier take up lots of space in a room which can make it difficult to walk through that room (depending on the room size).
  • Looks Tidier
    With all of the drying clothes contained in the dryer, there is no messy wet washing draped all over a drying rack to contend with.
  • Dries Large Amounts At Once
    Not only does using a tumble dryer mean shorter drying times, it also means you can get a full load done at one time. Many clothes airers have limited space. Which means it could take you even longer to dry one full wash load using a rack and dehumidifier.
  • Removes Condensation
    As the wet air is either vented outside or condensed into a water tank, there is less chance of condensation building up in your home.
  • Less Work
    All you need to do is place all of your wet laundry en masse into the drum of the dryer. Select the correct programme and press start. The dryer does all of the hard work. Drying clothes using a dehumidifier and clothes airer is much more labour intensive.
  • Easy To Operate
    You can get your clothes dry with just a few clicks to select temperature and fabric type (delicate, etc).

The Disadvantages

The main disadvantages of using a tumble dryer to dry your clothes include;

  • Uses Lots Of Electricity
    Compared to using a dehumidifier, a tumble dryer uses far more electricity. In fact, in some cases drying clothes in a tumble dryer can use up to 12 times more electricity than drying the same wash load using a clothes airer and dehumidifier.
  • High Running Costs
    That extra electricity costs extra money.
  • High Purchase Price
    Even basic vented tumble dryers cost much more to buy than dehumidifiers.
  • Static Buildup
    There are certain fabrics that produce static as they tumble around in the drum of the dryer. This can cause shocks to some people and often leads to clothes attracting hair, dust etc.
  • Noise Pollution
    Tumble dryers are noisy and the sound can often drown out conversation if you’re in the same room. Dehumidifiers do make some noise but at a far lower level than tumble dryers which can also vibrate.
  • Can Damage Clothes
    The rough and tumble action of a tumble dryer can lead to clothes becoming ripped, torn, shrunken or misshapen. Many clothes can also get damaged if exposed to high temperatures like those that can be found in a tumble dryer. Placing clothes on an airer and using a dehumidifier does absolutely no damage to your clothes.
  • Take Up A Large Chunk Of Space
    Although once installed, we get used to the space taken up by a tumble dryer, it still takes up a lot of space in the room. Plus it’s there permanently, unlike a dehumidifier which can be packed away when not in use.
  • Can Add Moisture To The Room
    Inevitably, when operating, tumble dryers will release some moisture back into the room. This can cause problems with damp like mould and mildew. As well as lead to wood rotting around window frames, sills doors and floorboards.
  • Needs Maintaining
    In order to keep your tumble dryer running properly, you will need to empty the lint filter regularly. Vented dryers will need the vent hose cleared every so often and dryers with water reservoirs will need them emptying regularly.

Which Is Better: Tumble Dryer Or Dehumidifier?

When it comes to versatility, purchase price, laundry care, environmental issues and running costs we’d have to say a dehumidifier wins hands down. 

With that said it’s far more convenient to dump all of your laundry directly from the washing machine into the nearby tumble dryer and remove it all once it’s dry. Sometimes, saving mother earth is less important than getting your family’s clothes dry in a hurry.

You’ll need to consider all of the pros & cons and decide which appliance suits your lifestyle best.

Dehumidifier Vs Tumble Dryer Price Comparison


There are two separate prices that need to be compared here which are purchase price and the running costs.

Dehumidifier Price

Dehumidifiers cost somewhere in the region of £100 to £200 to buy, depending on the make and model you choose. Running costs are far cheaper than tumble dryers even when you consider overall running costs.

Taking into account the fact that a dehumidifier will take an average of 6 hours to dry a wash load of clothes spread onto a clothes rack, the total cost depending on the wattage of the appliance is anywhere from 57p to £1.35p for the whole 6 hours.

Tumble Dryer Price

Tumble dryers cost considerably more to buy with the cheapest type, vented dryers costing around £200 to £300. Rising to around £250 to £450 for condenser dryers and heat pump dryers costing around £350 to £700.

All prices are subject to change and regional variations.

Running costs range from around £2.00 for a vented dryer,  £1.90 for a condenser dryer and around 75p for a heat pump dryer.

Please Note: All prices calculated using average rated appliances at a cost of 34p per unit of electricity.

Should I Buy A Tumble Dryer Or A Dehumidifier?

This is a question only you can really answer because you’re the only one that knows your situation. If you care about the environment and have a spare room and your home gets a lot of condensation, a dehumidifier will definitely be your best choice.

Not forgetting that clothes are unlikely to get damaged by a dehumidifier in the same way they could in a tumble dryer.

However, if you have a large family that creates a lot of laundry, and enough of a budget, getting a tumble dryer, even a cheap vented model could save you lots of work.

Ultimately a dehumidifier will save you money but it’s not much good if you need your laundry dry in a hurry. For that you’ll need a tumble dryer.

Are There Any Other Alternatives?

Maybe neither option is the right fit for your home in which case we have another option for you to consider;

Heated Airer

These are similar in design to regular airers except they have an electrically powered heating element that heats up the bars of the airer. Heated airers will get your clothes dryer faster than a regular airer due to the heat passing through the bars.

Many have covers which prevent heat loss and keep the moisture contained too. If yours doesn’t come supplied with a cover, these can often be purchased separately or you can use a bedsheet as a cover.

What Will You Choose?

The choice is ultimately yours but we’re interested in what you decide, please let us know in the comments whether you chose a tumble dryer or a dehumidifier or something entirely different.


Frequently Asked Questions

Is it cheaper to dry clothes with a dehumidifier or a tumble dryer?

Even though a dehumidifier can take up to 6 hours to get a wash load of clothes dry, it still works out far less expensive than using a tumble dryer even though it only takes around 45 minutes to complete a cycle.

Are dehumidifiers good for drying clothes?

Dehumidifiers work by removing moisture from the air and as moist air is removed it allows the damp clothes to release more water molecules into the air. This means that a dehumidifier is a great way to dry clothes and keep the room damp free as well.

Will a dehumidifier stop my clothes from smelling?

When clothes are left indoors to dry on an airer, they often end up smelling damp and musty. The reason for that is too much moisture. Using a dehumidifier removes that moisture and eliminates the mustiness preventing the clothes from smelling.

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