Dehumidifier vs tumble dryer - there's a clear winner if you want to dry your clothes on a budget

This appliance will dry your clothes AND save you money

A wooden clothes airer with drying clothes
(Image credit: Future PLC)

As autumn rears its head and brings with it cold temperatures and wet weather, it’s becoming harder and harder to dry washing outside. Tumble dryers and dehumidifiers can certainly help you dry your washing inside, but which one is better?

Both appliances are common in homes across the UK, and both appliances can save homeowners from soggy washing. But it’s fair to say that they're very different; one is a large under-the-counter appliance designed to spin the moisture out of your clothes, and the other is a smaller appliance created not just to dry laundry but to reduce humidity levels in the home in general.

At first glance, these two shouldn’t be put head-to-head. But with sales of the best dehumidifiers going through the roof, and plenty of dehumidifiers appearing in the best Black Friday deals we've seen, we knew we needed to put these two appliances against each other and find out which one is better for drying clothes once and for all - if there really is a competition at all.

Dehumidifier vs tumble dryer

It may seem strange to question whether dehumidifiers dry clothes, but more and more people are turning to these multi-tasking appliances to dry their washing, and keep damp in check. But how does a dehumidifier compare to the much-loved tumble dryer? These are the pros and cons you need to know. 

White tiled and marble utility room with fitted washer and dryer

(Image credit: Future PLC/Rachael Smith)

The benefits of using a dehumidifier to dry clothes

‘There are several advantages of using a dehumidifier instead of a tumble dryer to dry laundry,’ explains Chris Michael, Managing Director of Meaco. Here are just a few of them:

  • It can be used 24/7: When you’re not using a dehumidifier to dry your clothes, you can use it in many other rooms in the house. Chris Michael says, ‘While you have no clothes to dry, you can put your dehumidifier to work to protect the rest of your home. There’s often excess moisture in your home – particularly during the colder months. Cooking, showering – anything that creates moisture – are all ways that you introduce more moisture into your home.’
  • It’ll dry bigger loads: If you have a large household and want to wash multiple loads over the course of one weekend, a dehumidifier could be the best option for you. That’s because a dehumidifier with a large capacity can dry multiple loads at once when they’re placed on a drying rack in the same room. For example, a dehumidifier with a 20L capacity should have no problems drying clothes in a 15 ㎡ to 25 ㎡ room.
  • It might have dedicated features: Dehumidifiers come in all shapes and sizes, with many modern options coming with dedicated “laundry modes” to help you dry your clothes with ease. This mode will typically offer a higher fan speed and will automatically turn off after six hours, too. This means that you can simply turn on your dehumidifier and forget about it for a while. 

A wooden clothes airer with drying clothes

(Image credit: Future PLC)
Chris Michael headshot
Chris Michael

Chris has been advising on humidity solutions and dehumidifiers since 1991 and is well known within the dehumidifier industry across the world as a lead on innovation and sustainability. Since the mid-90s Chris has been a guest speaker at numerous conferences to teach museum conservators how to measure relative humidity. With a wealth of experience in the industry, Chris is committed to helping provide low-energy and low-noise solutions appliances that improve the lives of customers.

The cons of using a dehumidifier to dry clothes

While a dehumidifier can certainly work wonders when you’re trying to dry clothes during the wet and cold months, there’s no doubt that there are some drawbacks you need to consider, too.

Do dehumidifiers dry clothes?

(Image credit: Meaco)
  • Its location is key: While dehumidifiers do work hard to dry clothes, this can be hindered by placing your dehumidifier in the wrong place, a common dehumidifier mistake. That’s because dehumidifiers rely on circulating air, which can’t be done if the appliance is stuck in a corner or sitting by a wall. This means that you have to keep the dehumidifier in the middle of a room (ideally, a smaller room rather than a larger one), which isn’t always possible in every house. 
  • It’ll take longer: You need to have a bit of patience if you want to dry your clothes using a dehumidifier. On average, it’s suggested that it’ll take around 4-5 hours to dry your clothes using this appliance. This timespan will vary from load to load, though, as the overall time will be determined by the clothes you’re trying to dry, how big the load is, how ventilated your room is and the temperature in the room. However, in our heated airer vs dehumidifier comparison, we still found it the fastest alternative drying method.
  • It requires human intervention: If you want to dry your clothes with a dehumidifier as quickly as possible, you’ll need to get involved. For starters, you should avoid bunching up your clothes on the drying rack and instead give them space for the air to circulate. You should also close all windows and doors and turn your clothes around on the airer every hour or so to ensure an even dry. 

The benefits of using a tumble dryer to dry clothes

A tumble dryer can be a handy addition to your home, and there are many advantages to using a tumble dryer to dry your clothes.

  • It’s quick and easy: If you’re trying to dry your outfit last minute, a tumble dryer will certainly work better for you. A representative for Beko explains, ‘It’s quicker, which makes it ideal for larger households. If you need to dry large loads in minimal time, a Heat Pump tumble dryer will dry your clothes a lot faster than hanging them up to dry.’ Usually, a tumble dryer will completely dry your clothes in less than an hour, which means that they’ll be ready to wear in no time. 
  • It’ll iron your clothes: If you hate ironing your clothes, a tumble dryer can actually reduce your need to iron them. You can even buy tumble dryer balls that will not only help to iron out any creases but will also help to reduce your tumble dryer’s drying time by around 40%. We particularly love these Boss it Rapid Dryer Balls from Amazon.
  • It can kill germs and bacteria: Clothes are covered in all kinds of germs and bacteria, and washing machines often don’t tackle this problem - especially if you prefer a cold wash. However, a tumble dryer can. The high temperature of a tumble dryer can kill these germs and bacteria in no time, and some tumble dryers even come with specific hygiene cycles that make them extra clean. 

Neutral laundry room with washing machine, tumble dryer and Belfast sink

(Image credit: Future PLC)

The cons of using a tumble dryer to dry clothes

While some people love tumble dryers, there’s no doubt that tumble dryers do come with some pretty big negatives. So, make sure you understand these drawbacks before committing to a new tumble dryer. 

  • Loads are restricted: Although tumble dryers are quick and efficient, they’re also limited in size. This means that you can only dry a certain kg of clothes at one time. This load size varies depending on the tumble dryer that you buy, but can only take 7 to 9 kg at a time. This means that you may have to run multiple loads to dry all of your wet washing. 
  • It’ll take up space: If you live in a small house and don’t have a dedicated utility room, finding somewhere to put a tumble dryer can be a struggle. After all, these appliances are extremely big - which means that some people just don’t have space for such a thing. Even if you do have space in your shed or garage for a tumble dryer, you need to make sure that you have power going to these external rooms. 
  • It can ruin your clothes: Unfortunately, a tumble dryer can take a real toll on your clothes if you use it too much. The exposure to heat, coupled with constant movement, can irritate and damage the fibres in your clothes, leaving them worn, faded, and frayed. So, it’s best to avoid tumble drying your clothes on a regular basis. 
  • It can be unsafe: There are risks associated with every appliance, but tumble dryers are particularly risky. ‘Over recent years, there have been numerous product recalls and high-profile safety notices relating to tumble dryers,’ explains Chris. ‘Tumble drying can be a fire risk, and owners are always advised to run their dryers when they are in the house and to keep them clean of lint and residue.’ However, this advise is best followed with any electronic appliance including a dehumidifier.

A laundry room with hung laundry

(Image credit: Future PLC/Tim Young)

What is the price difference?

In the dehumidifier vs tumble dryer debate, there is one clear winner. Yes, in terms of the overall price of the appliance and the running cost, a dehumidifier always wins. 

At Ideal Home, we pride ourselves on giving you up-to-date information on how much appliances will set you back. And while how much a tumble dryer costs to run will depend on the individual tumble dryer and the average price per kWh of electricity at the time, in October 2023, a 9kg vented tumble dryer would set you back £1.44 per cycle and £178.20 per year on average. 

This is very different to how much it costs to run a dehumidifier. Again, this varies on a dehumidifier-by-dehumidifier basis. Based on the price per kWh of electricity in October 2023, though, a 20L dehumidifier will cost just under 13p an hour to run. Alternatively, a 12L dehumidifier will set you back around 4.5p an hour to run. 

Even if you do run a 20L dehumidifier for 5 hours to dry your clothes (as per the general guidelines), that’ll still only cost you 65p. 

The final verdict: Which one do you need?

If you’re someone who is incredibly impatient and has a few spare pennies to spend, a tumble dryer will certainly be the best option for you. However, for general usage, we’d always go with a dehumidifier as the best option for drying clothes. 

It’s incredibly easy to dry clothes without a tumble dryer, and a dehumidifier can do that. Not only is a dehumidifier incredibly easy to use, but it also has the benefit of being a lot cheaper to buy and run than a tumble dryer. 

Dehumidifiers are also great all-rounders for those who want to get rid of mould and keep their homes condensation-free, as you can simply plug these portable appliances around the house and tackle any excess moisture you may be dealing with. 

And while we certainly appreciate the speed and ease of a tumble dryer, we think that dehumidifiers win this battle.

Do dehumidifiers dry clothes?

(Image credit: Meaco)

The best dehumidifiers for drying clothes

At Ideal Home, we've tried and tested almost every dehumidifier on the market today. In our expert opinion, these are the dehumidifiers that dry clothes the fastest based on our testing process.


Is a tumble dryer or dehumidifier cheaper to run?

A dehumidifier is typically cheaper to run than a tumble dryer as it uses less energy - even though a dehumidifier is often used for longer periods. Based on energy prices that were correct at the time of writing, a 9kg vented tumble dryer would set you back £1.44 per cycle (which will normally last an hour or so). 

On the other hand, a 20L dehumidifier will cost just under 13p an hour to run, while a 12L dehumidifier will set you back around 4.5p an hour. 

This is a huge price difference and one of the many reasons why people are ditching their tumble dryers in favour of a dehumidifier that can also be used elsewhere around the house. 

Can a dehumidifier replace a dryer?

Yes, as long as you appreciate that a dehumidifier is a very different appliance and won’t dry your clothes as quickly as a tumble dryer. But in today’s day and age, a tumble dryer is considered a luxury to those who have the space to house a tumble dryer as well as more money to spend on energy bills. 

If you’re thinking of replacing your tumble dryer with a dehumidifier, it’s important to understand how a dehumidifier works and how to use it. After all, using it in the wrong way can affect its efficiency and could potentially leave you dreaming of your old dryer. 

Although we appreciate that some people love their tumble dryers, dehumidifiers are becoming more and more popular - and it’s not hard to understand why.  

Lauren Bradbury

Lauren Bradbury is a freelance writer and major homes enthusiast. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Creative Writing from the University of Chichester in 2016, before dipping her toe into the world of content writing. After years of agency work, writing everything from real-life stories to holiday round-ups, she decided to take the plunge and become a full-time freelancer in the online magazine world. Since then, she has become a regular contributor for Real Homes and Ideal Home, and become even more obsessed with everything interior and garden related. As a result, she’s in the process of transforming her old Victorian terraced house into an eclectic and modern home that hits visitors with personality as soon as they walk through the door.