When it comes to buying a dryer, know which features to prioritize. Review these dryer basics and features to help you select the right model for your needs.

By Rebecca Carhart and BH&G Editors
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A well-chosen clothes dryer will help you get the laundry done faster with wrinkle-free results and minimal hassle. Clothes dryers use heated air and tumbling action to evaporate water from garments and linens, then exhaust the humid air through a lint filter.

Basic budget-friendly dryers come with white exteriors, mechanical controls, and only a few temperature settings (low, medium, and high). Cycles likely include only timed-dry (you pick the amount of time) and air-dry (no heat). As prices increase, the dryers add more sophisticated timers and settings. High-end dryers likely include touch pad or touch screen controls and dozens of choices for heat temperature and cycles that you might be interested in. Expensive dryers are also more likely to come in fashion colors with matching washers—a boon if you're locating a laundry room near high-traffic living areas such as the kitchen or family room.

Here are some basic choices, styles, and features to consider as you pick a new clothes dryer.

Clothes dryers need to create heat to dry clothes efficiently. There are only two options: natural gas or electricity. Your house or apartment hookup will likely dictate which energy source you can use.

Gas Dryers

Gas dryers require a gas hookup and a dedicated 120-volt outlet. Gas dryers have a higher price tag than electric dryers but are less expensive to operate on a day-to-day basis. A gas dryer might be the right choice for you if you want to save money over time and have an existing gas connection or are willing to pay to have one installed by a professional.

Courtesy of The Home Depot

Our Pick for Gas Dryer: Amana 120-Volt Gas Vented Dryer

This sleek gas dryer from Amana uses temperature sensors to determine when your load is dry. Not only does this prevent over-drying but it also saves energy. Plus, the gas dryer features a wrinkle prevention system that automatically tumbles clothes left in the dryer. Along with 11 different dryer cycles, it also boasts a reversible side-swing door that can be installed on the right or left side—making it easier to fit your laundry room’s layout.

The dryer has more than 1,400 reviews and a 4.4-star rating at The Home Depot. “Really like this large-capacity gas dryer,” says one five-star review. “I have a king-size bed and all the bedding fits in it great! Dries clothes and rugs quickly. Did a great job drying my kitchen rugs.”

Electric Dryers

Electric dryers require a dedicated 240-volt outlet, which is twice the strength of ordinary household current. Although initially cheaper than gas dryers, electric dryers cost more to run. An electric dryer might be the right choice if you want to spend less for the initial purchase and can plug the dryer into an existing setup.

Courtesy of Wayfair

Our Pick for Electric Dryer: GE Electric Dryer With Aluminized Alloy Drum

It’s easy to see why more than 3,000 Wayfair customers are fans of this GE electric dryer. The beloved appliance not only has a handy wrinkle care system, but it’s also 7.2 cubic feet wide, making it big enough to handle large loads like bedding or towels. Along with an auto-dry feature that measures the temperature to decide the right drying time, it boasts a front lint filter that’s super easy to clean. It also has an end-of-cycle signal that alerts you when your load of laundry is almost done.

“Bought this dryer about a month ago and have been very happy with it,” said one customer. “Our old dryer took forever to finish and many times had to run it longer to get clothes totally dry. Not so with our new GE. I really like the buzzer (I can hear it in any room) it has to let me know the cycle is about to end so I can get clothes out before they wrinkle. Clothes come out dry and wrinkle-free the first time.”

Editor's Tip: Because there is little difference in how much energy different dryers use, the Department of Energy's Energy Star program does not label this type of appliance. If you are concerned about energy consumption, you might want to choose a dryer with a moisture-sensor cycle, or choose one with a high spin cycle. Both choices reduce how much drying time is needed and save energy as a result.

Controls & Cycles

Clothes dryers feature a wide range of settings to regulate drying time and temperature. High-end models come with electronic touch pad or touch screen controls. Basic dryers use mechanical dial controls. Whether a dryer features electronic controls or dials, the mechanism to choose cycles and functions should be easy to read and operate. The basic functions include dryness control and temperature control.

Dryness Control

Depending primarily on price, clothes dryers offer three ways to set the cycle to dry clothing. Each uses a different method to determine when clothes are dry, and each provides a different level of control.

  • Timed Drying: You use a dial to set the amount of time you want to dry a load of laundry. The dryer stops when this time is reached. Some timed-drying cycles include a cooldown period before the dryer stops. The quality of your drying results will depend upon how accurately you evaluate drying time based on fabric type and amount of moisture present. Lower-priced dryers might offer only this type of drying cycle.
  • Automatic Drying: Dryers typically offer three basic drying cycles: delicate/knit, permanent press, and regular. You choose the cycle, then designate the desired degree of dryness (from more dry to less dry) on the control. The load dries as long as it takes to reach that temperature and moisture level. A cooldown period usually initiates before the dryer stops. This approach minimizes guesswork and the likelihood of overdrying.
  • Drying with Moisture Sensors: High-end dryers use an electronic moisture sensor that actually touches the clothes while they're drying to determine the degree of wetness. Less-expensive dryers estimate moisture levels based on exhaust air temperatures. In both cases, you decide how dry you want the clothes to end up—completely dry or damp—and the machine determines how long to dry that particular load of laundry. This is the most efficient way to dry clothes.

Temperature Control

Each load of laundry requires you to choose a temperature based on fabric content. In general, the more expensive the dryer, the more choices you will have for temperature control. The basic selections:

  • High or Regular: Use this setting for laundry such as bath towels and clothes made of heavy-duty fabrics (such as blue jeans). A short cooldown period minimizes wrinkles.
  • Medium or Permanent Press: Because its longer cooldown period helps reduce wrinkles, use this setting for fabrics such as polyester and nylon that don't require ironing.
  • Low: This setting works well for knits.
  • Extra-Low or Delicate: Use this setting for lightweight fabrics, loosely woven fabrics, and those labeled "tumble dry" (which means they might shrink when exposed to heat).
  • Air-Dry: Use this setting (sometimes called air-fluff) for items such as shower curtains or clothes made with elastic that should be dried without heat. This setting is also good for fluffing items filled with down.

Dryer Capacity

The larger the dryer's capacity, the more you can dry in a single load, which translates into saving time and money. Also, when clothes have more tumbling room, they end up less wrinkled at the end of a cycle. Most full-size dryers can hold a typical load of washed clothes.

Full-Size Dryers

Full-size dryers are usually 27-29 inches wide and can manage a typical wash load (about 6-7.5 cubic feet). This is the most practical choice for most families or small households that want the ability to wash bulky items such as comforters.

Courtesy of Wayfair

Our Pick for Full-Size Dryer: Whirlpool 240-Volt Electric Vented Dryer

This full-size Whirlpool dryer has 13 cycle options to choose from, plus a hamper-style door, which swings down to help you avoid dropping clothes on the floor as you remove them from the dryer. It also has an interior light, so you can easily see if you’ve forgotten anything inside. The appliance is one of the most popular dryers at The Home Depot, with more than 3,500 reviews and an impressive 4.6-star rating.

“Our new Whirlpool Dryer arrived as promised. Dries quickly and efficiently. I really love the light that is inside the barrel of the dryer, and the easy-to-use options for drying different items. So awesome, I couldn't have picked a better product,” said one shopper. “I do a lot of homework before purchasing a major appliance. I love Whirlpool products and I was not impressed with all the extra fancy new dryers on the market today. I want to dry clothes, I don't want a washroom for an advertisement or a movie. Love my Whirlpool Dryer.”

Space-Saving Dryers

Space-saving dryers usually measure 24 inches wide or less. Their drum capacity is usually half that of full-size models, or about 3.5 cubic feet—making them a good choice for small households or small spaces.

Courtesy of Amazon

Our Pick for Space-Saving Dryer: Panda Compact Laundry Dryer

If you don’t have the space for a large dryer, check out this compact option from Panda. It has a coveted Amazon’s Choice recommendation, awarded to highly-rated items, thanks to more than 500 customers rating it an impressive 4.1 stars. It’s only 2.65 cubic feet wide—making it ideal for smaller living spaces—and only weighs 44 pounds so you can easily move it around your home as needed. It also comes with a handy wall-mounting kit, should you choose to keep it in one spot.

“I live in a small apartment with my 11-year-old daughter. This dryer is the perfect supplement to the mini washer I purchased a few months ago,” said one customer. “It can be plugged into a regular electrical outlet and is saving me the hassle of weekly trips to the laundromat. For now, I have been venting it through a bedroom window, which I crack open to fit the venting tube through. This is a must in the humid summer weather, but in the winter I may operate it un-vented to add some extra warmth to the apartment.”

Combination Washer-Dryers

Combination washer-dryers come in both 24- and 27-inch widths, with gas or electric dryers. You can choose a unit with a front-loading washer and a stacked dryer, or a single unit with both washer and dryer built in. The latter is ideal for locations where a separate full-size washer and dryer would not fit.

Courtesy of Wayfair

Our Pick for Combination Washer-Dryer: GE Washer and Electric Dryer Laundry Center

If you’re in the market for a combination washer and dryer, consider this GE option. The washer features auto-load sensors and four different wash cycles, while the dryer is spacious enough to fit large loads of laundry. With a convenient space-saving design, it’s easy to see why this multi-use combination appliance has a 4.3-star rating and more than 300 reviews on Wayfair.

“We've had a lot of washer and dryers over the years (from top-of-the-line to older models). While front loaders are all the rage, this washer and dryer not only works better than any we've ever had, but because it's a stackable, we literally have to fold the laundry once it's done,”  raved one customer.“It has eliminated baskets of laundry just sitting around and has changed our laundry habits completely! It is beyond efficient, quiet, and works so well! Highly recommend.”

Dryer Features

Today's clothes dryers offer a variety of cycles and features that save time or steps, and increase safety. Evaluate your household and the way you do laundry to decide which combination of features fits your life best.

  • A sanitize cycle (which uses high heat or steam) helps get rid of allergens and bacteria by sanitizing items that can't be washed.
  • An express or speed cycle uses increased airflow for faster drying.
  • A steam setting removes wrinkles and freshens clothes. This high-end option might require a water hookup, although some models include a drawer that you fill with water from the tap.
  • A noise-reduction system (e.g. added insulation and improved suspension) minimizes the sound of a running dryer—a good choice if the unit will be located near living spaces.
  • Reverse-tumble drums change direction as they run to keep clothes from clumping as they dry.
  • Stainless-steel drums boast the smoothest finish and are less likely to chip, crack, or scratch than plastic or porcelain ones.
  • An interior dryer-drum light helps you locate small items.
  • A pedestal base raises the dryer 15 inches to minimize bending and provide handy storage space for laundry staples.
  • A large, easy-to-access lint filter makes it easy to clean the filter, which helps your machine run efficiently and reduces the risk of fire.
  • A lint-filter light reminds you to clean the filter before each use.
  • A vent-blockage monitor indicates lint buildup in the ductwork connecting to your dryer—a potential fire risk.
  • A removable stationary rack allows shoes to be dried without tumbling.
  • A pull-down door (also known as a hamper-style door) holds laundry for you while loading or unloading the machine. But side-opening doors make it easier to reach the back of the drum.

Shopping Tips

  • Review your household's laundry habits and cleaning challenges before deciding on your dryer's priority features and styles. You might want to consider a matching set where washer and dryer are designed to work together.
  • Read reviews and compare prices for dryers before visiting the home center or appliance dealer.
  • Measure before you buy to make sure the model you want will fit the space you have in mind. You'll also need to know that the dryer can fit through doors and up or down stairwells (depending on location). Take the tape measure with you to the store.
  • Evaluate the manufacturer's customer service record and warranties.
  • If saving money is a priority, buy a basic white model with mechanical controls and a limited number of cycles and features.
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