Tumble dryer vs ironing- which is the cheaper way to dry clothes?

A Money Edit reader asked us which is cheaper - drying and ironing clothes or hanging them straight up fresh out of the tumble dryer? So, we did the maths

Split screen, woman putting laundry into a tumble dry and close up of person using iron
(Image credit: Getty images)

Money Edit reader, Pam, got in touch to ask which option works out cheaper, drying your clothes on an airer and then ironing them or using a tumble dryer. 

Pam claims when they use the tumble dryer there is no need to iron  - as long as they hang up the clothes while they are still warm. Whereas clothes that are hung out to dry require ironing. Pam wants to know which method is cheaper. Or an excuse to get out of doing the ironing. 

With many households already struggling to pay their energy bills and the Energy Price Guarantee (EPG) coming to an end in March, you could see energy bills rise by around a third again. 

Unfortunately, it’s no surprise we’re getting asked how to cut energy costs in unexpected ways. 

Well, we’ve crunched the number and figured out which is the cheaper way to get dry, wrinkle-free clothes, using a tumble dryer or an airer and ironing.

How much does it cost to run a tumble dryer?

Woman smelling clean laundry as she takes it out of a tumble dryer

(Image credit: Getty images)

Tumble dryers vary in size, weight, how much energy they consume and their energy rating, so it depends on those factors when working out how much it costs to run a tumble dryer. 

Based on the current EPG, it costs between £91.80 and £198.90 to run an average 8kg load tumble dryer. 

Tumble dryers come in three types: Heat pump, condenser and vented.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Type of tumble dryerCost per use (based on the current EPG)
Heat pump 74p
Condenser £1.99

The three types of tumble dryers also vary in how they work. 

According to Homeserve, heat pump tumble dryers are energy efficient and cost less to run. The way they tend to work is they give out warm air to the laundry and then a condenser separates the water by collecting it in a water tank. 

A condenser tumble dryer takes out all of the moisture from the clothing and recirculates the air in the drum to dry the garments. These are more affordable than vented tumble dryers, but they use more energy than a heat pump tumble dryer. 

The main thing to note with vented tumble dryers is that they need to be placed near an external vent in your home because the heat comes into the drum from the room you place it in. These tumble dryers are a cheaper buy but are the least energy efficient. 

There are a few things you can do to cut the running costs of a tumble dryer. Vijay Bhardwaj, Marketing Director at Beko plc says: “Selecting a high spin cycle on your washing machine will reduce the amount of water left in your garments, reducing the time it takes for your clothes to dry in the tumble dryer.”

Try to use the tumble dryer during the night if you can, as it’s cheaper to use energy at off-peak hours

How much does it cost to run an iron?

Woman ironing her clothes at home and smiling

(Image credit: Getty images)

The Money Edit reader Pam claims if they dry clothes out of the washing machine on an airer, they have the additional cost of ironing. 

Ben Gallizzi, energy expert at Uswitch said: “Using a 3.1 kW iron for 30 minutes would cost about 53p, and you could iron a fair amount of clothing in that time.”

In 30 minutes you could probably iron a week's worth of shirts (five to seven shirts).

If you use a normal airer to hang the clothes dry, that comes at no cost. But if you use a heated airer, you will need to factor that cost in. 

Let’s assume you use a two-tier heated airer three times a week and it takes five hours to dry a full load. That would cost 35p per use. 

So, we’ve calculated how much it would cost to dry clothes on an airer and we factor in the cost of ironing. Note, in this example three loads of washing is equivalent to a week’s worth of laundry.

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UsageCost of using a normal airer and iron (per use)Cost of using a two-tier heated airer and iron (per use)
One load of washing and ironing for 30 minutes53p88p
Three loads of washing and ironing for 90 minutes£1.59£2.64

If you were to do three loads of washing and iron for 90 minutes per week, that would cost £3.52 per month (if you used a normal airer) and it would cost £10.56 per month (if you used a two-tier heated airer. 

If you use a dehumidifier when drying clothes out instead, you will need to factor this cost in. According to ChooseDehumidifier, the running costs vary as it depends on the humidity levels in the room, how wet the clothes are the temperature. 

If you use a 250W dehumidifier, it would cost around 42.5p to run for five hours. If you were then to iron for 30 minutes, the total cost would be around 43p. 

If you used the dehumidifier for 15 hours over three loads of washing and you use an iron for 90 minutes per week, it would cost you roughly £2.85. 

Ben from Uswitch says there are ways to cut the running cost of an iron: “Make sure you use the appropriate heat setting for your clothing. Using the highest settings will consume more energy, and may not be correct for every item.” 

The verdict

The bottom line is, drying clothes on an airer and ironing them is cheaper than using a tumble dryer, regardless of what type of airer you use. 

If you used a tumble dryer three times a week, it would cost you £5.97 to run (on the basis that you’re using a condenser or vented tumble dryer. 

Whereas three loads per week on an airer and ironing for 90 minutes costs £1.59. That’s £4.38 less. 

And if you used a dehumidifier instead of an airer, it would cost a little more for three loads of washing per week, but less than the running cost of a tumble dryer.

But this will not always be the case for everyone. 

You need to ask yourself the following to figure out what suits your household the best:

  • How powerful is my iron? (the more powerful, the more energy it will consume)
  • How many loads of washing do I do per week? 
  • How many garments can I iron in half an hour? (not everyone’s ironing time is the same and some clothing requires more attention than others)
  • How big are my washing loads and how much of it needs ironing? (Things like PJs and socks don’t need to be ironed, but if you’re doing the washing for a family of four and your washing machine drum is bigger than the average 7kg to 8kg, it might just be worth putting all of the clothes in the tumble dryer).

Ben from Uswitch gives a good tip: “Try to fold clothes away as soon as they are dry to avoid them creasing.” 

If you’re looking for the quicker option,  the tumble dryer wins if you compare the time it takes to dry clothes on an airer and iron them.

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Vaishali Varu
Staff Writer

Vaishali graduated in journalism from Leeds University. She has gained experience writing local stories around Leeds and Leicester, which includes writing for a university publication and Leicester Mercury. 

She has also done some marketing and copywriting for businesses.

When she is not writing about personal finance, Vaishali likes to travel and she's a foodie.