The bar has certainly been raised for dryer technology, with even the least expensive machines including what used to be considered high-end features. Even so, the primary difference in basic and more expensive models is in the array of cycles and features offered and whether or not the units have a steam cycle. This, rather than performance, is what explains the price differences between models and brands.
How We Test Dryers
- Often when doing multiple loads of laundry, the washer will wash faster than the dryer can dry, slowing down the wheels of progress on a busy laundry day. To see which dryers are speediest, we time and compare how long each takes to dry 6- and 12-lb. mixed loads of cotton clothing and linens.
- One of the benefits of the newer, larger capacity dryers is their ability to dry oversized items, like comforters and sleeping bags at home without having to go to the Laundromat. To see which are up to the task, we wet and weigh full/queen size comforters and dry them according to the dryer manufacturer's cycle and temperature recommendations. When done, we not only note how long the cycle takes, but also calculate what percentage of the comforter was dry and note if we feel any damp or even wet spots remaining at the end of the cycle.
- After removing moisture, a dryer's next most important job is to remove wrinkles and help keep casual clothing as wrinkle-free as possible to minimize ironing. To evaluate this ability, we wet and wrinkle (in a uniform way) swatches of polyester/cotton fabrics, then add them to a 6-lb. mixed load and select the dryer's casual, permanent press, or whatever cycle the manufacturer recommends for such garments. At the cycle's end, we remove the swatches and under special lighting, examine them for the amount and depth of the wrinkles they contain. We then rate each of the four swatches in every load against industry-standard wrinkle photographs.
- We use the same scale to rate clothing items left in the dryer overnight and freshen with the steam cycle for those dryers that offer this feature.
- Twisted bed sheets and knotted shirtsleeves all take time to untangle, no less de-wrinkle. That's why as part of our review of clothes dryers we note how tangled or tangle-free our 6-lb, 12-lb, permanent press, and steam cycle test loads emerge from the dryers.
Many dryers can get the job done, but good performance is only part of the picture. An appliance that is difficult to use is just as frustrating as one that doesn't work well. If the buttons are hard to push or the lint filter doesn't pull out smoothly, laundry becomes more of a chore than it already is.
- To this end, we check the features consumers use every time they dry a load. We turn knobs and dials, press buttons and select cycles and features all without the manual to check how intuitive the control panel is and how easy it is to decipher and read.
- We measure and rate the drum openings to see how easy the dryer is to load and unload, and we reach in to see how easy it is retrieve items stuck in the back.
- Finally, we remove, clean and replaced the lint filters to see how easy this important maintenance task was to do.
- When things do go wrong, it's important to know how and where to get help. We review each owner's manual for thoroughness of the information it contained. We also call, email or start a live chat with each manufacturer's customer service line to see how quickly they respond and how helpful they are in answering our test question.
To find out how our test dryers fare, check out our reviews of the best clothes dryers.
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