Cheapest way to dry clothes if you can't dry them outside over winter

We look at the cheapest way to dry clothes when the weather is bad, as well as what you can do to speed up the drying process to keep costs low

Mid-section of woman hanging laundry on a clothes airer at home
(Image credit: Getty Images)
Recent updates

This article has been updated to reflect October 2023's changes in the energy price cap. All cost information has been updated, as well as the context provided in our introduction. We have also removed any information that is no longer relevant.

With energy prices still high, finding the cheapest way to dry clothes is still important, especially when temperatures drop and it becomes harder to dry clothes outside. 

But even though a drop in the energy price cap in October meant a slight drop in our bills, it's not a huge reduction, and many will still be worried about how much their energy bills cost

Managing director of dehumidifier manufacturer Meaco, Chris Michael, told us: “The unprecedented cost of living crisis is forcing UK households to cut back on the use of gas and electricity. When it comes to drying washing, it’s natural that people will hang wet washing on clothes racks to dry indoors instead of using tumble dryers, which are one of the most energy-intensive devices in the home. 

"However, the good news is that there are low cost ways to efficiently dry wet washing indoors.” 

We compare the cost of different ways to dry clothes to help you find the most cost-effective option.

Cheapest way to dry clothes - ranked

Below, we’ve ranked some of the most common ways to dry clothes by their running costs. To make it a fairer comparison, we’ve also factored in drying time and pros and cons of each method. 

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Drying methodAverage cost to runDrying timeProsCons
Drying clothes outsideFreeDependant on weather but around 2-4 hoursFree, suitable for all laundryDependent on weather, you need to have suitable outside space
Using an airer indoorsFreeAbout 24 hoursFree, suitable for all laundryTakes a long time to dry, can be difficult to dry larger items, like bedding, needs to be used in room with good air circulation
Heated clothes dryer (220W)5.9p an hour2 to 5 hoursCheap to run, can also keep room warm, small airers can be bought for around £50, less damaging to clothes than a tumble dryerYou’ll need the space to put it, heavier garments can take longer to dry, mould can grow in rooms with little or no air circulation
Dehumidifier (250W)6.8p an hour 3 to 5 hoursHelps prevent mould, cheap to run, you may be able to turn down thermostat, less damaging to clothes than a tumble dryerCan be fairly expensive to purchase, you’ll need to empty the water tank once it’s full
Tumble dryer (condenser, 5.65kWWh)£1.51 per use30 to 45 minutesFastest way to dry clothes, good if you have a lot of washing to get through, minimal effort requiredExpensive to buy and expensive to run, not all clothes are suited to being tumble dried

The verdict

Drying clothes outside is naturally the cheapest option. But when weather conditions won’t allow this, the cheapest way to dry clothes indoors is to use a heated clothes dryer, costing 5.9p per hour.

However, how much it costs to run a heated clothes dryer will depend on how often you use it, the size and type of dryer you have, including the wattage, and how much you pay for your energy. For our calculations, we’ve used the energy price cap’s electricity unit price of 27p per kWh and a 220W dryer. However, if you were to use a larger 1,000W heated clothes dryer, this would cost 27p an hour and more than a dehumidifier.’s Money Editor Sarah Handley, says: “It’s important to weigh up the pros and cons of each drying method before deciding what works best for you. Remember that you will need the space for a heated clothes airer and, if the room you plan to use it in is not well ventilated, there is a risk of mould, damp and condensation.”

father and daughter hanging clothes on a rotary washing line in the garden

Using an outdoor washing line is the cheapest way to dry clothes, but it's not practical all year round. Rainy summer days make this option unfeasible for many

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If the room is not well ventilated, you could be better off using a dehumidifier to dry your clothes - it’s still a much cheaper option compared to a tumble dryer (you can see how much a dehumidifier costs to run in our handy guide), and has the added benefit of removing moisture out of the air. This means it can be a great way to stop condensation on windows.

Founder and chairman of dehumidifier and washing machine manufacturer Ebac, John Elliott, explains:  “A dehumidifier, combined with a drying tent – a piece of treated material which fits over a clothes horse to create a semi-sealed environment - can save an average family tens of pounds a month when compared with a tumble dryer and prevent the rocketing levels of humidity that cause potentially harmful mould and cause irritation to people with respiratory conditions like asthma. Dehumidifiers work by extracting water from the air which means that your clothes are dried to a preferred level without shrinkage."

The most expensive way to dry clothes is to use your tumble dryer, so it's best avoided if you are looking to save energy at home. Even if you can't avoid using your tumble dryer completely, reducing how often you use it will help keep bills under control.

Is it cheaper to dry clothes on a radiator or in a tumble dryer? 

Gas is currently cheaper than electricity (7p per kWh compared to 27p for electricity) which means that, in theory, during the winter months, using a gas central heating system and radiator should be cheaper than using a tumble dryer to dry clothes. But in reality, hanging clothes on a radiator will reduce its efficiency and your boiler will have to work harder than usual, which means you'll end up using more gas. Plus, this solution isn't really effective in the summer months as households are unlikely to want to put their heating on when it's relatively warm.

woman hanging washing on a clothes airer at home

Hanging washing using an airer is an free alternative to using your tumble dryer. Try and place your dryer in the warmest part of your home, and ensure a supply of fresh air to prevent the risk of mould

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How can you dry clothes quicker to cut the cost? 

There are a number of tips you can follow to dry clothes quicker and save money. For example: 

  • Use your washing machine’s highest spin setting to wring out as much water as possible to reduce drying time
  • Avoid overloading the washing machine so that clothes do not come out soaking
  • Wash clothes earlier in the day to make the most of any sunlight and give them longer to dry
  • Once washed, roll your wet clothes into dry towels to absorb excess water
  • Turn over clothes on an airer every few hours to help them dry quicker and evenly
  • Invest in a cover for your heated clothes airer to speed up the drying process. 

clothes hanging on an airer near a window at home

If you use an airer, try turning the clothes every couple of hours to ensure they dry quickly and evenly

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Finally, when it comes to how much a tumble dryer costs to run, if you find that you have to use yours, make sure you know how you can keep the costs low as possible.

  • Don't overload your tumble dryer - it makes it less effective
  • Choose the most suitable settings to make sure you are not using longer cycles unnecessarily
  • Be selective about what you tumble dry so you can use it less often to keep costs low
  • Invest in some tumble dryer balls, like these from Amazon - £9.89 for 6, to help your laundry dry quicker.

Sarah Turner, founder of Little Beau Sheep, who makes wool tumble dryer balls, advises: “If you want to make your tumble dryer work quicker and therefore use less electricity, add wool dryer balls to the load. They absorb moisture and separate the clothes so the air can circulate (they also naturally soften to replace the need for single-use dryer sheets or chemical fabric softeners).”  

You might also be wondering how many hours a day should the heating be on, or what's the cheapest way to heat a room, so you can keep your energy bills as low as they can be over the winter months. 

Rachel Wait
Personal finance expert

Mum of two, Rachel is a freelance personal finance journalist who has been writing about everything from mortgages to car insurance for over a decade. Having previously worked at Shares Magazine, where she specialised in small-cap stocks, Rachel developed a passion for consumer finance and saving money when she moved to She later spent more than 8 years as an editor at price comparison site MoneySuperMarket, often acting as spokesperson. Rachel went freelance in 2020, just as the pandemic hit, and has since written for numerous websites and national newspapers, including The Mail on Sunday, The Observer, The Sun and Forbes. She is passionate about helping families become more confident with their finances, giving them the tools they need to take control of their money and make savings. In her spare time, Rachel is a keen traveller and baker.

With contributions from