While washers have become more efficient in the past decade, dryers haven't changed much. Clothes dryers are relatively simple: Their major differences are how they heat the air (using gas or electricity) and how they're programmed to shut off once the load is dry (thermostat or moisture sensor).
Consumer Reports has found that dryers with a moisture sensor tend to recognize when laundry is dry more quickly than machines that use a traditional thermostat. Because they don't subject clothing to unnecessary heat, moisture-sensor models are easier on fabrics. And since they shut themselves off when laundry is dry, they use less energy. Sensors are now offered on many dryers, including some relatively low-priced ones. Thermostat-only dryers are generally the most basic models. This clothes dryer guide will help you choose.
How to choose
Gas and electric dryers perform comparably, our years of testing show. Gas dryers cost about $50 to $150 more than comparable electric models, but the likely savings in fuel costs should more than make up the difference in the long run. An electric dryer requires a 240-volt outlet, a gas dryer a gas hookup. If you have both, don't rule out the gas model simply because it costs more. (Consumer Reports now tests only electric dryers, which account for about 80 percent of the models sold, but equivalent gas models are listed in the Ratings, which are available to subscribers.)
Insist on a moisture sensor
Overdrying can damage or shrink fabrics, and moisture sensors can minimize that possibility. Sensors are on most of the dryers we've tested. Whether a specific model has a sensor or thermostat might not be obvious from labeling or controls. Check the literature, visit the manufacturer's Web site, or pick a highly rated dryer that we've tested.
Don't get hung up on capacity
Manufacturers describe dryer capacity (as they do washer capacity) with terms such as extra large, super, and super plus. The differences aren't meaningful for everyday use. Most full-sized dryers can hold a typical wash load. If you want to dry big, bulky items, choose a model judged excellent for capacity in our Ratings.
Start in the middle
When using an automatic setting (which we generally recommend) rather than a timed one, set the control to the midpoint and raise or lower it as needed. Using the More Dry setting routinely can overdry clothes and waste energy. Use the Less Dry setting leave clothing damp for ironing. Don't worry about knowing when an automatic cycle is done: If you don't hear the buzzer, an optional extended-tumble setting without heat prevents wrinkles if you don't remove clothes immediately.
Don't pay for unnecessary extras
Higher-priced dryers might offer a dozen or so choices, including specialty cycles such as "speed dry" (15 minutes of high heat, for example). These can usually be replicated with standard settings. A choice of heat level, timed and auto-dry, and a few fabric types (regular/cotton and permanent press/delicate) is usually plenty. Touchpads look impressive and might allow you to save custom settings but don't improve performance. Nor do stainless-steel tubs, unlike in washers.
Get a quiet dryer for living areas
If your dryer will be near the kitchen or a bedroom, look for a model judged very good or excellent for noise.
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