Helping parents make confident choices

How to dry your clothes indoors

With energy costs rising, we're all looking for the cheapest way to dry washing, especially if you don't have any outdoor space. We have expert advice on the best ways to dry your clothes indoors to help minimise energy bills

clothes on a washing line inside the house with beautiful light
Published: July 22, 2022 at 5:41 pm

One certainty about having a family is that your washing pile will grow and grow. And, with British weather being so unpredictable, even if you're fortunate enough to have a garden or outdoor space, it's not always possible to dry your clothes outside, even in the summer.

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We've researched clothes drying solutions with experts and parents who get through piles of family laundry every week. We talked to laundry expert, Sam Whigham, creator of Wilton London eco-based laundry products, to explain the pros and cons of each method of drying clothes indoors. We also asked parents in our Top Testers Club to share their drying tips and products they recommend to dry clothes inside.

Want more info about washing and cleaning products? Take a look at our pick of the best washing machines to find the ones with the best energy ratings too. We also have carpet cleaning hacks and tips to keep your house looking fresh.

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What about using a tumble dryer?

For those lucky enough to have a tumble dryer, soaring energy costs and environmental concerns mean that you may want to reduce your use of the dryer. Drying your washing inside may take a little longer, but you'll save on your energy bill, help the planet and save yourself from a horrible shock when you pull something out of the dryer to see it has shrunk to teddy bear size.

A Woman Worried about Shrunk Sweater at Laundromat

Plus there are some items that shouldn't be put in the tumble dryer. To be confident your clothing is suitable for tumble drying, look for the symbol that shows a square with a circle in it. If you see the symbole with a cross through it, this means it's not suitable for drying.

There are a few things that should never be put in the tumble dryer:

  • Swimsuits
  • Bras and delicates
  • Tights
  • Silk material
  • Wool (some are okay, always check the washing label to avoid disappointment)

Best ways to dry your clothes indoors according to experts and parents

Heated Airer

– Most suitable for drying a large load

Dry Soon Lakeland Heated Airer

A heated airer is a great compromise between using a regular airer and a tumble dryer. As you have to plug it in and it's electric, it still uses electricity, but 55% less compared to the amount a tumble dryer would use (£24/year compared to £54/year). The heat means your clothes dry faster than being hung on a clothes horse or coat hanger.

Most heated airers fold down to reduce storage space when not in use.

The Dry:Soon Lakeland Heated Airer (£149.99) is a clear favourite for our parents in our Top Testers Club. Parent tester Louise says, "Our Dry:Soon heated airer is constantly on with the amount of washing we have. We love that it gets clothes dried faster." Parent tester Stephanie agrees. "We don't have a tumble dryer, we use a heated airer from Lakeland and it's brilliant. Gets everything dry really quickly and cheaper to run than a tumble dryer too!"

You can purchase a cover (£44.99) to go with the Lakeland airer (or, if you have an alternative heated dryer or don't want to spend the extra money you can put a big sheet over it) which helps dry your clothes even quicker. If you haven't bought the airier yet, you can save money with the airer cover bundle (£179.98).

While the Lakeland heated airer is the most popular for our Top Tester families, it isn't the only one on the market. There are cheaper alternatives such as the Aldi heated airier (£39.99) which MFM parent tester Leanne uses. "It helps so much, especially with the kids' clothes."

Great for: Quick drying
Not so great for: Energy costs and they usually take up quite a bit of room

Clothes Horse

– Most suitable if you have a lot of space (depending on size you choose)

Drying clothes on a clothes horse

Even though heated airers only cost pennies to run, you may want to avoid increasing your electricity bills and find a less costly alternative. A clothes horse is an easy, cheap and simple way to dry your clothes. You simply position the clothes horse in a ventilated space, preferably by an open window, and spread out your clothes.

A large proportion of our parents said they use a simple clothes horse/airer. Mum Nirali says, "I put my airer near the radiator and also have a small dehumidifier. It works a treat!" Parent tester Lauren explains, "We have various clothes horses around the house strategically placed near radiators and windows." Mum Brogan adds, "We do have a tumble dryer but use a clothes airer inside next to the radiator for most things as it costs less."

There are many size and shape options for clothes horses. The Amazon Basics foldable concertina airer (£25.72) is lightweight, folds flat and its chrome surface protects against rust and mildew. If your family has a lot of washing, you may need something larger, such as this 3-tier airer (£49.99) from Amazon. If you don't have much space, Dunelm sells a slimmer 2-tier smaller drier(£12).

Great for: An all-rounder, you can easily dry a full washing load, no need for pegs
Not so great for: Takes a long time to dry and a while to load up a full clothes horse

Over The Bath Airer

– Most suitable for a small load

Dunelm over the bath airer

If you don't have much space to dry your clothes, an over-the-bath airer can be an effective solution. Mum Taylor explains why this method works for her family. "We use an over-the-bath airer to save space as we don't have much of it!"

If you're like Taylor, this Dunelm over the bath airer (£10), Minky Over The Bath Airer (£19.99) or Leifheit Pegasus Bathtub Airer (£37.95) will take up no room (other than other the bath) and won't constantly be in the way (until you want to use the bath).

Great for: Space-saving, they make use of dead space when you're not in the bath
Not so great for: Usually not very big and clothes may dry more slowly in a humid bathroom environment, have to remove everytime the bath is used

Radiator extension

– Most suitable for small items and cloth nappies

DIVICH 5 Bar Radiator Folding Airer

Placing your clothes directly on the radiator is not a good idea as it could actually increase your energy bill – the clothes will trap the heat and may reduce the radiator's effectiveness. This means the boiler has to work harder to warm your house up, plus, most importantly, placing clothing on to the radiator could be a fire hazard.

If you don't want an airer or clothes horse taking up space in your home, you might consider a radiator extension airier. This means your clothes aren't placed directly against the radiator but still get the heat to dry them quickly. This DIVICH 5 Bar Radiator Folding Airer (£8.99) is perfect for little items such as socks, cloth nappies and baby clothes whilst not stopping the heat warming the rest of the house.

Top Tester parent Charlotte says, "I use radiator extensions that you can hook on and give you more hanging space." Radiator airers can also be a handy addition for little items and extra space when you're struggling with a heavy washing load.

It's important to note that it is not energy efficient to turn on your radiators just to dry your clothes, as a spokesperson from Love Energy Savings explains. "Using a tumble dryer for a whole year could equate to a medium-sized house turning on its traditional gas boiler and radiators to dry your clothes for approximately 21 days. It's cheaper with electric radiators – using a tumble dryer for a whole year equates to approximately 5 days of electric heater usage." The main advice is only do this if the radiators are on anyway.

Great for: Quick drying when your heating's on in the winter, low cost
Not so great for: Blocking heat from heating your home and the heat might 'burn off' your laundry scent

Sock Drying Rack

– Most suitable for socks

drying rack for socks

For hanging lots of small items, a sock drying rack can be very useful. They take up very little room and save you from losing socks or other small items in a big load of washing. MFM parent tester Alison has found another use for sock dryers. "They're great for drying cloth nappies," she explains.

Also, if you're only washing cloth nappies at that time, it means you don't need to have a big clothes horse out just to dry a few small things.

There are many to choose from including a Stainless Steel Sock Drying Rack (£8.99) or colourful pink Yibang Folding Sock Dryer (£10.99).

Great for: If you're not a fan of pegging out hundreds of socks and good for drying clothes and reusable baby wipes
Not so great for: Can be a bit fiddly

Pulley

– Most suitable for sheets and large items

Kitchenmaid Pulley

If you want your washing completely out of the way – perhaps you need the space or don't want kids with messy fingers touching your clean washing – then a pulley is a great option.

A pulley allows you to hang your washing from the ceiling to save you space. Parent tester Sarah uses an airer suspended from the ceiling for big items like sheets. Some pulleys, such as the Victorian Kitchen Maid Pulley (£84) (pictured above) and the Thatch&Stone Ceiling Pulley (£99) are visually appealing and can be a nice addition to your kitchen or utility room. They will need careful fixing though – definitely a DIY job.

Great for: Utility rooms and small homes, being set up over an enclosed heat source for super quick drying
Not so great for: Rented homes and new builds as they may damage ceiling plaster, can get heavy, need careful installation with drill/suitable ceiling fixings

Coat hangers off door frames

– Most suitable for jackets, shirts and dresses

drying clothes on hangers

For when you only have a few things to dry and don't want to get out a clothes horse or airer, MFM home tester Janet suggests, "Hanging clothes, which have been spun, on hangers and then hanging them from door frames." This pack of 10 wooden hangers (£7) from Dunelm are great value.

Great for: Delicate items that may lose their shape on the line or in the dryer, low cost, also needs less ironing
Not so great for: Woolly jumpers, the weight of the dampness will drag down and pull them out of shape (we've seen those long dangling arms before)

Indoor washing line

– Most suitable for clothes that dry quickly

Drying clothes on an indoor washing line

A temporary indoor washing line is a possible option, especially if you can hang it high enough to be out of the way of your children. If you're considering doing this regularly, you may be interested in a retractable washing line such as this 30m 2 line one (£21.99) from Wayfair or retractable washing line (£20.98) from Amazon.

Many retractable lines can also be used outside when the weather is nice enough, although you'll probably need to fix it to the wall both indoors and outside.

Great for: Takes up little space when not in use
Not so great for: Requires wall fixing, takes a while to dry and load up

If you do want a tumble dryer... 

If, like MFM home tester Zoe, "You couldn't live without a tumble dryer" there are condenser and heat-pump tumble dryers that use less energy and cost less to run than a regular tumble dryer.

MFM home tester Chloe says, "We have a condenser tumble dryer. With 4 kids 6 and under we couldn't live without it."

The Hotpoint Heat-Pump tumble dryer (£494) reduces energy consumption by drying clothes at a lower temperature. It's rated A+++ in energy efficency class and uses on average 194Kwh/annum compared to a regular vented tumble dryer which is rated C and uses an average of 697 Kwh/annum.

Heat-pump and condenser tumble dryers also have the benefit of not needing to be plumbed in, so can be placed anywhere you like.

How to dry your clothes inside safely and avoid mould and musty odours

Mixed race woman smelling clean towels in laundry

Drying clothes inside, especially in small carpeted rooms, can lead to your clothes picking up musty odours. In extreme cases, it can even cause growth of mould in your house as the moisture from the clothes goes into the air, causing the risk of damp conditions where mould growth thrives.

Expert Grahan Atherton at the National Aspergillosis Centre, in Manchester stressed how this is a key issue for anyone who might have asthma or a weakened immune system. Therefore, if any of your family suffer from either of these then be extra cautious.

There are a few ways to prevent mould and musty odours:

  • As soon as you get the clothes out of the washing machine, hang them to dry immediately. Don't leave them in the washing machine or laundry basket
  • Use fabric conditioner to help tackle odours and leave your clothes smelling fresh
  • If possible, avoid drying your washing in the room you're in most, such as your bedroom
  • Try not to dry your clothes directly on radiators
  • Ensure your clothes are completely dry before putting them away

Top tips for speeding up drying time

  • Give your washing a quick extra spin cycle – Giving your clothes an extra spin removes excess water before you hang them to dry, advises laundry expert Sam Whigham. However, be careful and read the label on your clothing as this may not be possible for all items. MFM parent tester Wandana says, "I give my clothes an extra spin in the washing machine and then dry them with an airer. It works a treat for us."
  • Use residual heat – Sam Whigham suggests making use of appliances that create heat in your home. For example, after you've finished cooking, place your clothes horse by the oven whilst it cools down
  • Don't overfill your washing machine – If clothes are squished together it will make them damper when it comes to the end of their cycle, meaning they will take longer to dry
  • Shake your washing as you take it out of the machine – Much like the extra spin, shaking your washing as you take it out of the washing machine removes any excess water and helps speed up the drying process
  • Spread clothes across the airer Space clothes out and don't bunch them close together to give them space to dry
  • Place your washing by an open widow – This creates good ventilation. If it's not possible, place it somewhere you can ensure good ventilation or airflow
  • Rotate your clothes – This may sound time consuming, but rotating your clothes whilst they dry helps them dry evenly and quickly
  • Dry your clothes upstairs if possible – If you live on more than one storey, drying your clothes upstairs may slightly speed up the drying process due to the flow of warmer air. MFM parent tester Lauren says, "I use clothes airers on the top floor as heat rises and it dries better upstairs."

Accessories for drying clothes indoors

Dehumidifier

MEACO 12L Low Energy Dehumidifier & Air Purifier

A dehumidifier prevents your surroundings becoming too moist when drying clothes, and so helps to stop the growth of mould and must odours. Parent tester Caz says, "We have an EcoAir Dehumidifier with a clothes drying setting. It's amazing for drying clothes that we don't want to put in the tumble dryer. We use a clothes airer in our utility room and keep the dehumidifier running next to it." This MEACO 12 L Low Energy Dehumidifier (£189.99), (pictured above) offers low running costs while the EcoAir Simple Blue Desiccant Dehumidifier (£159.96) has a special laundry mode to help you dry your washing.

Fabric conditioner

fabric conditioner pored in washing machine

To make your clothes smell fresh, you may want to use fabric conditioner when washing your clothes. This 5 litre Comfort Sunshiny Days All-Day Odour Defence (£11) aims to leave your clothes smelling as if they've been dried outside. Alternatively, you can get a smaller Comfort Honeysuckle & Sandalwood fabric conditioner (£3.20) to give your clothes a more delicate fragrance.

Tumble Dryer Balls

Tumble dryer balls
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If you are using a tumble dryer and don't want to use fabric conditioner, tumble dryer balls – such as these Lakeland ones (£7.99) – soften your clothes naturally by massaging the clothes with their spiked tips. They also claim to reduce drying time by up to 25% as they help circulate the air, plus they're reusable. They even make good fidget toys for active preschoolers!

About our expert

Sam Whigham has spent the past 5 years perfecting his own plant-based laundry products for his eco cleaning products brand, Wilton London, which has just launched in Sainsbury's. Through Sam's experimenting and testing, he's built a comprehensive understanding of plant-based formulas that can be as effective as the big white bottle brands. Sam has tested hundreds of formulas with hundreds of different fabrics, so if there's something Sam doesn't know about laundry, well, it's probably not work knowing.

About the author

Chloe is a Digital Reviews Writer and Coordinator for Immediate Media's Parenting team. She researches and writes articles, recommending the best products for parents, ranging from best sleep aids to best playpens. She has a First-Class Honours Psychology degree where she developed a strong interest in child development.

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