Are Portable Dryers Worth It?

Portable dryers make it easy to do laundry in small spaces and on the go. Find out how they work, the benefits, and much more.

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Wherever you live or wherever you travel, you’ll probably have laundry to do. A portable dryer makes it easy to dry clothes when you’re short on space or on the go. Here’s what you need to know about this handy appliance.

What Is a Portable Dryer?

Portable electric dryers aren’t much different from regular electric dryers. “A portable dryer is essentially a smaller version of a normal dryer,” says David Clark, CEO at Basement Guides. Their small size makes portable dryers easy to store away when not in use. When it’s time to dry a load of laundry, they plug right into a wall outlet and are ready to work.

So, how do they work? Some portable dryers tumble like a full-sized dryer. “The electrical current heats up the metal coil which creates heat,” Clark says. “The heat is then blown into the dryer by a fan and that causes the tumbling clothes to dry.” But that’s not the case for every portable dryer.

“Others function by hanging wet clothes on the unit, surrounding the clothes with a tube and blowing warm air through the tube to dry the wet clothes,” says Jake Romano from John The Plumber. This ventless clothes drying machine is one example of a hanger-style portable dryer.

Portable Dryer Benefits

The first and most obvious benefit of a portable dryer is size. The small appliance footprint makes it suitable for cramped apartments, and the portability makes it convenient for hotels, cabins and RVs. It’s even useful for people who often move and prefer to bring their dryer along to a new home. In all these situations, a portable dryer eliminates trips to a laundromat or communal laundry facility.

Besides saving space, some portable dryers save energy. “Some portable dryers work by spinning, instead of heat,” says Romano. “While this won’t dry as well, it may keep your apartment temperature lower and use less electricity.”

Other benefits include fewer wrinkles with hanger-style dryers, as well as no need for professional dryer installation. Plus, a portable dryer takes less time and space than a traditional clothesline or drying rack.

Do Portable Dryers Need a Vent?

Many portable dryers do have a vent to deal with excess heat and dryer lint. Clark says that you can simply run the vent hose out a window, but some people don’t in the winter “because it does provide extra heat.”

While there “is no immediate danger from the exhaust as would be the case with a gas dryer,” says Clark, indoor venting can cause problems. The excess heat can increase cooling costs, and the humidity can lead to mold growth. As with any dryer, it’s important to clean the dryer vent to prevent a fire hazard. This is true whether you vent the dryer indoors or out a window.

How Do Portable Washers Work?

Portable washing machines exist too. Like portable dryers, there are several types. Some hook up to a sink, some are hand-powered and others require a water source and a drain like a full-sized washer.

Natalie Sullivan, co-founder of Cooler Air Today, recommends the Incbruce washer-dryer combo. This is a side-by-side model that provides washing and drying in a 25-pound package. But if you’re happy to handwash clothes in a bucket or sink, a portable dryer might be all you need.

Mikayla Borchert
Mikayla is an assistant editor for Family Handyman, specializing in indoor and outdoor gardening, organization and décor. She has one cat and holds a B.A. in English from the University of Minnesota. Outside of work, she likes running, skiing, hiking and tending her balcony garden.