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Is your washer-dryer faster than a dung beetle?

Washing machine

One of the washer-dryers in our most recent tests takes more than eight hours to dry clothes. How long would you wait for dry laundry? And what’s it got to do with dung beetles!?

Eight hours and twenty minutes. That’s how long it took a washer-dryer from our latest round of tests to dry 8kg of clothes. Admittedly, that’s a massive capacity for a washer-dryer , but that’s still no excuse.

There’s quite a lot you could do with that time. You could, for instance, fly from London to Chicago, or travel by train to Berne in Switzerland.

To pass the travelling time, you could get most the way through the first five Rocky movies (though you may have to fast forward through a few of the montages).

Slower than a dung beetle

Thanks to a study published in the Journal of Zoology which recorded the speed of a ‘roller’ dung beetle, there’s another comparison I can draw.*

I was able to calculate that an (impossibly indefatigable) dung beetle could push a ball of you-know-what from the London Eye, over Westminster bridge, along Birdcage Walk and proudly deliver the poo ball to Buckingham Palace – all in the same time it takes the aforementioned appliance to dry clothes.

Wet clothes in a washer-dryer

And the long drying time is only half the story. What actually happened in our tests is that the automatic drying program, which should keep churning clothes until they are dry, stopped at around four hours – the clothes were still sopping wet.

So we had to add another four hours using the manual timer setting, in order for the clothes to come out dry. Washer-dryers leaving clothes wet is a gripe we hear about – and we penalised this model for leaving clothes wet.

Measuring drying speed

We assess drying speed by working out the ‘minute per kilo’ rate. This means if a washer-dryer that has a drying capacity of 4kg takes two hours to dry a full load of clothes, it has a speed of 30 minutes per kilo. If a 6kg capacity machine takes two and a half hour hours to dry a full load, that means it is drying at a rate of 25 minutes per kilo – that’s faster than our 4kg machine.

That means we’d praise the 6kg machine as speedier than the 4kg, even though the total program time is 30 minutes longer than the 4kg capacity model. By using this rate of drying, it means we can compare machines of different capacities against each other.

To put this 8kg washer-dryer into perspective, the drying rate is over 60 minutes per kilo. That’s terribly sluggish and made more noticeable by its massive capacity, resulting in a total drying time that is longer than your average working day.

Do you dry in a washer-dryer?

We know that not everybody uses their washer-dryer to dry clothes. Reasons include the frustration of clothes being left wet, the cost of the drying cycles and of course – long drying times.

So what are your washer-dryer woes? Do you use the drying function?

*Published in Journal of Zoology, vol. 248 issue 4. Ball rolling speed recorded as 0.063 m/s – over eight hours and twenty minutes, that’s 1.9km (1.89km actual). Walking distance from London Eye to Buckingham Palace (Birdcage Walk route) is 1.9km according to Google Maps (walking setting used).

Do you use your washer-dryer to dry clothes?

No - I don't have a washer-dryer (61%, 470 Votes)

Yes - frequently (20%, 152 Votes)

Yes - rarely (10%, 78 Votes)

No - I avoid the drying function completely (10%, 75 Votes)

Total Voters: 775

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Seems like washer-dryers haven’t improved much then !!!

We had one some years ago and used the dryer function once. We reckoned the clothes were wetter than they started after about 4 hours.

Not having anywhere to put a dryer near a water outlet, we managed without a dryer for a long time. A couple of years ago, after reading positive reviews, we bit the bullet and bought a Siemens condenser dryer. Apart from sheets and quilt covers turning into sausage rolls, it is excellent and dries washing in no time.

Lessismore says:
21 February 2015

I hate drying my washing in the machine. It is much nicer dried outdoors if you can – and cheaper.

I’m dreaming of the time that I will be able to haul my washing out on a line on a pulley out across the garden from a window. Have you seen the washing in Hong Kong hanging to dry from what look like horizontal flag poles?

I often use the washer dry on a 15 or 20 min dry which basically just creates steam and then all the washing can be hung up to dry. This means that ironing is easy if it is actually necessary.


Given that the lack of private outdoor space is becoming a growing aspect of metropolitan habitation the ability to complete the laundry indoors is a significant consumer desire.

What amazes me is that many of those who do have an outdoor space where they could stand a clothes drying rack or put up a washing line don’t do so. Exposure to the sun and air does wonders for the washing – and, truly, it’s not always raining. Obviously, people’s working arrangements do have a major bearing on this which means the industry does need to come up with efficient appliances for doing the whole job allowing people to opt in or out of the full drying function.


I did not buy a washer-dryer because Which? warned us that they were generally very unreliable, and that having a washing machine and a tumble drier was a better bet. I did buy a tumble drier but put it in the garage. It was not very effective and it was inconvenient to have to go to the garage to check on progress. I rarely used it, instead doing the washing when the weather looked suitable for drying. I also have a decent airing cupboard. For clothing etc that is going to be ironed, I do this straight after washing. That means I don’t need to use a steam iron and whatever has been ironed is nearly dry.

I have found Adrian’s Conversations very interesting and a couple of them have encouraged me to do quite a lot of reading around the subject. It’s an interesting piece of lateral thinking to draw a comparison between the time taken by a washer-dryer to complete its cycle with the distance a dung beetle could, in principle, push a dung ball during this time. Having read the paper cited by Adrian I have learned that male and female dung beetles are, on average, very similar in performance, despite the fact that the male dung ball is typically nearly 20% larger in diameter than that produced by females. It was also gratifying to learn that the authors of the paper had the courtesy to thank the person who provided the cattle dung for the study.

I think I should now get on and hang the washing out to dry, since it is now sunny.


Hi wavechange,

We’ve been advising for a while that it’s better to get a separate washing machine and tumble dryer, if you have the space, and we still are. Reliability continues to be an an issue, plus, while washing power is comparable, it’s the drying speed and quality that often let down washer-dryers compared to dryers. As an example – a ‘fast’ washer-dryer can dry clothes at a rate of 30 minutes per kilo or a bit less. But the fastest tumble dryers will dry clothes in 15 minutes or less – half the time! Plus, the automatic programs in dryers don’t seem to leave clothes wet as often as washer-dryers do.

And I’m glad you liked the dung beetle fact (I had a feeling you might!). I actually ended up spending my lunch hour calculating speeds of various animals and other speed/distance-related facts, such as that Comet 67P would have flown over 687,857 miles in eight hours and twenty minutes, or according to Guinness World Records; the most dogs washed in eight hours is 185 (that’s about 24 dogs per kilo of washing dried once adjusted for 8 hours and 20 minutes).

…and while I wasn’t using my fact finding as an excuse to avoid any washing chores over lunchtime, I may have conveniently ‘forgotten’ to go to the gym that day. 🙂


We’re on out third washer-drier in about ten year. In the first two John Lewis badged machines the drying function failed in warranty and was fixed, but never performed satisfactorily after that and we replaced them when the drying function failed completely. A recurring problem was the internal airways clogging up with lint which required an engineer to to sort out. Twice bitten? When it cam to the third one we were assured that such problems are behind us and modern machines are much more reliable. We got a Which? best buy AEG model but, as night follows day drying performance started to degrade after three years or so. We vowed never to get a washer-drier ever again but as it washes perfectly well we decided not to replace it but made space for a separate heat-pump Bosch drier, which is giving us excellent service.


Nick – In an earlier Conversation, a service engineer mentioned that a build up of lint in tumble-dryers has been the cause of fires, though I have no idea how common this is. It’s obviously important that the lint filter is cleaned regularly to discourage build up of lint inside the machine.


If it requires £100 worth of service engineer every couple of years it makes the cost of ownership ridiculous unless there really is no alternative.