In this guide, you’ll see examples of a variety of portable clothes dryers that are designed for small spaces, can be used without a dryer vent, require only standard 120V power outlets, and can even be stored away when not in use.
The conventional, big 240V dryers require a dedicated large space and ventilation that isn’t possible for everyone. Small apartments, recreational vehicles, travel trailers, tiny homes, and any other small living space often don’t have room, or even the required connections, to hook up a full-size clothes dryer.
Also, if you have a large family that produces a ton of dirty laundry these dryers can supplement your full-size dryer if you don’t have the room to add another 240V dryer.
Now, there are compact 240V dryers that are ventless by design, namely condensing and heat pump dryers. We’ve included these in this article as they are the most efficient option if you have a 240V socket, but lack a dryer vent.
We’ve outlined some solutions below and you’ll find a link to our more in-depth guides and reviews on each category.
We’d like to clarify that the standard voltage for sockets in the USA is 120V. However, people often use 110V interchangeably as historically 110V, 115V, and 117V have been used at different times and places in North America. Source
The same is true for 220V. High-voltage electrical sockets are 240V, but people often still refer to them as 220V. Nominal voltage can vary up to plus or minus 5 percent.
120V Portable Tumble Dryers
These are mini tumble clothes dryers. The laundry falls as it slides off the ribs on the wall of the dryer drum. The falling effect helps to “fluff” the laundry and flip it to make sure as much surface area of each article of clothing is exposed to the hot air inside the dryer. Tumble dryers are a complete dryer solution, unlike spin dryers below which don’t completely dry the clothes.
- Generally, require twice as long to dry as 240V dryers.
- Require 110-120V instead of 220-240V.
- Ventless Dryers
- Washer/Dryer Combos Available
- Some models can be mounted on a wall, which frees up floor space.
- You can plug these up to any power socket in your home, so you have some flexibility
240V Compact Tumble Dryers
If you have a 240V socket, but are lacking the space for a full-size dryer, then consider these compact dryers that are some of the most efficient on the market.
Majority of the 240V compact dryers are ventless by design with condensing or heat pump options available. Heat pumps are the most efficient, while condensing dryers are more affordable.
- 24″-wide dryers that require only a 240V connection
- Condensing dryers are more efficient than standard vented models, but release more heat into your home than a heat pump dryer
- Heat pump dryers effectively recycle the heated air and release less warm air into your home
- Ventless dryers do tend to take twice as long to dry as a vented dryer, but use 50% less energy
Spin dryers rely on centrifugal force to push the laundry against the wall of the dryer drum to extract water. This is also how laundry washing machines extract water from laundry after the wash cycle is complete. This drying process does not remove 100% of the water, so you will need to hang laundry to complete the drying process. These dryers drastically reduce the time needed to hang dry laundry.
- Typically, these are paired with a manual washing machine or portable electric washing machine that doesn’t have a spin cycle
- Spins fast and removes 80-90% of the water from laundry.
- Additional drying required. Most people hang dry to finish.
- Reduces the hanging time needed to complete the drying process.
Electric Hanging Dryers
Electric Hanging dryers are great if you don’t have space for a tumble dryer. They’re essentially like a small space heater that blows air into an enclosure with your clothes inside. They’re collapsible and can be stored away.
- Heated racks, some with enclosures, that dry your laundry faster than hanging alone.
- Small footprint, and easily stored away when not in use.
RV’s and travel trailers certainly don’t have space for a full-size washer and dryer, but there are more compact options. For that, small volume tumble dryers are a convenient and familiar option, spin dryers and heated racks are a reasonable compromise if you just don’t have the room for even the smallest tumble dryer.
The 120V tumble dryers are an excellent option for any situation when a 240V plug isn’t available, nor the space to fit a 240V dryer. There are a few different sizes available for 120V dryers, and they can even get small enough to fit on your kitchen counter.
What about a washing machine?
You can read more about the different types of compact and portable washing machines that you can pair with your dryer in our Portable Washing Machine Buying Guide.
Connections Needed for Portable Dryers
You know where you intend to install or use your dryer and the electrical and plumbing connections that you have available decide which type of dryer (and washer) you can use.
- 120V Tumble Dryers – a standard 3-prong socket is all you need for most of these dryers as you can attach an indoor dryer vent to the vent hose. You’re not going to find these with condensing or heat pump technology. To go ventless with this style, you have to use an indoor dryer vent. Of course, if you have a vent connection or want to get creative and vent through a window then that’s possible.
- 240V Tumble Dryers – nearly all compact 240V dryers are condensing or heat pump dryers. It’s really hard to find a compact model that has a standard dryer vent. With that said, heat pumps are the most energy efficient and release the least amount of heat back into your living space. You only need a 240V socket for these dryers.
- Spin Dryers – you’ll generally want to let these drain into a bucket or tub, but you can also let them drain onto the ground if you’re using it with your RV. Since the laundry will have already been washed and rinsed there shouldn’t be any significant amount of soap left. These use a standard 120V socket.
- Heated Hanging Racks – these only need a standard 3-prong, 120V socket.
Expectations Vs. Reality
Portable and compact dryers of all types dry slower than full-size, traditional tumble dryers. It just comes with the territory since when you reduce size and power that also increases drying time.
Beyond that, there is some overlap between what is considered “portable” and “compact.” One of the major differences between compact 120-volt tumble dryers and compact 240-volt tumble dryers is that the 240-volt dryers are much heavier, so while they are compact they wouldn’t be considered portable.
If you live in a small studio apartment, or in a home that doesn’t meet the plumbing or electrical requirements for a traditional dryer, then don’t worry. There are options here for you.
These key points will give you a more informed outlook when deciding which type is right for you.
- Compact tumble dryers take up less space, but still produce heat that can optionally be vented outside.
- Spin dryers are recommended if you don’t want to deal with the heat from a tumble dryer, and don’t mind hanging clothes to dry. These are usually paired with a portable washing machine.
- “Compact” and “Portable” are subjective terms, but most manufacturers refer to tumble dryers with a capacity smaller than 5.0 cubic feet as compact.
- For best results, the capacity of your dryer should be 2x the capacity of your washer. It’s important to not overload your washer or dryer as this reduces the performance of both appliances.
Who Should Buy A Compact Tumble Dryer?
These compact tumble dryers are meant to be installed in a more permanent location than the portable options above, and they all only need 110-120V power. This is great for studio apartments or if your housing just doesn’t have room or power capabilities for a full-size 220V clothes dryer. Also, consider these if you need more drying capabilities.
- Wall-Mount Options
- Sizes from around 1 Cu.Ft. and up
- Washer/Dryer Combos
- Large range of capacities and sizes
- Ventless Options
The capacity of standard washers and dryers are usually given in units of cubic feet and is the total volume of the drum. You can use the following formula to calculate the volume of your dryer or washer drum. You need the radius of the drum and the height. Measure the radius from the back center of the drum and measure the height from back to front.
volume = π x radius2 x height
A good rule of thumb is that you want your dryer to have twice the capacity of your washer to be sure that the dryer can handle the maximum load of the washer. With a compact dryer, you’re going to be dealing with less capacity, and it’s a good idea only to wash what your dryer can handle or be willing to hang dry some of your laundry.
Different Types of Ventless Dryers
What fantastic technology gets rid of the heat, lint, and moisture produced by the dryer?
Well, that’s not really how it works.
The ventless models don’t require you to vent the exhausted air outside of the room where the dryer is located. The internal filter captures the lint, and the hot air is just released into the room. That might sound bad, but remember these dryers are much smaller than what you’re used to.
You’re dealing with 800W to 1500W, which isn’t much more than a typical space heater. However, if you’re in a small space, this can be a problem in the summer. In the winter, it’s a good thing!
If you’re not able to run a duct in the location you’re putting the dryer then these ventless dryers are a great option.
BetterVent Indoor Dryer Vent
Does not use water. Double filter system. Needs to be mounted vertically on wall; parts are included for installation.
Remember, these types of attachments do not get rid of the heat. If you live in an area with hot summer weather, then consider getting a dehumidifier to keep in the same room with your ventless dryer. Obviously, the smaller the dryer and the shorter the length of your drying cycle the less heat and humidity you will have to deal with.
Compact tumble dryers fluff your laundry and completely dry it in a reasonable amount of time, but unless you can vent them outdoors, they will still heat up the room they’re in. They generally operate around 800W to 1500W, which is equivalent to a typical space heater.
Most people don’t have complaints about the additional heat, so it’s not something to worry too much about if your other alternative is going to a laundromat. One of the great things about these dryers is they can go in any room, or if you have a porch, you can just set it outside when you need it.
The hanging dryers produce a similar amount of heat, so they’re not a “better” solution in that regard. Spin dryers are the only heat-free alternative.