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Can a Steam Dryer Work Without Water

Steam dryers are growing in popularity. I’ve also got my eye out for a good deal on one for when my current dryer gives up on me for good. Although it seems obvious now, when I first started looking into these appliances I wasn’t sure how the steam came into it. Was the water from the clothes converted into steam? Or was steam production a separate feature?

While the water from the clothes is converted into steam, this isn’t the reason these appliances are called steam dryers. The addition of steam is a separate feature and, with a few exceptions, the dryer needs to be hooked up to a water supply for you to benefit from the steam dry feature. But what if you don’t want to or can’t do this?

Steam dryers can still function even if they are not connected to water. However, none of their steam functions would work, making them just regular dryers. This brings many downsides, such as the clothes being more wrinkly and the dryer being expensive but not providing any additional functions.

How Do Steam Dryers Work?

Steam dryers are capable of running a normal drying cycle, just like a regular clothes dryer would. The steam function is an additional capability.

steam dryer

A steam drying cycle works by first putting your laundry through a heat cycle as a normal dryer would. Afterward, it adds steam to your load. Then it runs your laundry through another heat cycle to evaporate any lingering dampness from the steam.

Different steam dryers may create this steam cycle differently – some create steam themselves, others will release a fine spray of mist that quickly turns into steam when met with the high temperature inside the dryer.

This steam is able to penetrate your clothing and provide many benefits not offered by a traditional dryer.

First, the steam is able to remove light smells, meaning you can use the function as a light “wash” or refresh when your clothes aren’t quite dirty yet.

The steam can also have a softening effect on your clothing’s fibers, making them comfier to wear and reducing the number and severity of wrinkles created compared to a non-steam dryer.

Two Types of Water Sources

To enjoy the steam dry function of these appliances, a water supply is required, which makes them particularly different from most other types of tumble dryers.

Some steam dryers need to be hooked up directly to a cold water supply, same as other water-using appliances, such as washers.

This allows the steam dryer to pull all the water it needs automatically. However, it could pose a problem if you do not have the space to put the dryer near a water supply. Or if you only have one water supply in the room and do not know how to or do not feel comfortable splitting it. 

Other steam dryers operate using a steam feeder, which is essentially a separate pull-out drawer or container that must be filled with water in order for the steam cycle to be functional.

This is convenient if you are unable or unwilling to connect your dryer to the water supply. However, this can also be a bit annoying if you don’t like the idea of having the extra step of having to refill the steam feeder all the time.

Connecting Dryer to Water Outlet Is Simple

You should be able to connect the dryer to water even if you only have one water source. If this is your concern regarding the water supply, don’t worry. There’s one easy fix for this problem – using a Y hose connector.

Not all steam dryers come with a Y connector, so you may need to purchase one yourself, along with a pair of pliers, in order to help ensure your connections are tight.

While your dryer should come with its own instructions, the Y hose installation is pretty universal. This video should give you a good idea of how to install a steam dryer with a y connector.

Steam Dryers Can Work Without Water

As mentioned earlier, steam dryers can run a normal drying cycle just like non-steam dryers can. This means that even if you do not hook your steam dryer up to a water supply or fill the steam feeder, you can still use the drying programs that do not require steam.

The Steam Function Won’t Work

Unfortunately, if you are unable to connect your steam dryer to water, you will not be able to use any of the steam functions. Since there is no water supply, your machine will not have anything it can convert into steam.

Any of your drying programs that need steam will therefore be rendered useless. This will greatly limit the number of programs you can actually use. It often means that you are left with only very basic programs.

In this case, you are not only missing out on the steam functions but also any functions that a regular dryer may provide that the steam dryer does not.

Can It Damage the Dryer?

Some steam dryers will not run the steam cycle and will alert you if there is no water supply present. Other steam dryers, however, may still run the steam cycle even without the water supply.

If there is no water supply, there won’t be any steam, and your machine will just be going through the motions while running through each cycle.

While running steam cycles without water is unlikely to cause damage to your machine in the short term, repeatedly doing this can put your dryer’s parts under foreign and unnecessary strain that may cause damage in the long term.

Drawbacks of Not Hooking up Steam Dryer to Water

While we have established that running a steam dryer without connecting it to water is possible, there are still some potential drawbacks to not doing so.

It Defeats the Purpose of a Steam Dryer

First and foremost, not connecting your dryer to a water source effectively defeats the purpose of purchasing a steam dryer, since you lose access to the only thing that sets a steam dryer apart from other dryers – steam.

While some steam dryers only come with a basic steam dry function added, others may come with other steam-based settings, like “disinfect” or “allergen removal.”

Regardless of how many settings a steam dryer has that utilize steam, all steam dry settings have the same benefits of odor removal, clothing refreshes, and more that become lost by not connecting the dryer to a water source.

Wrinkly Clothes

One of the biggest reasons for buying steam dryers is that they don’t wrinkle clothing as much as regular dryers do. While they don’t completely eliminate wrinkles, the wrinkles that do form are less severe than those left behind by other dryers.

wrinkly clothes

Thanks to the softer wrinkles, you won’t need to iron as often, and when you do, it won’t take as long. If you don’t connect your dryer to water, you will have to iron more often.

This is a huge benefit for busy parents, professionals, or anyone else who either has a busy lifestyle or simply likes to keep their clothing looking nice without too much extra effort.

Steam Dryers Are Expensive

Due to their added capabilities, steam dryers are significantly more expensive than regular dryers. Depending on what kind of model and brand you go for, a steam dryer can be several hundred dollars more expensive than a non-steam dryer, if not double the price.

If you aren’t going to hook the dryer up to water or are unwilling to fill up a steam feeder all the time, it doesn’t make sense to spend any extra cash on features you won’t be using.


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