“Drier” is used as a comparative adjective for dry and a “dryer” is a machine that you use to dry something.
These words are homophones, which are two words that sound the same but have different meanings. They are very easily confused and sometimes still get interchanged despite their different meanings. Drier is an adjective and dryer is a noun, so they aren’t the same even though that is a common belief.
Drier is used to compare things at different levels of dryness. For example, this towel is drier than that towel. The word is a comparative adjective, describing the level of dryness.
Drier is also used when you are talking about the weather or climate. For example, the climate in Arizona is drier than Washington.
When you dry something, it becomes drier than it was before.
My clothes are drier than hers even though we rode the same water ride.
Air with drier conditions can cause headaches.
The ground is much drier than normal because it hasn’t rained in a few weeks.
You are more likely to see a cactus growing in a place with drier climates.
Dryer is used to describe a machine that removes water from something. The two most popular appliances that dry things are the hairdryer or a clothes dryer. This word is a noun that refers to an object itself.
When you are using something to remove water, that object is a dryer. Even if you leave something out in the sun to dry, the sun becomes the dryer in that situation.
I forgot to put my clothes in the dryer before I went to bed.
She needed a new hairdryer because hers stopped working.
Don’t put that sweater in the dryer or it will shrink.
I forgot to check if the hotel has a hairdryer before I booked it.
What’s the Difference?
The biggest difference between drier and dryer is the type of word that they are. Drier is an adjective because it is being used to describe something or someone. Dryer is a noun that refers to something that dries things.
You would use the word drier when you are talking about the weather or two objects of different levels of dryness. You use the word dryer when talking about a physical object that removes water from something else. Your hair dryer removes the water from your hair, making it drier. Your dryer removes water from your clothes, making them drier.
Remembering the Difference
It is common to wonder why there are two different spellings of this word. In previous years, it was extremely common for words to have more than one spelling because there wasn’t a set standard for spelling in place. When there is a word with two different spellings, one is going to become more popular than the other.
In the case of drier and dryer, the words separated themselves in meaning instead of competing for a spot of usage. To remember what the difference is between the two, think of a washer and dryer. A dryer is something that dries, and a washer is something that washes. Both of these are the normal word with -er added.
Thinking of it like this will help you remember which spelling of the word you should use. When you think of a washer and dryer, you will know that a dryer is used when talking about an object, not the level of dry two objects are compared to each other.