Around the time my teenage son started Driver’s Ed classes, I decided that if he’s old enough to drive a car, he is also old enough to wash his clothes. Yes, I probably should have expected him to do his own laundry a few years earlier but he’s my youngest and, as anyone who was the oldest or middle kid knows, the youngest gets spoiled while Mom struggles to let go.
I was so certain this decision would give me more free time since I was now washing three loads instead of eight or more. What I didn’t count on was having to spend time cleaning messes in the dryer before I could use it. Every week it was the same thing–I’d asked if he’d emptied his pockets before washing his clothes, he’d assure me that he had, then I’d find some new kind of gunk in the dryer.
Fortunately, I quickly learned how to deal with those messes and, before long, he learned how to clean them up, too. (Nice thing about your kid learning to drive is how much leverage it gives you. Don’t want to clean up after yourself, kid? Fine, no driving.)
If you, too, find yourself having to clean messes in the dryer–regardless of how they got there– here’s help. Whether it’s from Little Timmy’s Crayon, your husband’s ink pen, or that feather pillow you wanted to fluff before your mother-in-law’s arrival: there’s no need to panic. Just follow these steps.
How To Clean Messes In The Dryer
Gum or Candy
Scrape what you can from the dryer drum using the side of a credit card or a rubber spatula. Next, place an ice cube over the residue and let it sit for two minutes to harden it up. Break or scrape away as much as you can. If a mess remains, wet a dryer sheet (or moisten a washrag with commercial fabric softener) and let it sit on the gunk for 20 minutes. The surfactants in the softener will help break down the stickiness of the mess, so you should be able to scrub away the rest.
Ink Pen or Marker
Even though it might look like a nightmare inside of your dryer, removing ink stains is pretty easy: dampen an old cloth with rubbing alcohol and wipe the ink away. If there are several spots, you’ll want to use more than one cloth. Otherwise, you’ll just wind up smearing the ink everywhere. It’s important to remember that rubbing alcohol is highly flammable, so once you’ve removed the ink be sure to wipe the inside of your dryer’s drum with a clean cloth dampened with plain water.
Melted Crayons, Lipstick, or Chapstick
These are all treated the same way because they share a waxy base. Run the empty dryer for a few minutes on high heat to soften the mess. While the dryer is still warm, use the side of a credit card or a rubber spatula to scrape up as much of the mess as you can. Next, apply a few drops of olive oil to the corner of a clean, old cloth and begin wiping away the remaining residue. You’ll want to rotate your cloth and add additional olive oil, so you aren’s spreading the mess around. Once the mess is gone, you can get rid of any lingering oil by cleaning the dryer drum with a damp washrag dipped in warm water to which you’ve added a few drops of liquid dish detergent.
Exploded Feather Pillows
When my son’s favorite feather pillow burst in the dryer, it looked like he’d stuck a chicken in there. Of course, the feathers went flying throughout the laundry room as soon as he opened the dryer, too. Fortunately, we were able to remove most of them with our hands then used the vacuum cleaner to get up the rest. The next time I ran a load of laundry I noticed the dryer was taking much longer than normal. It turns out, there were quite a few feathers built up in the dryer hose, too. Since these are a significant fire hazard, we deep cleaned the dryer, and it worked like new again.
New jeans aren’t the only clothes that leave dye residue inside the dryer. The tie-dyed t-shirt my son made for “Hippie Day” at school left a technicolor mess inside mine! The easiest way to get rid of dye marks in the dryer is a damp dryer sheet or, in our case, four or five. Wipe the inside of the dryer with as many dryer sheets as needed, then use a soapy rag to get rid of any residue left behind.
Now that my son is also responsible for cleaning any messes he makes in the dryer we don’t have this problem nearly as often. Still, it’s good to know we can clean messes in the dryer if they happen.
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Editor’s Note: This post has been expanded and revised for clarity prior to republication.