How To Clean Your Clothes Dryer

Clean

This guide to deep cleaning your dryer gets it running better while reducing the risk of it catching fire.

View from inside of dryer as someone puts towel in side

Every year, dirty clothes dryers cause several thousand fires leading to death, injury, and millions of dollars of property damage. While cleaning your lint catcher after every load helps reduce this risk, lint still builds up in the vent and hose. It even builds up inside the covered parts of the machine.

Signs Your Dryer Needs to Be Cleaned

  • Clothes aren’t drying as quickly as they used to.
  • You have to run towels or blankets several cycles to get them fully dry.
  • The outside of your dryer or control panel feels hotter than usual after it’s been running a while.
  • You notice an odd “dryer smell” when the machine is in use.
  • Your laundry room feels more humid than usual when you’re running a load.

How to Clean Your Dryer

Time required: 30-60 minutes

Equipment You Will Need

Materials You Will Need

  • Warm water
  • Liquid dish soap
  • All-purpose cleaner

Instructions

1. Unplug the Machine and Clean the Exterior

To start a proper deep-cleaning of your dryer, you’ll first need to turn off the power source. For electric dryers, unplug the cord. With a gas dryer, after you’ve unplugged it, you’ll also need to shut off the dryer’s gas supply.

Once you’ve disconnected the power, pull your dryer out from the wall so you can get behind it. (Ask a friend or family member for help if needed.) Clean the exterior with a lint-free cloth and soapy water. (Or use my homemade all-purpose cleaning spray.) Be sure to clean the knobs and buttons, too, since they both collect grime.

2. Clean the Lint Trap

Lint sneaks past the screen in most dryers and collects in the trap, too. Ignoring it can lead to a fire hazard. So, pull out the lint trap screen and wash it in the sink with warm, soapy water. Use an old toothbrush to dislodge stubborn grime, then rinse it well and let it air dry.

While the lint screen is drying, use the flexible lint brush to clean the trap. Insert the brush into the lint trap as far as you can and rub along one side to scoop up lint. Remove the brush, clean it off with a dry towel, and reinsert it to clean the other side of the trap. If you have a vacuum attachment for lint traps (see above), use it to suction out any loosened lint.

3. Clean the Dryer Drum

Some dryers have fins (or bumps) inside the drum. Often, things like thread or clumps of pet hair get wedged in the crevice under the fins.

  • Remove stuck threads and hairs. Look in your dryer and pull out anything wedged in the fins. If you can’t get the mess with your fingers, scrape it out with something like a rubber spatula or an old credit card that won’t damage the dryer drum.
  • Clean stubborn messes in the dryer drum. Rub sticky spots with warmed olive oil, then gently scrape them with the edge of a rubber spatula to remove grime. Remove scuffs with a paste of baking soda and water. Follow these steps to clean other messes in your dryer’s drum.
  • Wipe the drum interior. Once you’ve removed stuck-on messes, spray the inside of the drum with soapy water and wipe it clean.
Male hand demonstrates how to clean dryer with vacuum after removing back panel

4. Deep Clean the Rest

Clean the vent hose. Your dryer’s vent hose may be attached using a clamp or with screws. If it’s clamped, pressing the clamp ends together will release the hose. Otherwise, you’ll need to use a screwdriver to detach the tubing from the back of your dryer. Use the flexible lint brush or vacuum attachment to remove lint from inside the hose. (You can use a leaf blower or air compressor to clean rigid vent hoses quickly, but don’t use anything more powerful than a blow-dryer with semi-rigid or flexible vent hoses.)

Take off the back panel. Although this step is optional, if you’ve never looked behind the back panel of your dryer, you’ll be shocked by how much lint finds its way inside. When I first cleaned my 6-year-old dryer, I pulled out two buckets of the stuff. To check yours, remove the rear panel’s screws. Use your fingers or your vacuum’s dust brush attachment to remove lint. Be careful that you don’t disturb wire connections. Use a damp cloth to clean the inside of the back panel and let it dry before reinstalling it.

5. Clean the Vent on Both Sides

  • With the hose still off, reach inside the vent opening and remove any large chunks of lint you find. Use your vacuum cleaner to remove the rest.
  • Next, go outside and find the dryer vent. This is usually on the wall opposite your dryer, though it may be on the roof in some homes. Clean any cobwebs or debris. Trim any hedges that might prevent the dryer vent’s flap from opening when it runs.
  • Finally, go back inside to reconnect the dryer hose.

6. Finish Up

Your dryer pulls in air from its surroundings as it works, so any lint or cobwebs on the walls or floor around it will wind up in your dryer at some point. So, while you’ve got it disconnected, clean the walls behind where it usually sits as well as the floor. Once they’re dry, reconnect your machine’s power supply. Push your dryer back into place, give it one last quick dusting, and you’re done!

How Often Should You Clean Your Dryer?

Some parts of your dryer need to be cleaned after every use. Others require only annual maintenance.

Every use: Clean the lint screen by rolling gathered lint off with your fingers. Don’t use a dryer sheet to do this — the anti-static coating will keep your lint screen from doing its job of catching lint.

Weekly: Wipe the outside of your dryer with a dry cloth to pick up lint, then with a damp cloth to clean up any spills or messes. Clean the inside of the dryer drum with a disinfecting wipe. Inspect the fins for tangles of thread or hair and remove them. Remove dry lint from the screen with your fingertips then clean it with an old toothbrush and warm water to remove any fabric softener buildup.

At least once a year: Follow the steps above to deep clean your dryer inside and out. Once a year may be enough for smaller households. If you have pets or a large family, you may need to do it more often. It’s also good to do any time you wash a large load of new towels since they tend to shed a lot of lint that can clog your dryer’s vent.

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12 Comments

  1. Heather Resina says:

    I finally got the odor out of my front load washing machine, and clothes come out of it smelling fresh. But then I put them in the dryer, and they come out smelling like stinky socks. So gross. Is there a way to clean the inside of the dryer? I always clean the lint trap after each use, have washed the drum, keep the utility room dusted and mopped, so it has to be coming from inside the machine. So frustrated!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      You could certainly try unplugging and removing the back panel to make sure nothing has crawled in there and died.

  2. I live in the rural. I’m afraid I might encounter a snake during the cleaning process. Sounds like a job for my son.

  3. I need help !! I cleaned my lint out of my dryer with one of those long brushes !! Now my dryer is making a thump noise and not drying … should I take the back of dryer off to see if I jammed something while cleaning lint basket?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      That might not be a bad idea. If you don’t find anything jammed or the belt out of place and it still makes that noise, call a repairman ASAP.

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