How To Clean Your Clothes Dryer

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A thorough annual dryer deep cleaning removes lint buildup, reduces your risk of fires, and keeps your dryer working efficiently.

View from inside of a clean dryer as someone puts a towel inside

Every year, dirty clothes dryers cause several thousand fires leading to death, injury, and 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 for 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 used.
  • Your laundry room feels more humid than usual when running a load.

Steps to Clean Your Dryer

Time required: 30-60 minutes

You Will Need

Step 1. Disconnect It

It is important to disconnect your dryer from power before you start deep-cleaning it. For electric dryers, unplug it. With a gas dryer, you must unplug it and then also shut off the dryer’s gas supply.

Step 2. Clean the Lint Trap

Lint gets past the screen in most dryers and collects in the trap, and ignoring it can lead to a fire hazard. So, pull out the lint trap screen and wash it in 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 a flexible dryer 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 debris. 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, use it to suction out any loosened bits.

Step 3. Clean the Dryer Drum

Look in your dryer and pull out any threads or hairs wedged in crevices or beneath the fins. Use your vacuum’s crevice attachment or tweezers to pull them out if needed. Then clean any messes or scuffs inside your dryer drum and wipe it with a damp cloth.

Step 4. Clean the Vent Hose

Carefully move your dryer away from the wall just far enough that you can get behind it to disconnect 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 outdoors to clean rigid vent ducting, but don’t use anything more powerful than a blow-dryer with semi-rigid or accordion-style flexible vent hoses.

Step 5. Clean the Vent on Both Sides

With the hose still off, reach inside the vent opening and remove any large chunks of dryer lint you find. Use your vacuum cleaner to remove the rest. Next, go outside and find the dryer vent. Clear away any cobwebs or debris. Make sure there are no hedges or other obstacles that could keep the dryer vent’s flap from opening when it runs.

Male hand demonstrates how to clean dryer with vacuum after removing back panel

Step 6. Remove the Back of the Dryer (Optional)

Remove the rear panel’s screws. Use your fingers or vacuum attachments to remove lint buildup on the fan blades and other surfaces. 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.

Step 7. Finish Up

Clean the walls behind where it usually sits and the floor beneath it. Once they’re dry, reconnect the vent hose and power then push your dryer back in place. Finsh by wiping the exterior with a dry cloth to remove any dust, then spray it with an all-purpose cleaner and wipe it again. Be sure to clean the knobs and buttons, too, since they both collect grime.

How Often Should You Clean Your Dryer?

You should deep clean your dryer at least once a year. Between deep cleanings, keep your dryer working well with this schedule:

• Dryer lint: remove after each use. Roll 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.

• Lint filter: Wash weekly in warm, soapy water to remove fabric softener buildup. Let it completely dry before reinstalling.

• Exterior: Weekly. Wipe the outside of your dryer with a dry cloth to pick up lint, then with a damp microfiber cloth to clean up any spills or messes.

• Dryer drum: Clean messes in the dryer as they happen. Once a week, wipe the inside of the drum with a disinfecting cloth.

• Dryer vent hose and vent: 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.

• Vent ducts: Clean dryer vent ducts any time you notice your dryer taking longer to do its job or any of the other signs your dryer needs cleaning. 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 exhaust vent.

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