How To Clean A Dryer Inside And Out

Is your dryer not actually drying your clothes? Might be (past) time for a cleaning.

You’ve finally tackled that big pile of laundry ~~that’s been building up for weeks in the corner of your bedroom~~ and are feeling pretty darn proud of yourself. As the dryer finishes its cycle and the buzzer sounds, you excitedly open the dryer door to remove your warm, amazing-smelling, clean clothes ... only to find that your clothes are still damp? What’s going on?

One possibility: your dryer might be past due for some routine cleaning and maintenance. “Hold up,” you say. “I have to clean my dryer?” Yep. (Sorry.) But don’t worry! We’re here to walk you through an easy-to-follow, easy-to-execute four-step guide that will get your dryer clean and ready to tumble in no time!

Why should you clean your dryer?

There are a couple reasons why cleaning your dryer is so important. For starters, regular cleanings will help ensure that your freshly laundered clothes don’t end up in a dryer that’s anything less than sparkling clean. Sounds good, right? Plus, routine maintenance will also help prevent your dryer venting system from developing blockages–which not only interfere with your machine’s performance, but also pose a serious fire hazard (which, if you ask us, is a really good reason to clean your dryer).

What happens if you don't clean your dryer?

Okay, let’s face the worst scenario first: failing to clean out all of the dust, lint and other fibers that accumulate in your dryer can lead to a fire, which is ... yeah, bad. Dryers are a leading cause of house fires, and you really don’t want to become part of that statistic.

Not cleaning your dryer can also lead to other admittedly-less-serious-but-still-frustrating consequences, including low efficiency and underperformance (translation: higher energy bills and having to dry your clothes twice to actually get them dry).

So, let’s get cleaning!

How to clean your dryer in four easy steps

The good news is that cleaning your dryer boils down to four pretty straightforward steps. Even better, you don’t even have to do every one of these steps all that often to keep your dryer happy, performing well and safe. Read on for the rundown!

1. Clean your lint screen every time you use your dryer.

Supplies needed: None!

This is a super easy one, and yes, you really do want to do this every time you use your dryer. Your lint screen is your dryer’s first line of defense against blockages, and it does a pretty darn good job trapping lint! But if left in place, all of that lint will block airflow and hamper (sorry, couldn’t help ourselves) your dryer’s ability to actually dry your clothes.

What that means is that keeping your lint screen clean and lint-free will help your dryer perform better and more efficiently. If that’s not enough to convince you, it’s one of the easiest things you can do to decrease the risk of your dryer causing a house fire.

To clean your lint screen, begin by removing your lint trap, which is usually located on the front or top of your machine. You should be able to easily pull it out like a drawer. Then, use your fingers to gently pull all of the lint away from the mesh of the lint screen. Wet lint is way more stubborn, so avoid using water or soap. Really, all you need here are your fingers. Throw away the lint, and replace the lint trap. Ta-dah!

2. Wipe down the inside of your dryer drum with an all-purpose cleaner or vinegar solution about once every month.

Supplies needed: Microfiber cloth or rag All-purpose cleaner (we like 9 Elements Multi-Purpose Cleaner) or vinegar solution Towels (optional–to tumble dry)

Unfortunately, your dryer drum is not exempt from cleaning, even if the only things you’re putting in there are freshly laundered clothes. Why? Residue from detergent, dryer sheets, and fabric softener can build up over time. Plus, grime inevitably finds its way in there, as it finds its way into ... well, everywhere. Cleaning out your drum once a month will help ensure that your clean clothes are still clean when they emerge from the dryer.

You have two options for cleaning your dryer drum: a gentle all-purpose cleaner like 9 Elements Multi-Purpose Cleaner or an easy DIY vinegar solution. If you opt for the vinegar solution, mix 1 part distilled white vinegar with 2 parts warm water. Lightly spray either the all-purpose cleaner or vinegar solution all over the dryer drum, and let it sit for a few minutes. Then use a microfiber cloth or rag to wipe it up. Feel free to repeat if necessary. When done, toss a few towels in and run it on low–or just leave your dryer door open–to ensure the drum dries completely.

3. Do a deep clean of your lint screen at least once every 6 months.

Supplies needed: Toothbrush Mild dish detergent (like Dawn)

Even if you’re cleaning your lint screen every time you use your dryer (see above for why this is a non-negotiable), lint and residue have a way of building up–especially if you use dryer sheets or fabric softener. It’s therefore a good idea to give your lint screen some extra love once every 6 months or so.

Begin by removing your lint screen from the lint trap. Then mix a mild dish detergent with some warm water, and use a toothbrush to gently scrub the mesh of your lint screen to rid it of any built-up residue. Rinse it, and then let it air dry before returning it to the lint trap.

4. Clean your dryer vent and duct once every 6 to 12 months.

Supplies needed: Screwdriver Dryer cleaning kit (available at any hardware stores) and/or vacuum with a long attachment

Cleaning your dryer vent and duct periodically (and we really do mean periodically–once or twice a year should suffice) will go a long way toward helping prevent the formation of clogs that can block airflow, negatively impact your dryer’s performance and increase your risk of fire.

To begin, unplug your dryer. If you have a gas dryer, you should also turn off the gas before proceeding. For those of you with gas dryers, please (PLEASE) do not continue until you’ve turned off the gas. If you’re unsure how to do this, call a professional.

Roll the dryer away from the wall. To do so, you’ll likely have to undo the vent clamp that attaches the vent pipe to the wall (this might require a screwdriver depending on what kind of clamp you have).

Thoroughly clean your dryer vent duct. You might be able to use your hands to (carefully!) remove blockages, lint, etc. near the opening. However, you’re going to want to reach deeper into the vent, as well. To do so, you’ll need either a dryer cleaning kit (which will include a long-handled brush designed for exactly this task) or a vacuum with a long attachment. Whichever you choose, use it to gently remove any blockages, lint or what have you in your duct. Be sure to give your dryer vent pipe and any other components a good once-over, too.

Next, locate your exterior dryer vent and clean it, as well. Your exterior dryer vent will typically be located on the outside of the wall nearest your dryer or on your roof (if you’re going up there, please be very careful). Once you’ve found it, use the same tools to clean it as you did with the interior vent duct.

Now is also a good time to double check for damage to your exterior vent or signs of animals nesting there. (We know, that’s the last thing you want to deal with, but it’s better to know, right? And if you do discover that some animal has taken up residence in your vent, there are ventilation covers you can install that should help.)

Reattach your interior dryer vent when you’re done, and turn the power back on. If you have a gas dryer, turn the gas back on, too.

That’s it! Your dryer is ready to go!

Additional steps to maintain your dryer

You’ve cleaned (and deep cleaned) your lint trap, dryer drum and vents! Your dryer is looking and feeling good. So how do you keep it this way?

In addition to sticking to the cleaning schedule outlined above, taking a couple of extra precautions will help keep your dryer operating at the top of its game, prolong your dryer’s life and keep you and your family safe.

  1. Consider air drying any items that are especially lint prone. Those fuzzy flannel pajama bottoms you love? Your favorite terry bathrobe? We hate to be the ones to break it to you, but your dryer is less of a fan. Instead, opt for air drying these guys. Your dryer will thank you.
  2. Avoid overfilling your dryer. Your dryer works hard! Ease up a bit, and you’ll be rewarded with a happier machine and better performance.

Congratulations! You’ve got a clean dryer and the know-how to keep it that way. If you’re feeling energized and aren’t quite ready to put down the cleaning supplies, check out our guide to getting (and keeping) your laundry room clean and organized, or our tips for leveling up your laundry routine!

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