How to Properly Clean Your Dryer Inside and Out

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Sarah Fultz Interiors

You clean your dryer's lint screen after every tumble load, surface clean the exterior of your dryer every once in a while, and even vacuum behind it if you’re really doing a deep clean on your laundry room. So, your dryer is surely clean, right? Not quite.

Perhaps you’ve just wrapped your head around the fact that you need to clean your washing machine regularly, but go ahead and embrace another slightly more difficult task: you should be cleaning your dryer, as well. 

How Often Should You Clean Your Dryer?

You should clean your dryer every 6 to 12 months or when it exhibits the signs of lint build-up, which could be by not drying properly, being hot to the touch, creating excessive humidity, or emitting a strange smell.

Over time, lint and other particles can build up inside your dryer, behind it, as well as in the exhaust vent. This will not only cause your dryer to become less efficient, but it’s also a safety hazard. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reported that not removing dust, fibers, and lint is the leading cause of fires in residential dryers.

So, yes, you should keep cleaning your lint screen after every load, but signs that you might need to do an extensive deep clean on your dryer include:

  • The need to run your dryer several cycles to achieve complete dryness.
  • Higher humidity in your laundry room when running your machine.
  • An odd smell when using your dryer.
  • The dryer feels hot to the touch when running.

If your dryer is exhibiting any of these signs, it’s time to get to work—and it can be done in a few easy steps.

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Sarah Fultz Interiors

Things You'll Need

How to Clean Your Dryer

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Reena Sotropa

Step 1: Power Down

In order to give your dryer and its duct a good deep clean, you’re going to need to turn off the power source. For an electric dryer, this means simply unplugging the dryer. For a gas dryer, unplug and then shut off the dryer’s gas supply.

Step 2: Clean the Exterior

Once you’ve powered down, enlist a friend or family member to help you pull the dryer out from the wall. Thoroughly clean the exterior—including all knobs and buttons—with a lint-free cloth and warm, soapy water or an all-purpose cleaner.

Step 3: Clean the Lint Trap and Screen

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Whittney Parkinson

Remove the lint screen and wash it with soap and water, making sure to get all the edges. Give it a gentle scrub with an old toothbrush to make sure you get in all the crevices, and allow it time to dry. If you have an appropriately sized vacuum attachment, you can vacuum your lint trap.

If you don't have a vacuum with an attachment, you can take a toothbrush or dryer lint vent trap brush and swipe it inside the lint trap in order to scoop out trapped lint. Wipe off the lint after each swipe, and repeat until your brush comes up clean.

Step 4: Clean the Drum

Use your lint-free cloth to wipe down the dryer drum, including the edges of the fins. Then, clean the inside of the dryer drum with a cloth and warm, soapy water or an all-purpose cleaner. 

Tumble a load of clean towels or clothes to dry the drum.

Step 5: Locate and Prep the Dryer Vent Duct

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Reena Sotropa

This step takes a little investigative work. Go outside your home and locate your dryer’s vent duct. Vent ducts are usually 4 inches in diameter, and they are typically located on the exterior of your home, on your roof, or attic. Remove the plastic cover that protects the end of the vent. 

After you’ve removed the cover on the outside, go back to your laundry room and remove any type of clamp or tape that holds the vent duct to your dryer.

Some clamps can be removed by squeezing, others will require a screwdriver.

Step 6: Clean the Dryer Vent Ducts

Insert your dryer vent cleaning brush into one side of your vent and gently follow along with the corners and turns as it pushes the debris to the other side of the duct. Vacuum up any lint that comes out of the opposite end of your vent duct. 

Step 7: Put Everything Back into Place

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After you’ve successfully cleaned out the vent duct and vacuumed the lint that is expelled, reattach the cover to the exterior end of the duct. Reattach the tape or clamp to the back of your dryer and the interior end of the vent duct. Reconnect your dryer to power, and turn on the gas, if applicable. Then, carefully move the dryer back into its original position.

Step 8: Run an Empty Cycle

Run an empty dryer cycle to make sure any remaining lint or dust is cleared out.

Tips to Keep Your Dryer Clean Longer

Though it may seem like extra work now, it's pretty simple to ensure the longevity of your dryer for years to come by adding a few easy steps to your laundry day routine. For starters, always cleaning the lint trap before and after a cycle can keep your dryer staying fresh longer. You can even clean the laundry screen with dish soap every few months to keep it extra fresh.

Be sure to never overload your dryer and wipe down your dryer drum every so often to keep it fresh. You should also clean the exhaust vent every two years to help prevent fires by removing the vent from the rear of the dryer and cleaning any residue.

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