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.
Below, read on to learn the best ways to clean your dryer to keep your appliance clean, fresh, and most importantly—safe to use.
How Often Should You Clean Your Dryer?
How often you should clean your dryer, as with many appliances, depends on how regularly you use it. 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 and 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 the leading cause of fires in residential dryers is failure to clean them.
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 for several cycles to achieve complete dryness
- Higher humidity in your laundry room when running your machine
- An odd smell when using your dryer
- Your dryer feeling hot to the touch when running
If your dryer is exhibiting any of these signs, it’s time to get to work. Luckily, it can be done in a few easy steps.
Things You'll Need
- Lint-free cloth
- Warm, soapy water
- All-purpose cleaner (optional)
- An old toothbrush or dryer lint vent trap brush
- A load of clean towels or clothes
- A vacuum cleaner with attachments
- Dryer vent cleaning brush
How to Clean Your Dryer
Step 1: Power Down
In order to give your dryer and its duct a good deep clean, you need to turn off the power source. For an electric dryer, this means simply unplugging the dryer. For a gas dryer, unplug the dryer, then shut off its 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
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 inside of 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. Once the drum is fresh and clean, tumble a load of clean towels or clothes to dry the interior of your appliance thoroughly.
Step 5: Locate and Prep the Dryer Vent
This step takes a little investigative work. Go outside your home and locate your dryer’s vent. Dryer vents are typically located on the exterior of your home, on an outside wall, or on your roof. 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
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. Depending on how often you use your dryer, the drum should be wiped down every one to three months (so it's a great task for your seasonal cleaning checklist). You should also clean the exhaust vent at least once per year to help prevent fires by removing the vent from the rear of the dryer and cleaning any residue.
Clothes Dryer Safety. National Fire Protection Association. 2018