How to Clean a Dryer: A Step-By-Step Guide

A dirty dryer can be a huge fire hazard and reduce efficiency. Learn how to clean a dryer to get the most out of it.

Basket with dirty clothes near the dryer  in laundry room.

A dryer is an essential appliance in your home – making sure that clothes are dried quickly and ready for you to wear or put away. Like any hardworking machine, it requires care and attention to perform at its best.

Over time, it can fill up with lint and dust, causing a deterioration in performance and pose a safety hazard. It is essential to clean it regularly to keep it working safely and efficiently.

In this guide, we’ll take you through the step-by-step process of cleaning your dryer, from the lint filter to the exterior.

Why Do You Need to Clean a Dryer

Lint, dust, and debris can build up inside the dryer’s vents. Ignoring this buildup can lead to a few risks:

  • Increased potential for fires: Lint is highly flammable, and when it accumulates in the dryer’s vents or around its heating element, it can spark a dangerous blaze. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, thousands of residential fires are caused by clothes dryers each year, resulting in injuries, property damage, and even fatalities. Regular cleaning is your first line of defense against this potential hazard.
  • Inefficiency: When lint clogs the venting system or accumulates in the lint filter, it restricts the airflow, making your dryer work harder and longer to dry your clothes. This not only consumes more energy but also shortens the lifespan of your appliance.

Cleaning your dryer makes it safe to use, improves its efficiency, and helps you save on energy costs in the long run.

IMPORTANT: If you are uncomfortable performing specific tasks, consider scheduling a professional inspection and maintenance service for your dryer. Professionals can identify and address potential issues early on.

***This post contains affiliate or referral links. It is a way for this site to earn advertising fees by advertising or linking to certain products and/or services. Please read my full disclosure here ***

Also see: How to clean a washer

Safety Precautions When Cleaning a Dryer

A dryer is an appliance that uses electricity and, often, gas. When working with it, you must take all the necessary precautions before cleaning your dryer. This will reduce the likelihood of accidents, injuries, and damage to your home.

1. Disconnect the Power Supply

Disconnecting the power supply to your dryer is the first and most critical step in ensuring safety. This simple action prevents any accidental start-ups while you’re cleaning the appliance. Locate the dryer’s power cord and unplug it from the electrical outlet, or, if applicable, turn off the circuit breaker dedicated to the dryer. Confirm that no electricity flows to the appliance by testing it with a voltage tester.

2. Disconnect From the Gas Line (If Applicable)

For gas dryers, an additional safety step is required. Gas connections can be potentially dangerous if not handled correctly. If you have a gas dryer, turn off the gas supply valve before cleaning. This step is vital to prevent gas leaks and the associated dangers.

3. Personal Protective Equipment (Ppe)

Wearing the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) can shield you from potential hazards during cleaning. Here are some recommended PPE items:

  • Gloves: Wear sturdy, heat-resistant gloves to protect your hands when handling hot components and sharp edges.
  • Safety Glasses: Safety glasses or goggles can shield your eyes from dust and debris dislodged during cleaning.
  • Dust Mask or Respirator: If you have respiratory sensitivities or allergies, a dust mask or respirator can help you breathe comfortably while cleaning.
  • Long Clothing: It’s advisable to wear long sleeves and pants to prevent skin contact with cleaning agents or sharp edges inside the dryer.

4. Ensure Proper Ventilation

Cleaning your dryer may involve using cleaning agents or solvents. To ensure proper ventilation and prevent the buildup of potentially harmful fumes, open windows or doors and use fans to improve airflow in the laundry area.

Remember that safety is the foundation of any successful maintenance task, and taking these measures will help you clean your dryer effectively while keeping yourself and your home safe from harm.

Tools and Materials Needed

Having the correct equipment at your disposal makes the cleaning process more efficient and ensures that you can effectively tackle every aspect of dryer maintenance. Here’s a comprehensive list of the tools and materials you’ll need:

  1. Vacuum Cleaner with Hose Attachment: You can reach tight spaces and thoroughly clean the interior. This is a special hose attachment that makes it easy to vaccum.
  2. Screwdriver: Phillips or flathead – helps remove screws and access certain parts of the dryer, such as the lint filter housing or the dryer drum.
  3. Lint Brush or Lint Trap Cleaning Tool: This is designed to reach deep inside the lint trap and remove accumulated lint. It is beneficial for preventing clogs and maintaining optimal airflow.
  4. Cleaning Cloths or Microfiber Towels: For wiping down the interior and exterior surfaces of the dryer, as well as for applying any cleaning solutions you may use.
  5. Mild Detergent: Preferably one with no strong fragrances or additives, can be used to clean the inside of the dryer drum and other surfaces. It helps remove stains and residues effectively.
  6. Warm Water: for cleaning the drum and other parts of the dryer. It helps dissolve dirt and grime in combination with the mild detergent.
  7. Vent Cleaning Kit: If you have a long dryer vent duct or one that is difficult to access, consider investing in a vent cleaning kit. These kits typically include flexible rods and brushes to reach deep into the vent system.
  8. Replacement Parts (Optional): Depending on the age and condition of your dryer, you may want to have some replacement parts on hand, such as a new lint filter or vent hose, in case you discover any damage or wear during the cleaning process.

How to Clean a Dryer

Cleaning the dryer is made up of three main parts:

  1. Cleaning the lint filter
  2. Cleaning the drum
  3. Cleaning the vent
  4. Cleaning the exterior.

Below is everything you need to know about how to clean each thoroughly.

How to Clean the Lint Filter

Making it a habit to clean the lint out of the lint filter after each use is a great way to help make this step easy and quick and help maintain the dryer’s efficiency and prevent fire hazards. Perform a thorough clean every few months to keep it running well.

Locate and Remove the Lint Filter

  • Most dryers have the lint filter near the door or the top panel. It’s typically an easily accessible part that can be pulled out or lifted away from its housing.
  • Locate the lint filter and gently pull it out. If it’s a top-loading lint filter, open the dryer door and look for a handle or tab to help you remove it.
removing the lint filter from the dryer to clean
Housewife cleanup lints and dirt from tumble dryer filter. Clothes dryer lint filter that is covered with lint. Taking the lint out from dirty air filter of the dryer machine before use the machine.

Cleaning the Lint Filter

  • Start by removing visible lint from the filter by hand. Pick off the lint and dispose of it in a trash bin.
woman cleaning the lint filter
  • To thoroughly clean the lint filter, use a lint brush or a specialized lint trap cleaning tool. Insert the brush into the filter’s mesh and gently remove any remaining lint. This helps remove lint that may be trapped deeper inside the filter.
  • For a more thorough cleaning, periodically wash the lint filter with warm, soapy water. Fill a basin or sink with warm water and add a few drops of mild detergent. Submerge the lint filter and gently agitate it to dislodge any remaining lint, dirt, or fabric softener residue. Allow it to soak for a few minutes.
Dust, lint, and hair trapped by the clothes dryer filter. Housework cleaning.
  • After soaking, use a soft brush, such as an old toothbrush, to scrub both sides of the lint filter. Pay attention to any stubborn lint or residue and scrub until it is completely clean.
  • Rinse the lint filter thoroughly with clean water to remove any soap residue. Shake off excess water and pat it dry with a clean cloth or paper towel.
  • Ensure the lint filter is completely dry before returning it to the dryer. Let it air dry for a few hours, or use a clean cloth to speed up the drying process.

How to Clean the Dryer Drum

Fabric softener and dryer sheets lead to a residue build-up inside the drum. This affects the quality of the drying. Here’s how to clean the dryer drum effectively.

1. Prepare a Cleaning Solution:

Mix a solution of warm water and mild detergent. Avoid harsh or abrasive cleaners, which can damage the dryer drum’s finish. A water and vinegar solution works, too. If you have a gas dryer, make sure you are using a non-flammable cleaner.

2. Turn Off and Unplug the Dryer:

  • Safety always comes first. Before you begin, turn off the power supply to the dryer and unplug it from the electrical outlet.

3. Wipe Down the Drum:

  • Dip a soft cloth or sponge into the soapy water solution, wring out any excess water, and gently wipe down the inside of the dryer drum.
  • Pay special attention to areas with residue or stains. For stubborn spots, let the soapy solution sit for a few minutes to loosen the grime.
  • Use a gentle, circular motion to avoid scratching the drum’s surface.
  • This is also a great time to wipe down the door from the inside.
Photo of woman hands wiping orange cloth washing machine

4. Rinse with Clean Water:

  • After you’ve cleaned the drum with the soapy solution, rinse the cloth or sponge thoroughly and wipe down the drum with clean, warm water. This will remove any detergent residue.

5. Dry with a Clean, Damp Cloth:

  • To ensure there is no leftover detergent or water in the drum, take a clean, damp cloth and wipe down the inside of the drum once more.
  • Ensure the drum is completely dry before using the dryer again.

How to Clean the Dryer Vent

A clean dryer vent is essential for maintaining proper airflow and reducing the risk of fires caused by lint buildup. Experts recommend doing this at least once a year to maintain optimal safety and efficiency. Here’s how to clean your dryer vent effectively:

1. Locate the Dryer Vent:

  • The dryer vent is typically located at the back of the dryer or on the wall behind it. A duct or hose connects the dryer to the outside or a vent exhaust system.

2. Disconnect the Dryer:

  • Unplug the dryer from the electrical outlet. If your dryer is gas-powered, also turn off the gas supply valve.
Flexible dryer vent hose, attaching/detaching from wall vent by turning screw in steel duct clamp.
Flexible dryer vent hose, attaching/detaching from wall vent by turning screw in steel duct clamp.

3. Remove the Vent Hose:

  • If the vent hose is easily accessible, disconnect it from the dryer. Depending on your dryer’s setup, this may require loosening a clamp or simply pulling the hose off.

4. Use a Vacuum Cleaner or Vent Cleaning Kit:

  • Insert the hose attachment of a vacuum cleaner into the dryer vent and vacuum out any lint, dust, or debris. Be thorough and reach as far into the vent as possible.
Vacuum cleaning a flexible aluminum dryer vent hose, to remove lint and prevent fire hazard.
  • Alternatively, you can use a specialized vent cleaning kit, which typically includes flexible rods and brushes designed to reach deep into the vent system.
drill and vent cleaning kit for dryer ducting

5. Reassemble and Plug-In:

  • Reattach the vent hose securely to the dryer and plug in the dryer to the electrical outlet. If it’s a gas dryer, turn on the gas supply valve.

6. Test the Dryer:

  • Run your dryer briefly to ensure it’s functioning correctly and that there are no obstructions in the vent system.

How to Clean the Exterior

Maintaining the exterior of your dryer not only keeps it looking good but also helps prevent dust and grime from entering the interior. Here are some tips for cleaning the exterior:

1. Control Panel and Surfaces:

  • Use a damp cloth to wipe down the dryer’s control panel, top, and sides. Avoid using abrasive cleaners that could damage the finish.
Woman wearing rubber gloves, use a spray and cloth to clean the dryer. Working atmosphere in the laundry room.

2. Stainless Steel or Special Finishes:

  • If your dryer has a stainless steel or special finish, follow the manufacturer’s care instructions to avoid scratching or discoloration.
  • A soft cloth and mild detergent are typically safe for cleaning such surfaces.

Reassembling and Testing

After thoroughly cleaning the interior and exterior of the dryer, it’s time to put everything back together and ensure that the appliance is in proper working condition before using it again.

  • Slide the clean and dry lint filter back into its designated slot. Make sure it is dry and fits snugly and securely.
  • If you disconnected any electrical or gas connections, reconnect them securely.
  • Reconnect the vent hose to the back of the dryer. Make sure it’s attached securely and tightened in place.

Before using your dryer for laundry, performing a quick test run is essential.

  • Set the dryer to a low-heat or no-heat cycle and run it for a few minutes.
  • Listen for any unusual noises, smells, or issues with the operation. Ensure the drum is turning smoothly and there are no signs of overheating or burning smells.
  • If everything seems normal during the test run, you can use the dryer for your laundry.
Close-up Of Young Woman Pressing Button Of dryer

Tips for Regular Maintenance

Maintaining a dryer isn’t just about a single cleaning. To keep it in top condition and running safely, consider the following ongoing maintenance tips:

  1. Clean the Lint Filter After Every Load: It is a simple but effective way to maintain optimal dryer performance and safety.
  2. Schedule Regular Vent Cleanings: It is crucial to schedule annual vent cleanings to prevent lint buildup and reduce fire risks. You can mark this on your calendar to ensure you don’t forget.
  3. Check for Loose or Damaged Parts: Inspect your dryer for loose or damaged parts periodically. Pay attention to the drum’s support rollers, belts, and electrical connections. Tighten or replace any parts as needed to prevent further damage.
  4. Create a Maintenance Calendar: Note important dates for tasks like vent cleaning, lint filter cleaning, and professional inspections.

Here is the recommended cleaning schedule to follow:

  • After every load: Clean the lint screen.
  • Every six months: Deep clean the lint screen and the inside of the drum
  • Every year: Clean the dryer vents and ducts

By following these ongoing maintenance tips and periodically checking your dryer’s components, you can ensure that your dryer remains in excellent condition, providing efficient and safe drying for your laundry needs.

Remember that regular maintenance extends your dryer’s lifespan and improves energy efficiency and safety.

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Anika Gandhi

Anika Gandhi is on a mission to declutter and organize all the things around her and is here to inspire and encourage you to do the same!

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