Dryer Cleaning & Maintenance 101: How to Clean Your Dryer

Dryers are indispensable appliances in most homes. It dries loads of laundry in minutes, saving you the time and effort of hanging clothes outside or on drying racks. Like every important appliance in your home, a dryer also needs good maintenance to continue working efficiently. Maintenance of every appliance starts with proper cleaning; dryers are no exception. If you want to keep your dryer functioning for a long time and also safeguard your family from hazards typically caused by clogged dryers and vents, this article is for you. No matter what type of dryer you own or are planning to buy, below is your comprehensive guide to cleaning it.  

In this article, we’ll cover: 

  • Do Dryers Need to Be Cleaned? 
  • How Often Should a Dryer Be Cleaned? 
  • How to Clean a Dryer - A Step-by-Step Guide 
  • How to Clean a Dryer Vent 
  • Dryer Cleaning Checklist 
  • FAQs About Dryer Maintenance 

Do Dryers Need to Be Cleaned? 

Cleaning your dryer not only keeps your clothes in good shape but also saves you money and effort. With every use, your dryer gets clogged with dirt, fiber, and lint. This not only affects the efficiency of the appliance but also increases the risk of fire hazards. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), clogged dryers are the major cause of residential fires. Removing the lint and build-up from your dryer will also safeguard your home and family from fire.  

Keeping the dryer clean is the first step to maintaining the appliance. This will ensure optimal performance of the dryer to dry the load in minutes. Clogged dryers take more time to dry a load, and the longer it runs, the more electricity it uses. 

How Often Should a Dryer Be Cleaned? 

There is no standard rule as to how often you should clean your dryer. It completely depends on the make and model of your dryer. Some dryers may have a lengthy vent or too many bends in the vent. The more the bends, the more the dryer is prone to clogging. The type and position of the transition vent should also be considered. 

Frequency of use is also another factor to decide when your dryer needs cleaning. If you frequently use the dryer, say twice or three times a week, you should clean the dryer more often. Another factor is the weekly load. You might use the dryer once a week, but if it’s a huge load, it will leave more lint deposits and build-up.  

If you are drying laundry for your pet, then the chances of clogged vents are higher because of loose fur. The type of joints of the vents or ducts such as screwed or taped can contribute to lint clogging. If the location or type of exhaust outlet is not correct, it can restrict the flow, causing severe lint clogging. Another factor to consider is the brand of detergent you use. Some fabric softeners or detergents can cause heavy build-up inside the dryer, which can impact its long-term operation. 

How to Clean a Dryer - A Step-by-Step Guide 

Complete cleaning of the dryer is a two–way process that includes internal and external cleaning. Internal cleaning includes cleaning the lint trap, the inner drum, and the vent system. The outer cleaning includes removing dirt and buildup from the dryer body, buttons, knobs, etc.  

To begin, you will need a few tools and supplies. This will not only make the task easy but will also ensure your dryer is thoroughly cleaned. Two tools important tools include the dryer cleaning brush and a screwdriver. You can keep a vacuum cleaner handy to further simplify the process. The supplies you will need include a microfiber cloth, spray bottle, equal parts of water and vinegar solution, and liquid soap or detergent.  

Now, if you are ready with the tools and supplies to transform your dryer, let’s begin. 

Turn off the dryer 

To prevent any hazards, it is crucial to clean the dryer when it is not turned on. To ensure you don't accidentally turn it on, unplug the cord from the power source and push the dryer away from the wall. This way, you will have enough room to access the back of the appliance for cleaning and the chance of hazards will be less.  

Wipe off the dryer drum 

Some fabric cleaners and softeners leave stubborn residue on the inner side of the dryer drum that causes build-up. With frequent use, this build-up increases and affects your clothes. The best way to clean this build-up is by wiping it off. You can begin by vacuuming out any debris.  

For a gas dryer, fill a spray bottle with a mix of water and vinegar and gently spray it all over the walls and bottom of the dryer drum. Let it sit for a few minutes, and wipe it off with a microfiber cloth. For electric dryers, use a mix of warm water and liquid soap. Don't forget to towel-dry the drum after cleaning. You can tumble a load of clean clothes instead to completely dry them out. 

Pull out the link from the lint trap 

A clean lint allows optimal performance of the dryer and also prevents fire hazards. The mesh screen attached to the link trap often gets clogged with lint from the fabric. The best way you can clean it is by opening the lint trap and pulling out the mesh screen. Use a brush and some soapy water to gently scrub away all the lint. In case the mesh screen has worn out, consider replacing it. Remove the dirt from the lint trap using the crevice tool or vacuum cleaner brush. Don’t forget to vacuum the moisture sensor strips on the outer side of the link trap. 

Clean the outer body 

Drips from detergent, fabric softener, and lint from fabric build a layer on the top and sides of the dryer. Use the water and vinegar mix to spray on the outer surface of the dryer and loosen up the gunk. Use a microfiber cloth to wipe away the dirt, focusing on the knobs and buttons. The back of the dryer is often ignored so ensure you reach there too. 

How to Clean Dryer Vent? 

The dryer duct and vent system clog up faster than any other part. A blocked vent system can significantly reduce the dryer’s performance and also increase the chances of fire hazards. As hot air finds no escape, it starts heating the vent system. Combined with the dust and lint, this heat can cause a fire. The warning signs to identify and prevent such hazards are when the laundry gets so heated up that you can barely touch it, if there is a burning smell inside the dryer drum, or if the dryer takes longer than usual to dry the load.  

Cleaning the dryer vent system is crucial to ensure the safety of your family and the optimal performance of the dryer. Below is a step-by-step guide to help you. 

Disconnect the dryer’s duct 

The dryer should be at least a foot away from the wall so you can easily access the rear vent. Disconnect the duct from the back of the dryer. You might need a screwdriver to open the vent clamp. If possible, detach the length of the duct for easier cleaning. Remember, ducts made of plastic, foil, or vinyl are more prone to fire hazards as they are flammable. Try replacing them with ducts that meet fire safety standards. 

Vacuum debris out of the vent 

The exhaust of the dryer will be exposed, and you can easily clean off the lint wearing safety gloves. To ensure the duct is properly cleaned, use a vacuum cleaner. Try a hose attachment or shop vac to clean in and around the exhaust. If the duct is long, use the vacuum cleaner hose extension, and remove all the lint and dirt. 

Start brushing the vent 

Investing in a dryer vent kit can make cleaning easier. These kits often come with flexible brushes to reach difficult-to-access areas in the vent system. Use this brush to clean the inner walls of the duct by moving it back and forth while also rotating it. These brushes have long handles so you can extend them until the entire duct is thoroughly cleaned. 

Inspect the exterior vent 

Go outside the house and inspect the exterior vent of the dryer, which is where the hot air is released into the air. Once you locate the vent, remove the cover. You will find clogged debris and gunk. Remove it with a brush and use a vacuum cleaner to ensure no gunk is blocking the vent. Then close the external vent cover. 

Reattach the vent 

Examine the vent system for any damage. If you find any, consider fixing or replacing it. Then reattach the vent system to the dryer. Push the dryer back to its position and plug it into the power source. For gas dryers, reconnect them to the gas source. 

Plug in and run an empty cycle 

Turn on the dryer and run an empty cycle for at least 15 to 20 minutes. You can choose the fluff or air-dry setting here. This will help you know if all the connections have been properly reattached. If the dryer operates fine, you can go ahead with the laundry. 

Dryer Cleaning Checklist 

Cleaning a dryer can be a little daunting for beginners, especially because of so many attachments. To make it less intimidating, here is a checklist you can follow as a go-to guide for cleaning your fabric dryer.  

  1. Unplug the dryer and pull it away from the wall
  2. Remove the lint trap and vacuum all the debris
  3. Clean the mesh screen off the lint and put it back
  4. Wipe away the build-up on the inner walls of the dryer drum
  5. Clean the exterior of the dryer using a vacuum cleaner or microfiber cloth and cleaning solution.
  6. Detach the vent system and clean the duct
  7. Vacuum out the gunk from the length of the duct. You can also use a dryer brush
  8. Remove the vent cover on the exterior exhaust and clean it
  9. Close the exterior vent cover and reattach the vent system to the dryer
  10. Plug in the dryer and run an empty cycle for 15 to 20 minutes
  11. Ensure that the dryer is properly operating and then switch it off

FAQs About Dryer Maintenance 

What happens if you don't clean your dryer? 

The vent system of the dryer gets easily clogged with lint and dirt from the clothes. If it is not cleaned, the hot air from the dryer does not escape heating the duct system. Combined with lint and dirt, this trapped heat can cause fire hazards. It can also slow down the performance of the dryer. Thousands of residential fires caused by dryers are reported every year, so keeping the dryer clean is important to safeguard your family. 

How do you disinfect a dryer? 

Use a solution of equal parts of water and vinegar to spray inside the dryer after every laundry cycle or at least once a month. Then wipe off the solution using a microfiber cloth. Keep the door of the dryer open until the drum dries out completely. This will keep the dryer drum free from any build-up or bacterial growth. 

How do I know if my dryer vent needs cleaning? 

There are some warning signs if your dryer vent badly needs cleaning. This includes if the normal drying cycle takes longer than usual or if clothes are so hot that you can barely touch them. Other signs to note are if the trap does not open, if there is a burning smell inside the drum after every cycle, if the dryer frequently stops working, or if the room temperature rises when the dryer is on. If you notice any of these changes in the operation of the dryer, clean it as soon as possible before using it again. 

Can I clean my dryer vent myself? 

Yes, it is possible to clean the dryer and its vent system at home. It is a simple step-by-step process that doesn’t require much technical or mechanical knowledge. With just a few tools and supplies, you can properly clean your dryer yourself. 

How often should you change your dryer vent? 

The dryer vent needs replacement every year or depending on the frequency of laundry or the size of the family. Always inspect for any damage in the vent system when you open the duct for cleaning. Try to use a duct that meets fire safety standards and not those made of plastic, foil, or vinyl. 

Final Thoughts 

A dryer can make laundry a breeze and dry your clothes in less than an hour. It is a necessity in urban homes when hanging out clothes is not an option due to space concerns and tight work schedules. If you haven't invested in this appliance yet, it is time to get one that perfectly suits your family's needs and meets your budget. Check here Coast Appliance’s dryer selection to suit your preferences. You can find different models from top brands and also our dryer buying guide to help you narrow down your choice.