How to Clean a Dryer

By: Natalie Yerger

According to the National Fire Protection Association, firefighters nationwide respond to 14,630 fires caused by dryers in laundry rooms. The most common cause of these fires is a clogged vent or lint trap, which leads to buildup in the exhaust vent and the dryer itself.

Thankfully, cleaning your dryer takes only an hour to perform. Keep reading to learn how to clean a dryer, what you can do to get rid of dyer odors, and a few methods to help you remove stubborn dryer stains.

Step-by-step guide to cleaning your dryer

Prior to cleaning your clothes dryer, you’ll want to unplug the dryer and pull it out from the wall. Pull the machine far enough away from the wall so that you have access to the vent behind the dryer. If you have a gas dryer, turn off the gas valve behind the dryer.

Materials

  • A couple of microfiber cloths
  • An all-purpose cleaner
  • A damp cloth
  • Liquid soap
  • A Magic Eraser
  • Baking soda paste
  • A small bucket of water
  • A handheld vacuum cleaner and its dust attachment

Start by wiping down the dryer exterior with an all-purpose cleaning spray and a microfiber cloth. Then, move on to the inside of the dryer, making sure that the dryer is empty before doing so.

1. Examine and clean the exhaust hose

The vent tubing, which is usually found at the back of the dryer, typically contains lint and debris build-up. Remove any lint you find with your hands, and if there’s excessive buildup, consider replacing the tubing. To get rid of smaller lint pieces, use your vacuum’s dust attachment.

If you have an aged vacuum hose or vent pipe that is made of a plastic- or foil-style material, we highly recommend replacing the tubing, as these types of vent tubes are very flammable. Newer hoses are made of alternative, safer materials, like rigid metal.

2. Clean your dryer vent ducts

Depending on your dryer’s make and model, your machine may have an indicator that will alert you when lint has built up and blocked the vent. Regardless, no model is perfect at detection, so regular vent duct cleaning is essential. Disconnect the duct from the dryer and vacuum as much of the duct as you can access. Once the vent duct is clean, reconnect the dryer hose and push your dryer back into place.

3. Clean the lint filter

The lint screen might contain dryer sheet residue, waxy build-up from fabric softeners, and other dirt and debris. Remove the lint trap (typically located right inside of the dryer door or on top of the dryer) and toss any collected lint into the trash.

Use a dry cloth to wipe around the vent and consider cleaning around the lint screen with a damp cloth to remove buildup. Finally, give the lint screen a good scrub with warm, soapy water. Set it aside to allow it to air dry.

4. Clean out the drum

While the lint filter is drying, wipe down the dryer’s drum. Keep an eye out for threads and buttons, which should be removed with your hands, and then give the drum a deep clean with a baking soda paste (this can be made with a small amount of baking soda and a few drops of water). Use a damp cloth to wipe it down afterward.

How to sanitize your dryer

The drum of your dryer can be exposed to oil, poison oak or ivy, pesticides, and other things that transfer from clothing. Using gloves, pour a solution of chlorine bleach and water in a spray bottle, spray the contents inside the dryer, and wipe down the entire surface of the drum, including the rubber seals, gaskets, and the dryer door. Wipe down the dryer with plain water, then toss old rags or t-shirts inside and allow the dryer to run on high for about 10 minutes.

How to deodorize your dryer

If your dryer has a funky smell or needs some extra love, consider using a disinfectant to get rid of odors. Usually, getting rid of extra lint solves the odor issue, but if you continue to experience the problem, dip a clean cloth in distilled white vinegar and run it around the inside of the dryer.

Leave the door of the dryer open until the vinegar smell dissipates and then wipe down the dryer with a damp rag. You could also add a few drops of lemon or peppermint essential oil to the cloth for a fresher, clean smell.

How to remove stains from a dryer

Most dryers have interiors that are made from enamel- or porcelain-coated steel. These surfaces aren’t very porous, so stains don’t set in too frequently. However, when disaster strikes in the form of ink or gum, it can be a frustrating experience trying to remove the stains.

Ink is the most common culprit for dryer stains, but it’s relatively easy to clean. Use rubbing alcohol to wipe the stain away, and then rub the area with a damp cloth and leave the dryer door open until it airs out.

For tougher ink stains, try running the dryer on its highest heat setting for a few minutes to liquify the ink. For the most resistant of ink stains, try applying nail polish remover to the area while the dryer drum is still warm, and then use a cloth to rub the ink off.

The other category of common dryer “stains” involves gum and other sticky-based substances. Turn your dryer to a medium heat setting and run the machine for five minutes. Then, wipe the affected area with a warm rag or towel. The heat will help melt and remove substances like gum and melted crayon.

Preventative tips to keep your dryer clean

We recommend cleaning your dryer annually to keep you and your loved ones safe—plus, you’ll get to enjoy a more effective dryer and clean, dry clothes as a result. Here’s how to keep your dryer clean throughout the years:

  • Clean the lint trap after every load, especially if you’re doing laundry for the entire family.
  • On a monthly basis, remove the lint filter, rinse it with warm, soapy water, and let it air dry.
  • Wipe down the dryer drum and the dryer’s exterior, in addition to your washing machine, with an all-purpose cleaner every month to avoid dirt and dust buildup.

As for the deep cleaning outlined above, you’ll be best off if you perform this annually, if not every six months.

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