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How to Clean a Dryer (Epic Guide)

Vacuum cleaning out home dryer vent to remove built up lint hazard.

It seems like there is potential fire danger lurking around every corner of the home. That curling iron plugged into the wall that you left when you went to work in the morning. The stove that you left on while you dozed off for a nap. But who would every suspect the dryer? One of the hidden fire dangers within the home is a clogged dryer vent, filled with flammable cloth fibers and lint that collects over time from clothing.

But, cleaning your dryer has several other benefits aside from keeping your home and family safe from fire. Cleaning your dryer regularly can not only help prevent fire, but can make your dryer last longer, and make your dryer more efficient. Cleaning the dryer is a simple process that can be performed a few times a year. A few minutes of dryer maintenance now can save you valuable money, and possible heartache in the future. Below, let’s take a closer look at dryer maintenance, and how to clean a dryer to prevent potential problems in the future.

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Why is it important to clean the dryer?

Dirty dryer vent that needs to be cleaned as it is a fire hazard.

There are many reasons why it is important to clean the dryer, but the biggest and most important reason is to prevent fire. As you use the dryer regularly, tiny bits of fabric fibers and lint detach from your clothing and collect in the screens and vents of the dryer. Over time, these can build up and scatter throughout the dryer and its parts. The combination of high heat and static produced from the dryer can create a dangerous combination, especially for flammable material like lint. Every year, hundreds of house fires could have been prevented with regular dryer cleaning and maintenance. Cleaning the dryer lint regularly, especially from all working parts of the dryer, can help prevent a fire.

Regularly cleaning the dryer can help make your dryer last longer too. When the dryer is free of debris and fabric fiber the machine is able to run more effectively. With a clean dryer various belts and elements with in the dryer can move unimpeded, which means they do not have to work as hard. Because the parts do not have to work as hard to heat and dry your clothing, dryers that are maintained and cleaned regularly tend to last longer. When your dryer lasts for a longer period of time, you save money by not having to buy replacement parts or an entirely new unit.

Lastly, it is important to clean your dryer because a clean dryer runs more efficiently. This means that when the clothing is in the dryer, the dryer is able to run hot and stay hot. When the dryer can maintain its heat to properly dry your clothing, the individual heating elements do not have to work as hard. A dryer that has dirt and lint collecting inside on its working parts has to work harder, pulling more energy. Without the dryer having to constantly work through heating cycles, it will use less energy. A clean dryer is more energy efficient which can help save money on utility bills.

What needs to be cleaned on your dryer?

Closeup look at a dirty vent.

Although a dryer is not a complicated appliance, there are several components to the dryer that must be cleaned. Having a clean dryer will ensure longevity and efficiency out of your dryer. One of the best ways to clean the dryer, which most people know, is to regularly clean the lint trap. This can typically be found on the top or inside the dryer itself. The lint trap consists of a delicate and fine mesh screen which is designed to trap even the smallest fabric fibers. Another area to clean on the dryer, which is often overlooked, is the lint tube. Few people regularly clean the lint tube, which attaches the dryer to the wall. The lint tube is commonly made out of a flexible material that bends and moves. While the lint trap does a fine job of collecting most of the lint, fabric fibers still make it to the lint tube, which can become blocked.

Another important component of the dryer which is often overlooked is the actual dryer vent. This is what vents the hot air to the outside of the home, and provides the connection from the inside dryer to the outside space. The dryer vent too can collect lint and debris. While the lint trap and lint tube do a very good job at collecting debris, some small lint particles can escape these two traps. Over time, the lint can build up on the outside of the dryer vent, which can prevent the hot air from escaping properly. This can eventually pose a fire risk to your home, and can prevent the dryer from running as efficiently as possible.

Further maintenance should be performed on your dryer to make sure it lasts as long as possible. Cleaning the outside of the dryer can keep the surface of the dryer clean, which can further protect the inside of the dryer. Be sure to clean around and underneath the dryer as well. Additional dust and debris that collects around and under the dryer can compromise the dryer’s efficiency. Build up of debris, lint, and dust around and under the dryer can cause the dryer to overheat because cool air is not able to flow into the dryer. An overheated dryer is not only dangerous, as a potential fire risk, but it can cause the dryer to work harder than necessary. A dryer that is overworked can break down faster and become less energy efficient.

Steps to Clean Your Dryer

Cleaning the lint from the filter of a dryer.

First, begin by cleaning the lint trap with your hand, eliminating the trapped lint in the screen of the dryer. Follow up with a vacuum cleaner to make sure you really get every piece of lint from the lint trap. Move the dryer away from the wall so that you have proper access to all parts of the dryer. Before moving forward with the cleaning process, unplug the dryer from the wall.

Vacuum cleaning a flexible aluminum dryer vent hose to remove lint.

Next, focus on the lint tube where additional lint and fabric fibers can collect. Start by removing the lint tube from both the dryer and the wall. Clean the lint tube, first with your hand and then follow up with a vacuum cleaner to make sure you get every piece of lint. Before reattaching the lint tube, clean the inside of the dryer where the lint tube connects. It is best to use a vacuum cleaner for this part. Next, use the vacuum cleaner to clean the part of the wall where the lint tube connects. To complete the dryer cleaning, be sure to clean the dryer vent outside the home. The vent is usually located on the wall of the house closest to the laundry room. If needed, be sure to hire an outside company to help with this step of the cleaning.

Dryer vent being cleaned with a spinning brush.

To make sure the area around the dryer is clean, allowing the dryer to run the most efficiently, be sure to sweep the area around and underneath the dryer. Now that the dryer is pulled away from the wall it is the perfect time to vacuum behind the dryer as well. When everything is clean and vacuumed, re-connect the lint tube to the wall and the dryer. Plug the dryer back in, and slide it back into position against the wall.

Tools You May Need to Clean Your Dryer

Drill and vent cleaning kit for dryer ducting.

Although it is an easy process to clean the dryer, it does require some basic tools. A screwdriver will be necessary in order to disconnect, and re-connect the dryer lint tube from both the wall and dryer. Before starting, confirm if you need a flat head or Phillips screwdriver to disconnect and reattach the lint tube. This is also a good time to examine the integrity of the screws and brackets. If you notice screw heads are stripped, this is a good time to replace damaged screws.

A vacuum cleaner with an extension hose will be necessary to clean inside the hard-to-reach areas of the dryer. Additional hose attachments can be useful for the various areas. Attachments can help get into hard to reach areas inside the dryer and lint tube. Further, a broom will be helpful to sweep the area around and under the dryer. Having a dust pan ready to sweep debris into will make the cleaning process much easier.

How often should you clean your dryer?

Lint hanging from dryer outdoor vent.

Regular maintenance for your dryer will ensure that your dryer lasts for as long as possible, and continues to run efficiently through its lifespan. By regularly maintaining your dryer with proper cleanings, you can ensure that your dryer will continue to last for years. Most importantly, a clean dryer that is well maintained will reduce the risk of possible fire, protecting your home and loved ones.

Some maintenance and cleaning should be performed regularly, following each time the dryer has been in use. After every load of laundry, be sure to clean out the lint trap. By cleaning the lint trap every time the dryer is used, it will prevent a thick build up of lint and fabric fibers. Further, keeping the lint trap screen clean and clear for the next load of laundry will limit the amount of lint that flows through to the lint tube. This is also a good opportunity to wipe down the outside of the dryer to prevent dirt and debris from building up on the dryer. Maintaining the outside of the dryer is just as important as making sure the inside is in working condition.

Other maintenance and cleanings can be performed less regularly. These cleaning procedures can be completed about two to four times each year. Every three to six months it is important to perform a deeper clean on the dryer. The deep clean is intended to clean areas of the dryer that are not as easily accessible. Clean the lint tube (both at the dryer connection and the wall connection) thoroughly with your hand. Follow up by cleaning both the dryer and wall connection of the lint tube with a vacuum cleaner. Clean the dryer vent located on the outside of the home. Remember, if this is difficult to reach or inaccessible it may be necessary to hire a professional service. About twice per year, clean behind and underneath the dryer with a broom or vacuum. This will help your dryer run more efficiently and use less energy when drying your clothing.

Other Important Things to Do to Clean Your Dryer

House dryer vent on a brick house.

Aside from regular maintenance of your dryer inside the home, including the lint trap and lint tube, it is important to ensure the outside dryer vent is maintained. Regular cleaning of the dryer vent, by either yourself or a professional service, can certainly help keep the vent clean, but other precautionary measures can be put in place to ensure the vent stays as clean as possible. It can be helpful to add a cover to the vent on the outside of the home. This will help keep small creatures or birds out of the vent. Often, small animals are attracted to this area because of the amount of hot air that is expelled through the vent. A cover will prevent small birds from building a nest, collecting sticks and twigs, in the area responsible for venting your dryer.

Another important thing to do to clean your dryer is to hire a professional service to help clean the vent. While homeowners are certainly capable of cleaning the dryer vent, often the connection between the vent and the dryer inside the home is long and filled with kinks and twists. Common vacuum cleaners can only do so much when it comes to cleaning. Professional services often have dedicated tools and equipment that are specialized for cleaning the dryer vents. Call a professional service to examine your vent, and ensure you are getting the best possible clean for your dryer.