Like any other major appliance, dryers require regular upkeep. Tiny fibers break away from your clothes throughout the day. Most wind up trapped between the threads of your clothing and it’s not until they’re run through your washer and dryer that they’re finally pulled free. The washer lifts the fabric to the surface, where it’s pulled free by the airflow and tumble action inside the dryer.

Most of these particles are caught by the lint trap, but some slip through into the dryer itself and block the hot air currents. In worst case scenarios, they come into contact with the heating element and start a fire. In fact, according to the U.S. Fire Administration, lint and loose fibers cause more than 2,900 fires a year.

Regularly cleaning your dryer keeps it working at maximum efficiency. Though circumstances vary, most dryers need to be cleaned every 6-12 months. However, if you run heavy loads every week, you may need to clean it more often. While most homeowners prefer hiring a professional, knowing how to clean a dryer on your own saves money. If you’ve never cleaned one before, it’s simpler than you’d imagine.


Many of the supplies needed to clean a dryer are probably in your home already. The rest can be purchased through Amazon or at your local hardware store.

  • A Soft Rag or Microfiber Cloth
  • Nylon Brush or Toothbrush
  • Dryer Cleaning Kit
  • Lint Roller
  • Soap
  • Water
  • Vinegar
  • Spray Bottle
  • All-Purpose Cleaner
  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Bleach
  • Tweezers
  • Plastic Spatula
  • Vacuum

How to Clean the Lint Trap

You should always clear your lint screen before you run your dryer. However, that only removes loose fibers. It doesn’t get rid of the residue that accumulates from detergents, fabric softeners, and dryer sheets. To clean the trap thoroughly:

  • Run a lint roller over both sides.
  • Soak the screen in warm, mildly soapy water.
  • Softly scrub both sides with a brush.
  • Rinse the screen.
  • Dry thoroughly.

Placing a wet trap in your dryer could damage its internal wiring. While you’re waiting for it to dry, take a moment to clear out any loose fiber in the dryer crevice. Take the lint brush from the dryer kit and run it through the trap, twisting as you pull it out to gather up as much lint as possible. Repeat until all the fabric has been removed, then vacuum any loose fibers that may have fallen on the floor. Alternatively, if it will fit, you can use the crevice attachment on your vacuum to suck the lint out directly.

How to Clean the Dryer Drum

For your safety, unplug the dryer before cleaning the drum. If the unit’s gas powered, shut off the valve and disconnect it. Once that’s done, wipe down the inside of the drum with a rag or microfiber cloth, paying attention to the seams and dryer fins. Lint often gets trapped there. If you can’t wipe it away, pry it loose with tweezers.

Next, take your cleaning spray and wet the drum. If you’re using vinegar instead of store bought cleaner, dilute it: one part vinegar to one part water. Apply with a spray bottle if you can. Otherwise, dip the rag in the mixture and start scrubbing. For stubborn stains, use rubbing alcohol. If that doesn’t work, soak some old towels in a 3:1 mix of water and bleach, then run them for 30 minutes on the fluff setting. Make sure you wring the towels thoroughly before loading them into your dryer.

Occasionally, you’ll find clumps of grime or other substances (e.g. chewing gum, lipstick) stuck to the inside of the drum. Scrape these away with a plastic spatula, not a metal one, to avoid scratching your dryer.

After you’re done, leave the door open and wait a few hours to let the fumes and moisture dissipate. If you don’t, the residual water might cause a short.

How to Clean the Dryer Vent

While the lint trap and dryer drum should be cleaned every six months, dryer vents normally need to be cleaned once a year. The heating element relies on air flow in order to dry your clothes. As a result, if your clothes are damp at the end of the cycle, your vent is most likely clogged.

Start by unplugging or disconnecting the dryer and pulling it away from the wall so you can reach the vent. Next, unscrew the vent hose. Then insert a long handle brush, rotating it slowly to gather up as much lint as possible. If you don’t have one, purchase a vent-cleaning kit (available online). If you have a long vent, you may need a brush attachment to reach all the way to the end. Repeat until the hose is clear.

Once the hose is clear, go outside to the exhaust vent and start the process over again, inserting the brush and twisting as you pull out the lint. Trim any plants you see growing underneath the vent as well. You don’t want them obstructing the airflow. Then do the same to the exhaust vent in the dryer itself. Finally vacuum up any loose fiber that’s fallen on the floor and reattach the hose. Then push the dryer back into place and power it up again.

Cleaning the Motor and Fan

Lint that’s been squeezed out of the drum often ends up collecting around the fan and motor assembly. While not every homeowner feels comfortable opening their dryer, the procedure is easier than it appears. After unplugging the dryer, unscrew the back panel. Besides the screws, there may be a catch holding it in place as well. In some models, you may have to insert a flat screwdriver to release it.

Once the panel’s off, use a shop vacuum to clear away any dust and lint inside. However, be careful not to disturb the wiring. After the inside is clean, wipe down the back of the panel with a damp cloth. Once it’s dry, reattach.

Fortunately, lint doesn’t build up quickly inside your dryer, so you’ll rarely need to clean it more than once a year. If you don’t know whether it needs to be cleaned, assume every time your vent is clogged, the motor is as well.

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