How to Clean Every Part of Your Dryer, From the Vents to the Drum

With our advice, clearing lint and debris is easy.

Interior of a real laundry room with a washing and drying machine at home

Keeping your dryer clean can actually increase your machine's efficiency (no damp, smelly clothes post-cycle!) and even prevent dangerous house fires. That's why it's important to regularly tend to every part of the appliance, including the dryer vent, the metal tube that pushes high-moisture air outside your home. Cleaning this element should be part of your dryer's maintenance routine, but you should pay attention to its drum and exterior more frequently, too.

From how often your vents need cleaning to the best methods for removing stuck-on debris and stains, experts share how to clean every inch of this machine.

How Often to Clean Your Dryer Vent

All dryer vents (also called ducts) need to be cleaned annually, says Scott Thomas, director of systems for Dryer Vent Wizard, a Neighborly company. "There is a dryer fire in the United States approximately every 34 minutes," he says. "In addition to regular cleaning, people should consider having a professional inspect your dryer vent to make sure it is safe and up to code."

Air Quality Issues

If you're not regularly cleaning your dryer vents, you may begin to experience air quality issues in your home due to the growth of mold and mildew. "A dryer puts out 2 to 3 gallons of water per load, and if the vent is not operating properly, that moisture will go back into your home," says Thomas. Improper installation, debris, and clogs can exacerbate problems over time.

How to Clean Your Dryer Vent

Homeowners can typically use various brushes and vacuum attachments for dryer vent cleaning, Thomas says. "The techniques and cleaning methods will vary greatly depending on the length of the line, height off of the ground, and where the vent terminates, such as your roof or sidewall," he says.

Avoid Cleaning With Chemicals

Don't use much more than that. "You should never use any chemicals when cleaning your dryer—especially flammable ones," Thomas says. "The only thing you need is good old-fashioned elbow grease."

Clean the Vent Cover

Regularly check your dryer vent's cover to make sure it is operating properly and to remove any lint buildup, Thomas says. If your dryer vent cover is compromised, birds or rodents can nest inside, creating even more potential for trouble.

woman clearing dryer lint trap
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How to Clean Your Dryer Lint Trap

Lint buildup can wreak havoc on your dryer, which is why you should clean your trap regularly. Getting yourself on a regular cleaning schedule will ultimately keep your dryer in the best possible shape over time.

Remove Lint

Clean your lint trap after every load, says Mary Johnson, a Tide & Downy principal scientist. "A clogged lint trap could increase drying times by decreasing ventilation, causing your dryer to work less efficiently," she says. "Don't let lint accumulate in your dryer or your laundry room as it may cause a fire hazard."

How to Deep-Clean Your Lint Trap

To get your lint trap extra clean, Thomas suggests washing your lint screen with hot soapy water and an old toothbrush every few months, especially if you are using dryer sheets. "Dryer sheets leave a waxy buildup on the screen and if not maintained, can lead to issues and possibly fires," Thomas says. "Dryers also work on makeup air, so it's critical to keep the area around your dryer free of dust and debris." This will allow the dryer to work more efficiently and lower the risk of a fire.

How Often to Clean the Rest of Your Dryer

Deep clean your dryer three to four times a year to keep it working efficiently, says Jennifer Parnell, the co-founder of Humble Suds. To do so, you'll want to clean the dryer vent, lint trap, and two additional areas: the interior drum and the exterior.

How to Clean the Dryer Drum

This part of your dryer sees the most action, since it comes into direct contact with your clothing.

Materials You'll Need

  • Non-flammable mild surfactant or castile soap
  • Microfiber towel

These are Parnell's steps to clean the drum of your dryer:

  1. Unplug the machine and spray the interior drum with a non-flammable mild surfactant, such as Humble Suds All-Purpose Cleaner or diluted castile soap.
  2. Wipe the drum clean with a microfiber towel and then wipe it down once again with a clean wet microfiber towel to ensure any soap residue has been removed.
  3. Finally, wipe the drum dry to eliminate moisture and pick up any residue from dryer sheets or fabric softener.

How to Clean the Dryer's Exterior

To clean your dryer's exterior, round up an all-purpose cleaner and microfiber towel. Spray the cleaner on the outside of the dryer and wipe it down with a microfiber towel.

How to Remove Stubborn Debris

To remove gum or melted hard candy (it happens!) from any part of your dryer, ensure it has hardened before you attempt to get rid of it.

Materials You'll Need

  • Putty knife
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Gentle dish soap

Follow Parnell's steps to remove stubborn gunk:

  1. Use a credit card or putty knife to peel gunk off of the surface.
  2. Use isopropyl alcohol to remove sticky residue.
  3. Wipe clean with soap and water to ensure no alcohol remains.

How to Remove Stains

Dryer stains usually happen thanks to melted lipstick, crayons, or ink.

Materials You'll Need

  • Microfiber towel
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Gentle dish soap

Here are Parnell's best practices to remove dryer stains:

  1. Wipe lipstick and crayon smudges away while they are warm. You may need to turn the dryer on briefly if the stain is located in the drum.
  2. Once warm, wipe away as much as possible; use isopropyl alcohol to remove any residue.
  3. Wipe the dryer drum clean with soap and water.
Updated by
Nashia Baker
Nashia Baker, Associate Digital Editor for Martha Stewart
Nashia Baker is a skilled writer and editor in the journalism industry, known for her work interviewing global thought leaders, creatives, and activists, from Aurora James to Stacey Abrams. She has over five years of professional experience and has been a part of the Martha Stewart and Martha Stewart Weddings teams for the last 3 years.
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