What You Need:
- Vacuum cleaner
- Dryer duct brush
- Leaf blower (optional)
- Shut off your gas line (if you have a gas dryer), unplug the dryer, and pull it away from the wall.
- Use your dryer duct brush and vacuum cleaner to remove any lint buildup from your dryer's lint trap.
- Remove the dryer's rear panel and exhaust duct, then use your brush and vacuum to clean out the lint inside the dryer.
- Use a leaf blower, powerful fan, or dryer duct brush to remove lint from the vent tubing.
- Re-connect your dryer and move it back into place.
This article was originally published on March 16, 2015, but has been significantly updated with new information and step-by-step instructions.
November 19, 2015
Cleaning a dryer is more involved than just spraying cleaner and wiping it away. Lint and dust build up over time under and inside the dryer, and also collect in the dryer vent.
If you're unsure when your dryer was last cleaned, then you should probably clean it immediately. But there are also some tell-tale signs that it's time to do the job. According to the experts at Ivey Engineering, they include a burning smell, longer drying times, and clothes coming out too hot, among others. You can also simply check the dryer vent on the outside of your home. If there's lint blocking the screen, then it's time to clean.
Time for a cleaning? Here's what you need to do.
1. Disconnect Your Dryer
For a thorough cleaning, you’ll have to get behind the machine, which can be a challenge depending on how your laundry room is arranged. Still, that’s where all the nasty stuff is hiding. So unplug your dryer, grab a screwdriver and vacuum, and get to work.
If you have a gas dryer, you'll have to disconnect the gas line. It's as simple as turning off the gas and disconnecting the line, but if you're worried about a gas leak, we recommend you hire a professional to clean your dryer vent for you.
2. Clean the Lint Trap
Once the gas is shut off and your dryer is completely unplugged, you should remove your lint trap and brush out any lint that made it past the filter. When you're done, vacuum it out to make sure you get every little bit. If possible, use a thin vacuum nozzle that allows you to get deep into the lint trap opening.
3. Clean Inside the Dryer
Next, remove the dryer’s rear panel and exhaust duct. Every dryer is different, so you should consult your owner’s manual for specifics, but you'll rarely need any tool more complex than a common screwdriver. Once everything is removed, you’ll be greeted by a thick mass of fuzzy lint.
From here on out, it’s simply a matter of removing all the lint and other debris, preferably with a vacuum. Be sure to use nozzle attachments to extend your reach and get into areas you can’t see. Be careful not to suck up those screws you removed earlier!
If you can’t get a vacuum back there, you’ll have to put on some gloves and manually pull the debris out with your hands. Same principle, just much dirtier. You can also use a coat hanger to extend your reach.
4. Clean the Dryer Duct
At this point, the dryer itself should be clear. But unless you have a ventless dryer, you'll still have 10 to 20 feet of duct to contend with. The easiest way to clean it out is with a leaf blower or some other high-powered fan.
First make sure to clear out any debris in the outdoor dryer vent screen, then stick the leaf blower in the tube (from the indoor end), and let ‘er rip. The filth clogging up the duct will go flying out the other end in the most satisfying way.
If you don't own a leaf blower, then you'll need to use a dryer duct brush. Some of these brushes can be extended to clean out the entire length of the tube, and there are even flexible brushes for ducts with bends in them.
You should use the brush to pull lint off the sides of the tube and out of the duct. Remove the lint from the brush and repeat until nothing comes out.
5. Hook the Dryer Back Up
Now that you're done cleaning, all that's left is to reattach everything, turn the gas back on, move the dryer back into place, and kick back. If you do this at least once a year, clean your lint trap between loads, and keep the outside vent clear, there should be virtually no danger of a dryer fire.
REMEMBER: If you can’t easily reach the duct or simply don’t have the tools to clear it, there’s no shame in hiring a professional. Sears and some smaller, local companies offer dryer vent cleaning services. Depending on your situation, the cost might be worth it if you can’t or are afraid to clean the duct yourself.