How to Correctly Clean Your Dryer

Side view of someone cleaning the interior of a dryer

The Spruce / Sarah Lee

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 15 mins - 1 hr
  • Total Time: 15 mins - 1 hr
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $5 to 10

Cleaning a clothes dryer isn't usually at the top of your to-do list. After all, the only thing that goes in a dryer is freshly-washed clothes. Right? In an ideal world, that's true, but sometimes those "clean" clothes have ink stains, lipstick in a pocket, or other substances that didn't come out in the wash—and these can leave stains in the dryer to ruin the next load of wet laundry.

The most important reason to clean your dryer is safety. Fires that begin from lint-clogged clothes dryer vents cause lots of home fire damage each year. Accumulated lint and dust are the top cause of dryer fires, far ahead of wiring problems or other issues. While you may be emptying the dryer lint screen after every load, there is more you should be doing to clean your gas or electric dryer to keep it working its best and protecting your clothes and home.

Tip

A ventless dryer does not require an outside vent to expel air. However, some models of ventless dryers need a drain to dispel the moisture while others have a water collection tank. Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for cleaning a ventless dryer.

How Often to Clean Your Dryer

The lint screen should be emptied after every load of laundry. Doing this helps prevent fires and improve airflow so your clothes will dry more quickly. If you use dryer sheets in every load, you should clean the lint filter screen monthly to remove the residue that builds up on the screen. If there is ink, crayon, lipstick, or greasy residue in the dryer drum, clean it away immediately. The drum should also be cleaned after clothes contaminated with pesticides, chemicals, or poison ivy residue have been dried.

Clean the dryer at least once a month to remove residue inside the drum and on the lint screen and to remove lint from the dryer duct and outside vent.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • 2 microfiber cloths
  • 1 blunt-edged plastic knife or old credit card
  • 1 pair rubber gloves
  • 1 bucket or dishpan
  • 1 long flexible dryer lint brush
  • 1 soft-bristled nylon brush
  • 1 pair protective eyewear
  • 4 old rags

Materials

  • 1 bottle dishwashing liquid
  • 1 bottle isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol
  • 1 bottle distilled white vinegar
  • 6 ice cubes
  • 1 bottle chlorine bleach

Instructions

Materials to clean a dryer

The Spruce / Sarah Lee

How to Perform Routine Monthly Cleaning

  1. Clean the Lint Trap

    • Use your fingers or a soft-bristled nylon brush to remove lint from the lint trap and dispose of it properly.
    • Fill a sink or bucket with warm, soapy water and submerge the lint trap. Let it soak for five to 10 minutes.
    • Use the soft-bristled brush to gently scrub the mesh in the lint trap to remove any residue from dryer sheets.
    • Rinse well and allow the trap to air dry.
    Person cleaning the dryer lint trap

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  2. Remove Lint From Dryer Vent and Ductwork

    Use a long-handled dryer lint brush to remove any trapped lint in the dryer vent and the ductwork that connects the dryer to the outside vent.

    Cleaning the dryer duct work

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  3. Check and Clean the Outside Vent

    If the outside vent isn't properly opening and closing, lint can become trapped and cause odor or a fire hazard. Go outside and use the long-handled brush to clean away lint trapped at the end of the ductwork and in the vent.

    Removing lint from the dryer lint trap

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  4. Clean the Interior Drum

    • Unplug the dryer.
    • Mix a solution of dishwashing liquid and warm water in a bucket.
    • Dip a microfiber cloth in the soapy solution and wring until it is not dripping.
    • Wipe down the drum to remove dirt and residue that may have accumulated.
    • Treat any areas stained with ink, grease, lipstick, or melted crayon.
    • Dry the interior with another microfiber cloth.
    • Leave the dryer door open for at least 30 minutes to allow any fumes to dissipate before using the dryer.
    Wiping down the interior of the dryer with a microfiber cloth

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  5. Clean the Exterior and Reassemble Components

    • Use the warm, soapy water solution and a microfiber cloth to wipe down the dryer exterior to remove dust and smudges.
    • Dry with a clean microfiber cloth.
    • Reinsert the lint trap, plug in the dryer, and it is ready to use.
    Reinserting the clean lint trap

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

How to Remove Ink From a Dryer Drum

  1. Use Rubbing Alcohol

    • Dampen a microfiber cloth with isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol.
    • Start rubbing at the outside of the ink stain and work toward the inside to prevent spreading the ink.
    • Keep moving to a clean area of the microfiber cloth as the ink is transferred.
    • Redampen the cloth with the alcohol as needed.
    Pouring rubbing alcohol onto a cloth

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  2. Rinse Well

    • Rinse the dryer drum by wiping it down with a clean cloth dampened with plain water.
    • Leave the dryer door open for at least 30 minutes for the fumes to dissipate before using the dryer.
    Cleaning the ink off of the dryer drum

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

How to Remove Melted Wax or Gum From a Dryer Drum

This technique works for melted lipstick, lip balm, candies, and gum smeared in the dryer drum.

  1. Soften the Wax

    Toss several old rags in the dryer and turn the dryer on high heat for about five minutes to soften the wax or gum.

    Softening the wax by placing old rags into the dryer

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  2. Remove the Mess

    • Use a blunt-edged plastic knife or the edge of an old credit card to gently scrape away the wax.
    • Dampen a microfiber cloth in distilled white vinegar or rubbing alcohol.
    • Gently scrub each smear of softened wax or gum that you see.
    • Keep moving to a clean area of the cloth so the waxy mess is not smeared.
    • When all of the wax is gone, rinse the drum by wiping it down with a microfiber cloth dampened with warm water.
    • Let the drum air-dry for 30 minutes before using the dryer.
    Removing the softened wax from the dryer drum

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

How to Remove Dye Stains and Sanitize a Dryer Drum

If dye has transferred from a craft project or new blue jeans, remove it before using the dryer again. The dryer drum should be sanitized if it was used to dry clothing exposed to pesticides or other chemicals.

  1. Mix a Cleaning Solution

    • Wear rubber gloves and eye protection.
    • Mix one-half cup of chlorine bleach with one gallon of water in a bucket

    Warning

    The bleach solution can cause discoloration of fabrics. Wear old clothes and be sure no laundry or floor coverings can be affected.

    Mixing a chlorine bleach solution

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  2. Clean the Drum

    • Still wearing eye protection and rubber gloves, dip a sponge or microfiber cloth in the bleach solution and wring until it is not dripping.
    • Wipe down the interior of the drum.
    • Rinse out the cloth often as dye and residue are transferred.
    Wiping down the inside of the dryer with a rag

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  3. Rinse the Drum

    • Rinse the dryer drum well by wiping it down with a clean cloth dipped in plain water.
    • As a final precaution to prevent bleach spotting, dampen several old rags or white towels and run a short five-minute dryer cycle on low heat.
    Running a cycle with old rags

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

Tips to Keep Your Dryer Clean Longer

  • Check pockets for pens, lipsticks, lip balms, gum, and crayons.
  • Do not place clothing exposed to pesticides, gasoline, or any petroleum product in the dryer.
  • Empty the lint trap after every dryer load.
Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Clothes Dryer Fire Safety Outreach Materials. U.S. Fire Administration