Prevent fires and dry more efficiently by deep-cleaning your dryer

Dryer fires are more common than you think. Use these tips to improve your dry cycles and avoid any mishaps.

Alina Bradford CNET Contributor
Alina Bradford has been writing how-tos, tech articles and more for almost two decades. She currently writes for CNET's Smart Home Section, MTVNews' tech section and for Live Science's reference section. Follow her on Twitter.
Alina Bradford
3 min read

A dirty dryer can lead to wet clothes and, possibly, a fire.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, in 2010 an estimated 16,800 fires that involved clothes dryers or washing machines. Clothes dryers accounted for 92% of the fires with the leading cause of dryer fires being a dirty dryer.

Deep cleaning your dryer can keep linty fire hazards at bay and will keep your clothes drying efficiently.

Clean the lint trap, always

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If you usually skip cleaning out the dryer filter, don't. The moist air produced from drying your clothes passes through the vent that is protected by the dryer filter. If the filter is clogged with lint, the moist air won't escape and it will take longer to dry your clothes.

Even more important, you're letting a highly flammable material build up in an appliance that creates heat. So, clean that trap every time.

Wiping the lint from the filter is fine most of the time, but sometimes it needs a little more attention. Fabric softeners can leave a waxy buildup on your filter, preventing good air flow. Every few months, clean it with a little dish soap, warm water and an old toothbrush. Rinse it and dry it well before putting it back in your dryer.

Get down and dirty with the air vent


Wait! Before you pop that filter back into place, take a good look at the vent your filter covers.

No doubt it is full of lint, gum wrappers, Legos and other things that shouldn't be in there. Yes, even though your filter grabs a lot of stuff so it can't go down the vent, a bunch of junk will somehow still make it through. You don't want to know the horrors I found in mine while researching for this article.

Grab your vacuum and clean the vent out using a narrow hose attachment. Do this at least once a year to keep your dryer working well and to prevent fires.

Blast the vent tubes

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Pull your dryer out from the wall just a smidge. Do you see a big silver tube coming from your dryer and going into the wall? That's your vent tube. It carries all of the moist air from your dryer to the outdoors.

Like your dryer vent, the vent tube needs to be cleaned once a year, as well.

Loosen the screw on the metal band around the tube or pinch the metal wire that connects the vent to the dryer. Pull the vent off and disconnect it from the wall. Since fabric softener can make the vent sticky, wash the vent in a sink of warm, sudsy water, rinse it and dry it well before putting it back on the dryer.

The deepest of all deep cleanings

Every 18 months or so, your dryer's motor and other mechanics will need to be cleaned because lint gets on just about everything. This kind of cleaning should be done by a professional, unless you feel confident with your mechanical skills. If that's the case:

  1. Disconnect your dryer from the electrical outlet. If you have a gas dryer, consult with a professional before attempting any disconnection of the gas line.
  2. Take the back panel off of your dryer by removing the screws.
  3. Vacuum any dust or lint that may have accumulated on the dryer parts or on the floor of the dryer. An upholstery attachment on the end of the vacuum hose is your best bet for getting the most lint out of nooks and crannies.
  4. Put the back of the dryer back in place and replace the screws.