How to clean a dryer inside and out in 9 easy steps

Did you know that cleaning your dryer and vent can help keep your drying times shorter and your clothes in good shape? Daily use can fill your appliance with dust and lint over time, which can affect your dryer’s performance and even pose a fire hazard. Our guide can help you understand what needs to be cleaned, plus how and when to do it.

White Whirlpool® dryer next to blue-gray cabinet. White Whirlpool® dryer next to blue-gray cabinet.

Do dryers need to be cleaned?

Cleaning your dryer routinely produces benefits that range from a more appealing aesthetic to helping maintain proper performance. How often you should clean certain parts of your dryer—like the lint trap, vent and drum—varies, but knowing when and how to keep up with regular maintenance can even decrease the risk of a fire hazard and help keep your family safe. It’s also an option to install a new dryer vent if cleaning it doesn’t do the trick.

Woman cleaning dryer lint screen. Woman cleaning dryer lint screen.

How do you clean the inside of a dryer?

Cleaning the inside of your dryer means tackling lint and residue on the lint trap and screen, vents and drum. Gather the supplies and tools below, then read on for step-by-step instructions on how to clean a dryer vent, lint trap, drum and exterior.

  • Microfiber cloth

  • Water and vinegar spray

  • Detergent

  • Nylon brush

  • Dryer cleaning brush

  • Vacuum with hose (optional)

  • Screwdriver

Lint trap with arrow to remove lint icon.

Step 1: Remove lint from the lint trap

A lint-free trap provides better airflow for optimal performance, so a thorough clean can go a long way. To clean the lint trap:

  • Remove the lint screen and set aside.

  • Vacuum the interior and exterior of the lint trap with a vacuum crevice tool or brush.

  • Vacuum the moisture sensor strips on the outside of the lint trap.

  • Replace the lint screen.

Plug leaving outlet icon.

Step 2: Turn off and unplug dryer

Shutting off the power to the dryer while cleaning prevents accidental operation while parts are removed or disconnected, so unplug your dryer from the wall socket before you get started. If you have a gas dryer, close the shut-off valve in the gas supply line, then disconnect and cap the supply line pipe before cleaning.

Hand wiping dryer drum with towel icon.

Step 3: Wipe residue off dryer drum

Dryer sheets and fabric softeners can contribute to a filmy residue on your dryer’s drum over time. Start cleaning by vacuuming out any debris. If your dryer is electric, rub the drum with a soft cloth dipped in warm water and dish soap. For a gas dryer, wipe down the inside with a liquid, nonflammable household cleaner. Then, for gas or electric, wipe out the drum with a wet sponge or towel and tumble a load of clean clothes or towels to dry the drum.

Dryer with arrow facing out icon.

Step 4: Pull out the dryer to access vent duct

Create about one foot of room between the back of the dryer and wall to make space for clearing out debris. Enlist some help when moving the dryer to keep yourself and the dryer safe.

Dryer vent being removed from wall vent icon.

Step 5: Remove clamps and detach vent

With the dryer away from the wall, unscrew vent clamps or remove tape attaching the vent to the back of the dryer. You may need a screwdriver to remove the clamps.

Lint coming up and out of dryer vent icon.

Step 6: Clean debris from the vent

Your hands, a vent cleaning tool like this dryer cleaning brush from Whirlpool brand and a vacuum with a hose can work in tandem to get the inside of your dryer’s vent clean. Start by removing any large pieces of lint with your hands, then use a dryer cleaning brush to remove remaining lint from the vent. Next, use a vacuum hose attachment to collect lint or dust trapped in crevices. It's also a good practice to follow these more detailed steps for cleaning a dryer vent duct.

Exterior dryer vent with arrow to remove lint icon.

Step 7: Inspect and clean the exterior vent

You can find your dryer’s exterior vent outside of your home—typically on your home’s siding or roof. Clean the exterior by opening the vent cover and removing large pieces of lint with your hand. Then run a dryer cleaning brush along the inside of the ductwork and remove remaining lint or debris with a vacuum hose.

Dryer vent reattaching to wall vent icon.

Step 8: Reattach the vent and turn on the dryer

Head back inside and re-clamp or re-tape the venting to the back of the dryer. Plug your dryer back in and, if using a gas dryer, turn the gas valve back on. Learn more about cleaning your dryer lint trap.

Empty dryer icon.

Step 9: Start an empty cycle

Get help to move the dryer back into place, then run the dryer on empty for 10-15 minutes to remove any excess dust from the system.

Hand wiping top of white dryer. Hand wiping top of white dryer.

How do you clean the outside of a dryer?

Residue from detergent drips, fabric softeners and lint can get caked onto the top and sides of the dryer. Keep surfaces clean by spraying the outside of the dryer with a solution of equal parts water and vinegar, then using a microfiber cloth to wipe away stuck-on gunk from the dryer’s surface, knobs and buttons.

Inside of white dryer drum. Inside of white dryer drum.

How often should a dryer be cleaned?

Specific parts of your dryer require their own unique maintenance schedule. Since your dryer’s exterior, drum and lint trap are easier to see, you can keep an eye on residue and lint build-up to know when it’s time for a thorough clean. You can also run your hand along the sides of the dryer and the inside of the drum to feel for residue build-up. Some dryer parts—like the vents and lint trap—have a more predictable cleaning schedule that’s necessary to help your dryer deliver results.

Once every two years: clean dryer vent and ducts

Cleaning your dryer’s vent and ductwork helps prevent lint build-up from obstructing air flow and impairing your dryer’s performance. Unless otherwise instructed in your owner’s manual, clean your dryer’s venting at least once every two years. You may want to clean it more often if you notice your dryer starting to struggle with drying loads.

After every load: clean dryer lint screen

A screen blocked by lint can increase drying time. It is important to clean your lint screen after every use. Locate your dryer's lint screen, which is most likely near the dryer door. Remove the screen by pulling up, then gently remove the lint from the screen by hand and put the lint trap back. Wet lint is harder to remove, so don't scrub or use water.

Every 6 months: deep clean lint screen

The laundry detergent and fabric softener that builds up on your lint screen can increase drying time. If you notice lint collecting on areas of the screen or plugging the mesh, the screen may be more difficult to clean by hand and could result in having to fix your dryer if not properly cleaned regularly.

To deep clean the lint screen, roll lint off, then wet both sides with hot water. Scrub with a nylon brush, hot water and liquid detergent to remove buildup. Rinse the screen with hot water and dry thoroughly.

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Explore Whirlpool® dryers

Whirlpool® dryers deliver the fabric care your family needs dry after dry. Features like Intuitive Touch Controls help you find the right cycle while Advanced Moisture Sensing helps prevent overdrying and Wrinkle Shield Plus helps stop wrinkles from settling in.

Learn more about clothing care

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