According to the U.S. Fire Administration, failure to clean the dryer is the leading cause of dryer fires, which cause around $35 million in property loss each year. You may think you’re doing a good job of cleaning your lint trap every time you dry clothes, but if you’re not doing a periodic deep-clean, your dryer is still in jeopardy. Here’s everything you need to know to clean your dryer lint trap.
Simple project; big impact.
Up to $25
Keep it wallet-friendly.
What you'll need:
- Screwdriver (optional)
- Bucket (optional)
- Soft bristle brush
- Vacuum with brush attachment and extended hose attachment
- Dryer vent cleaner kit or paper towel cardboard tube
- Dish soap
- White vinegar
- Packing tape or duct tape (optional)
Unplug the Dryer
Whenever you do any type of work on an electrical appliance, make sure to unplug it first. The last thing you want is a hospital trip from an electrical shock.
Remove the Screen
Start by removing the screen on your dryer vent. The screen might be screwed in for older models, so you’ll need to use your screwdriver to remove the screws before you pull out the screen.
Clean and Soak the ScreenPhoto: mphillips007 / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images
As you would do between laundry loads, use your hands to remove any built-up lint on the screen. Then, fill either your sink or a bucket with warm water, a few drops of dish soap, and 1/2 cup of white vinegar. Without bending or warping the screen, fully submerge it in the water and let it soak for 30 minutes.
Scrub the Screen
After 30 minutes of soaking, remove the screen from the water and scrub it gently with your soft bristle brush. You can use a toothbrush to get into all the nooks and hard-to-reach corners that your larger brush might not reach. Continue scrubbing until you’ve removed all the stuck-on lint and dirt.
Rinse the Screen
Once you’ve gotten all the fuzz and residue off of your dryer screen, rinse well with warm water. This is an essential step because you can tell how the water runs through the screen if you’ve got all the residue off. If the water flows through the screen, you’re good to go. If water collects on the screen or forms bubbles, you need to do a deeper cleaning or soak the screen again and repeat the scrubbing process.
Dry the ScreenPhoto: Kseniya Ovchinnikova / Moment / Getty Images
When you’re sure the screen is spotless, allow it to air-dry thoroughly before putting it back in the dryer. If you put a damp screen back in the dryer, lint will form clumps that’ll clog your vents and cause a fire hazard, or your screen might rust.
Vacuum the Vent
While the screen is soaking, use your vacuum with the extended hose attachment to vacuum around the lint trap. Then, clean inside the vent using either your dryer vent cleaning kit or a paper towel cardboard tube. If you’re using the tube, tape it to the extended hose attachment with packing or duct tape to create a tight seal. Check frequently to make sure lint isn’t clogging the end. Keep vacuuming until you’ve gotten all the lint cleaned out.
Vacuum Under the Dryer
Using the appropriate attachment, vacuum up any fuzz or lint from beneath and around the dryer since some dust probably fell out of the lint trap as you were cleaning it.
Clean the Outside VentPhoto: Kirill Rudenko / Moment / Getty Images
Locate the outside vent. Open it up and check for any obstructions, such as bird’s nests. Once you’re sure it’s clear, either pull out the lint that’s stuck in it or vacuum with your brush or hose attachment.
Deep-Cleaning the Lint Screen
If it’s been a while since you cleaned your lint trap or you’ve never cleaned it at all, your screen might need some extra love. There are a couple of methods you can use to deep-clean the lint screen to prevent common dryer problems.
Using either a store-bought cleaning solution or a homemade bleach solution (1/4 cup of bleach, 1 teaspoon of laundry detergent, and fill the rest with water) in a spray bottle, spray the mixture on your screen over the sink, and scrub with a soft brush. Rinse the screen thoroughly, and repeat the process until you’re satisfied the screen is clean.
The old reliable combo of baking soda and vinegar is also a great way to deep-clean your lint screen. Put your screen in the sink and sprinkle it with baking soda, then spray vinegar all over the screen using a spray bottle. This will cause a chemical reaction where the vinegar and baking soda fizzes and bubbles up. Leave the mixture on for a few minutes, then scrub with a soft brush while rinsing the screen.
Cleaning the Whole Dryer Vent
About once a year, call in a professional dryer vent cleaning service near you to thoroughly clean your vent system. Even if you’re regularly cleaning your screen and your vent, a pro will detach your dryer vent and use special vacuum attachments and HEPA-filtered vacuums to get all the debris and lint out of your entire system. You can DIY this, but there’s a chance you’ll end up compacting the lint further, which can cause a fire hazard. This task is best left to a local dryer vent pro.