Things You'll Need
Wet-dry vacuum cleaner
Lint trap brush
Wear a dust mask when cleaning out dryer lint if you have allergies.
Leave the dryer door open overnight occasionally to air out the interior and prevent musty smells.
Residue left by the bleach water solution may discolor clothing.
Never mix bleach with ammonia. The mixture produces a toxic gas.
With time and use, dryers may accumulate disagreeable odors that leave your laundry smelling less than clean. The odors can originate in the lint system or in the drum itself, where they will intensify when exposed to the heat and warmth of wet laundry. Deodorizing a smelly dryer is simple to do and should be done twice yearly as part of routine dryer maintenance. It will not only keep your clothes smelling clean and fresh, but it can help extend the useful life of your dryer by eliminating lint clogs that impede air flow and pose a fire hazard.
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Unplug the dryer before cleaning it to reduce the risk of electrical shock. Shut off the gas intake, if it is a gas-powered dryer. Pull the dryer away from the wall so the ductwork is easily accessible.
Disconnect the flexible lint duct from the back of the dryer. Insert the nozzle of a wet-dry vacuum into the duct to suck out any large clumps of lint and hair. Vacuum out the port on the back of the dryer. Remove the exterior vent cover and vacuum out the inside where dust often accumulates.
Open the lint trap and remove the filter screen. Take the screen outside. Brush off any caked-on lint using a lint trap brush. Smell the screen to determine if it is the source of the smell; if it smells dirty, set it aside for further cleaning.
Insert a lint trap brush into the open lint trap. Push it deep into trap, swabbing back and forth to dislodge any large lint pieces. Vacuum out the lint trap to grab any loose dust or lint particles. If the lint trap smelled clean, put it back in place.
Place the lint filter screen in a bucket of hot water if it smelled dirty or musty. Add 2 drops of dish soap to the water and scrub the screen with a sponge. Rinse the filter screen in hot, clean water, then leave it to air dry completely before putting it back in the dryer.
Plug in the dryer after the lint trap and duct work is clean. Turn on the gas, if it is a gas-powered dryer. Run the dryer on the air-fluff setting for 10 to 15 minutes to push out any remaining bits of old lint or dust, then replace the exterior duct cover.
Combine 1 part bleach and 9 parts water in a spray bottle. Spritz the drum -- or interior -- of the dryer with the bleach solution until it is saturated. Let the bleach solution sit for five to 10 minutes to kill bacteria and mold that cause musty and unpleasant odors. Wipe down the inside of the dryer with a moist paper towel.
Submerge an old utility towel in water, then wring out the excess liquid. Place the towel inside the dryer and run it on air-fluff mode until the towel is dry. The moist towel and tumbling action will remove the bleach water residue. If a strong bleach smell persists, run another moist towel through the dryer until the smell subsides.
- Michigan State University Extension: Dryer Cleaning
- North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension Service: Clean a Dryer Vent
- This Old House: Cleaning Out Dryer Ducts
- University of Colorado Boulder Department of Environmental Health and Safety: Common Chemicals Used for Cleaning and Decontamination Guide
Samantha McMullen began writing professionally in 2001. Her nearly 20 years of experience in horticulture informs her work, which has appeared in publications such as Mother Earth News.