How To Clean a Smelly Dryer

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A smelly dryer can be caused by a number of factors, but it’s always a source of annoyance. Throwing a load of freshly washed and clean laundry into a musty-smelling dryer can even give your clothes a bad smell. Our easy-to-follow guide will help you get your dryer and your clean clothes smelling clean and fresh once more. 

Clean the lint filter 

The first step to eliminating the smell from your dryer is to inspect the lint filter and trap. The dryer removes small bits of damp fibers from your clothing during the drying process, and these tiny bits of fluff collect in the lint tray, resulting in musty odors if they sit for too long. 

To clean the lint filter:

  • Remove the screen from the trap. Remove as much lint as possible from the screen with your hands. To remove lint and debris from the trap, use the hose attachment on your vacuum cleaner.
  • Fill a sink with water and add a few drops of liquid dish soap. Soak the screen in soapy water and scrub away any remaining lint with a soft-bristle scrub brush.
  • Before replacing the screen into the lint trap, thoroughly rinse it under running water and allow it to air dry completely. 

Please note: Putting the lint filter back in when it’s not properly dry can promote mildew growth, which will lead to the smell returning. 

Clean the dryer with soapy water and bleach

Sometimes the most basic and straightforward cleaner is all that is required to complete the task. If your dryer has a faint odor and only needs a light cleaning, soapy water is the most effective way to remove odors from the machine. If your dryer has a strong mildew odor, follow up the soapy water cleaning by wiping the interior of your dryer down with bleach in order to kill any mildew. 

To clean the dryer:

  • Pour hot water into a bottle sprayer and add a couple of drops of liquid laundry detergent or dish soap. Shake the container gently to mix the solution without creating too many soap suds. 
  • Spray the inside of the drum with soapy water and use rags or old towels to wipe down the surface.
  • Spray the inside of the dryer door and the gasket with the cleaner and wipe away all residue. 
  • Rinse the rags under cold water and wipe down the inside surface again to ensure that there is no soap left behind.
  • Next, fill a bucket with a gallon of water and half a cup of bleach. Wipe down the inside of the dryer drum, dryer door, and gasket with a rag dipped in the solution. 
  • Wet an old towel with warm water and place it in the dryer. Tumble dry it until it’s dry to remove any bleach residue from your dryer’s interior. 

Clean the dryer with vinegar

If you’re interested in a more natural way of deodorizing your dryer, you can use white vinegar as a solution. Fill a spray bottle with half vinegar, half water and saturate a few old towels with the liquid. Place the towels in the dryer to dry. As the cloth tumbles around on the inside of the drum, the vinegar kills mold and mildew.

Note: You can also add a few drops of essential oil to the vinegar mixture before you spray the towels. Myrtle, lemon, or eucalyptus are all good options. 

Deodorize the dryer with baking soda

Baking soda is an alkaline powder that absorbs bad smells from the dryer as well as the odor of other cleaning products. To use baking soda to deodorize your dryer, wet a towel and sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda over the material’s surface. Then place the cloth in the dryer and dry it on the lowest drying cycle until completely dry.

Clean the dryer vent hose

As with the lint filter, mildew can grow in the dryer vent hose if lint is allowed to build up, causing bad smells and mildew. If you have cleaned the dryer drum and the lint filter and the bad smell still persists, the vent hose is likely the source of the smell. 

To clean the vent hose:

Unplug your dryer 

Since you are going to be taking apart the dryer vent, it is essential that you disconnect your dryer from its power source. You’ll also need to move it away from the wall so you can easily access the back.

Locate the dryer vent

If your dryer is vented to the outside, it will have a vent line attached to the back of the dryer.

Remove the vent line from the back of your dryer

The vent pipe or vent line should pull off the back of your dryer easily. Applying firm but gentle pressure, pull on the pipe until it comes off the back of the machine. 

Check for lint inside the dryer

Before checking the vent pipe, look inside the dryer where the pipe was attached. If you see any lint or debris in the opening, you can remove it either with your hand or a clean, dry cloth. 

Use a vacuum cleaner to clean the duct pipe

You will need to totally remove the duct pipe in order to clean it. After removing it from the back of the dryer as outlined above, you’ll also need to disconnect it from where it vents to the outside. 

Using a vacuum with a hose attachment, vacuum as far inside the duct as you can reach at either end. This should allow you to remove all visible lint, which is the source of the smell. 

Prevent a smelly clothes dryer in the future

Follow these tips to prevent a problem with a smelly dryer from reoccurring:

  • Empty the lint filter after every use.
  • Ensure that clothes are always completely dry before you remove them from the dryer.
  • Never allow damp clothes to sit in the dryer.
  • Leave the dryer door open when the dryer is not in use. 
  • Clean out the vent hose frequently (every six months to a year, depending on how often you use the dryer).
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