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Those of us lucky enough to own a dryer know how just great they are.
Being able to quickly dry clothes (or warm them up on a cold morning) can save a ton of time.
That said – if dryers aren’t looked after properly they can over or under heat, make your clothes smell weird, and not to mention use up a ton of electricity.
Thankfully, dryers are pretty easy to maintain. Just a little bit of effort can save you hundreds in electricity bills, while adding years to your dryer’s working life.
In fact, we’ve worked out that the tips in this guide could save you up to $450 in lower energy costs and increased dryer lifespan!
If that sounds great to you, then let’s roll up our sleeves and dive in.
Gather Your Gear
Just like a chef needs their mise en place, any good DIY job starts with gathering the tools we need.
The most important tool here is your refrigerator’s manual. No idea where yours is? Don’t worry! Appliance manuals go missing easier than cookies in a jar. Thankfully, everything’s online these days.
To find your refrigerator’s manual, just do a google search for:
–> “[Brand] Dryer [Model #] Manual PDF”
Just replace [Brand] with the dryer’s brand and [Model #] with the model #. Not sure what yours is? You should be able to find the model number printed on a label inside the dryer’s door. If not there, then behind any kickplates, or at the rear of the dryer.
When it comes to tools, you’ll need:
- A spirit level
- A soft brush (a pan or small hoover to pick up dust helps)
- A positive attitude!
Depending on the tips you follow, you may optionally need:
- Crosshead screwdriver
- Adjustable wrench
- A thermometer
All set? Then let’s dive in.
Dryer Health Check – Essential Tips
We’re starting off the with ‘essential tips’. These are our tips that are the easiest to follow, but provide the greatest amount of impact for your dryer’s health.
Think of them like getting the best bang for you buck!
#1 Make Sure It’s Properly Installed
First up, it’s crucial to make sure your dryer is properly installed. This can save you from sudden breakdowns and associated repair costs.
It’s always best to have your dryer machine installed by a professional to avoid fire hazards.
Please check these components to make sure your dryer is properly installed:
- Make sure the dryer’s connection hose and exhaust duct are not damaged and are well placed.
- Check that the exhaust duct is as straight and short as possible.
- Dryer venting needs to be independent of any other systems, such as chimneys.
- Don’t choose a plastic or vinyl duct (these are flammable materials).
- Make sure the outdoor vent is not blocked.
- Use the right plug and outlet.
- Make sure the lint filter is inside your dryer before using it.
#3 Make Sure It Is Level
If your dryer is not level, it may not dry the clothes properly, and it can vibrate or make noises.
Unfortunately, if your dryer moves around the laundry room, it can also damage your floor.
To ensure your dryer’s effectiveness, please make sure it’s level. Here’s how to do it:
- Empty your dryer.
- Use a leveling app on your phone or a carpenter’s bubble level. I recommend the latter because it’s usually more reliable.
- Place the level on top of your dryer, pointing side to side.
- If the bubble isn’t centered, use an adjustable wrench and turn it clockwise to raise the dryer or counterclockwise to lower it.
- Make sure that the four feet are in firm contact with the floor, and use the bubble level again to check that the dryer is level.
#4 Ensure “Breathing Room”
All dryers have a heating element that is responsible for heating the air to dry your clothes. This component is usually located in the back of your appliance.
So, if your dryer doesn’t have enough “breathing room”, heat can build up.
Proper ventilation can keep your dryer from overheating and prevent lint fires. Moreover, it can control humidity and avoid mold.
On top of that, by ensuring there’s enough “breathing room”, the hoses won’t bend or kink.
Try leaving at least 6 inches (ca. 15 cm) of space between the back wall and your dryer for the hoses. Don’t forget to leave at least 2 inches (ca. 5 cm) of extra room between your dryer and washer.
You’ll also need to make sure you can fully open the door and remove your clothes.
#4 Deep Clean the Lint Screen
A clogged lint screen can block airflow and make your dryer run for longer. This can cause your appliance to overheat, resulting in higher electricity bills and a damaged motor.
This is why you should deep clean your dryer’s lint filter every two to three months. Here’s how to do it:
- Carefully remove the lint screen from your dryer and wipe away the lint.
- Fill a large bowl with warm water and a few drops of dish soap.
- Soak the lint screen in the soapy water for at least 10 minutes.
- Scrub it with a sponge or soft brush (you can use an old toothbrush).
- Rinse with clean water and dry the lint screen.
- Allow it to dry completely before putting it back into your dryer.
Once you’ve completed the steps above, it’s very important you clean the space where the dryer filter sits, since lint can be trapped there. You can use a vacuum or a small and soft brush.
Bear in mind that you should remove the lint from the screen after every load.
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, dryers that haven’t been cleaned cause more than 980 fires every year and $11.9 million in property loss.
But, don’t worry. By checking the lint screen regularly and cleaning your dryer’s vent system at least once a year, you’ll be safe.
#5 Clean Your Dryer’s Interior
Sometimes residue from dryer sheets or fabric softener can build up over time. And, if you tend to leave the door open, dust can also accumulate.
By cleaning your dryer’s interior every two months, you’ll make sure your clothes remain clean, and you’ll avoid having to wash them again.
You can easily clean your dryer’s drum with an all-purpose cleaner or a natural cleaner. If you prefer the latter, I recommend mixing 1 part of white vinegar with 2 parts of warm water in a spray bottle.
Vinegar can easily break down grime due to its acidity. It also has antibacterial and antifungal properties.
Then, unplug your dryer, lightly spray the cleaning solution all over the drum and let it sit for a couple of minutes. Try using a microfiber cloth to wipe it up and leave the door open until it completely dries.
Tip: Don’t forget to clean the lint screen as well.
#6 Make Sure the Dryer Ducts Are Made of Metal
When you put your clothes in the dryer, they get tumbled in hot air. Then, the remaining moisture and heat are vented outside through the duct.
Bear in mind that if your dryer ducts are made of plastic or vinyl, you should replace them immediately. These materials are not allowed by most building codes, as they can easily collect lint, overheat and cause fires.
Try using a metal duct instead. This material is extremely durable and better for airflow.
Please note that the joints should also be secured with metal tape. Don’t use screws in the joints.
Dryer Health Check – Healthy Habits
Incorporating some habits into your laundry routine will help you take proper care of your clothes and your dryer. It will also help you reduce your electricity bills and save money.
These are the 5 habits you should incorporate into your routine:
#1 Choose the Right Cycle
Most modern dryers offer different cycles. You can select the load size, type of fabric, and air temperature.
Unfortunately, if you don’t select the right cycle, you may damage your clothes and affect your dryer’s performance.
You should always read the care labels on your clothes before putting them in the dryer to select the right setting and get the best results from your dryer.
Take a look at the following image to learn what the symbols on the care labels mean.
#2 Don’t Overload or Underload Your Dryer
If you’re tempted to dry all your clothes in just one load, you might want to keep reading.
Your clothes will take much longer to dry if you overload your dryer because airflow will be restricted. This will cause your machine to work harder and damage its motor.
The cost of a new dryer motor range anywhere from $40 to $120 USD, and this price doesn’t include installation. If you want a professional to help you replace the motor, you’ll spend an extra $125-$300 USD.
Avoid damaging your dryer’s motor and save up to $420 USD by making sure your dryer is not more than 3/4 full.
Under-loading your dryer isn’t a good idea either. Your clothes won’t dry properly because the sensors may not detect them. Moreover, this is a waste of energy (and money!).
If you’re going to dry a small load, make sure your dryer is 1/3 full.
Try separating heavyweight fabrics from lightweight ones. This way, your clothes will dry faster.
#3 Don’t Put Dirty Clothes in Your Dryer
You should never put any soiled clothes in your dryer because some materials can clog your appliance and damage it.
Moreover, they will get your dryer dirty, and you’ll need to clean it before drying a new load. Otherwise, you’ll need to wash your clothes again.
Make sure that you’re only drying clothes that have just been washed in the washing machine.
#4 Don’t Add Wet Clothes to a Dry Load
If you forgot to put certain items in your dryer, you should wait until the current load is fully dried.
You see, adding wet items to a partially dry load, can throw off the moisture detector, resulting in over or under-dried clothes.
This can also make your dryer work harder and increase your electricity bills.
#5 Make Sure Your Clothes Aren’t Dripping Wet
You should never put soaking clothes in your dryer because the extra water can leak from the drum and damage your appliance.
Moreover, your dryer may not get your dripping wet clothes dry, and they can smell musty or develop mildew.
Putting dripping wet clothes on your dryer will also make it work harder, overwhelm its bearings, and damage the motor. Not to mention that you’ll be paying a fortune on electricity bills.
So, if your washing machine is not working correctly and is leaving your clothes soaking wet, you should air dry them a little before putting them in the dryer.
Dryer Health Check – Regular Maintenance
Dryers, just like any other home appliance, require regular maintenance.
Ignoring dryer maintenance can shorten your appliance’s lifespan, damage your clothes, increase your bills, and even cause a fire.
Try following these 4 simple tips to take care of your dryer:
#1 Clean Behind
Dust, dirt, and lint can accumulate behind your dryer and cause multiple issues. Moreover, laundry rooms usually have excess moisture, which can lead to mold.
This is why I recommend cleaning behind your dryer every six months.
Here’s how to do it:
- Pull the dryer forward and be careful not to scratch the floor. Try asking a friend for help, since dryers can be heavy.
- Remove all dust and lint from the floor. I recommend using a vacuum.
- Use an all-purpose cleaner and a rag to wipe the floor, dryer, and walls.
- Allow the area to completely dry.
- Slide the dryer back in place.
#2 Inspect and Clean the Venting System
Unfortunately, sometimes lint and other fibers can get past the lint trap and land in the dryer duct.
A clogged venting system not only affects your appliance’s performance, but can also prevent hot air from escaping the dryer, leading to a fire hazard.
To avoid these issues, you should inspect and clean your dryer’s venting system at least once a year.
If you call a professional, dryer vent cleaning cost $138 USD on average. Luckily, you can save this money and clean it on your own*.
*Bear in mind that if you don’t feel comfortable cleaning the dryer vent, we strongly recommend calling a professional.
Here’s how to do it:
- Pull your dryer away from the wall and carefully unplug it. If your dryer runs on gas, turn the supply valve off.
- Locate the vent behind your dryer and the exhaust vent on your home’s exterior.
- Remove the vent from the back of your dryer. You may need to use a screwdriver to undo the clamp.
- Remove lint from the duct by hand and then use a vacuum to clean the inside of the dryer duct. If you don’t have a vacuum, please ask a friend if you can borrow theirs.
- Go outside and remove the exterior vent cover. You may need a screwdriver. Then, use a brush or a vacuum to remove the remaining lint.
- Before reconnecting the ducts, make sure they’re not damaged. If they’re, please call a professional because you may need to replace them.
- Reattach the ducts and vent cover.
- Push the dryer back into place and plug it back in or turn the gas valve back on.
- Test the dryer by running it for 20 minutes on the air-dry setting. Make sure all the connections are strong.
By cleaning the dryer vent once a year, your appliance won’t have to work as hard, which can help you save money on utility fees.
#3 Check the Door Seal
It is also important to check the door gasket regularly.
You see, if it is damaged or dirty, your dryer won’t be able to maintain the heat level needed, and it may take longer to dry your clothes.
Moreover, mold can easily grow in rubber seals, so you should check and clean them regularly.
Follow these simple instructions to clean the door seal:
- Fill a large bowl with equal parts of warm water and white vinegar.
- Soak a soft sponge in the cleaning solution.
- Clean around the door gasket. You can also use a cotton swab or an old toothbrush for more precision.
If you notice that the door seal is damaged, please replace it.
#4 Inspect the Belt
Proper dryer maintenance includes inspecting the belt that is in charge of rotating the drum.
You see, if it breaks or becomes worn, the drum won’t rotate, your dryer may not turn on, and your clothes won’t dry.
You can easily inspect your dryer’s belt by opening the door and trying to spin the drum with your hand. If you feel resistance, then the belt is not damaged. However, if you can turn the drum easily, the belt is probably broken.
You can also check the belt by disconnecting your dryer from the power source and removing the top panel. Then, check the belt and replace it if it’s damaged.
Bear in mind that this process may vary depending on your dryer’s brand and model.
You’ve Done It!
You made it! If you followed along with this guide, you may have just saved yourself $450, or even more.
I hope you can agree that none of these tips were complicated. Sure, we need a bit of elbow grease and some determination, but it’s all pretty straightforward.
With your effort today I’m sure you’ve just made a great reduction in your energy bills, and added YEARS of good working life to your refrigerator – delaying the need to buy a whole new one anytime soon.
If you found this guide helpful, make sure to check out the rest of our appliance challenge. In total our guides can save you over $1,000 a year by just following simple walkthroughs like this one!
Make sure to also sign up to our email list below – and we’ll let you know more money-saving appliance tips and advice.