Why Is Your Dryer Not Drying Clothes?

Updated: Aug. 31, 2023

Is your dryer not drying the clothes you put in? Try these seven DIY fixes before you schedule a service call.

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Why Is My Dryer Not Drying Clothes?

I’ve worked as an appliance technician for more than 30 years and have been asked this question hundreds of times. The short answer is, there’s something wrong with the dryer’s airflow.

Here’s the way it’s supposed to work: The heated air mixes with the wet laundry, then that moist air is carried outside via the dryer vent tube. There are a number of things along the way that can derail this process and leave your clothes damp.

Fortunately, there are seven DIY fixes you can try when your dryer’s airflow isn’t optimal. If none solves the problem, you’re probably got a blown hi-limit, failed element, broken igniter or bad coils. You’ll need to hire a pro to fix those.

Let’s get started!

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check dryer settings
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Check Dryer Settings

  • Look at your dryer settings.
  • If you have a timer dial, set it for a 30-minute dry cycle.
  • If you have a fluff setting dial, turn it from fluff to dry or very dry.
  • Start your dryer, run it for five minutes, then open the door to see if your clothes are warm. If they aren’t, go to the next step.
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clean lint filter
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Clean Lint Filter in the Dryer

  • Pull out the lint filter and brush off all of the lint.
  • Clean the filter thoroughly with an old toothbrush, hot water and dish detergent.
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Clean the Lint Filter Housing
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Clean the Lint Filter Housing

  • Pull out the lint filter.
  • Using a flashlight, inspect the filter’s plastic housing. You’ll likely see lots of lint at the bottom. This is common; it can disrupt airflow and reduce your dryer’s efficiency.
  • Straighten out a wire coat hanger.
  • With pliers, create a 1/2-in., 90-degree bend in the hanger.
  • Push the bent end of the wire coat hanger into the filter housing. Hold a flashlight with the other hand so you can see what you’re doing. Hook the lint and carefully pull it out.
  • Repeat until all the lint has been removed.
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Clean the Moisture Sensor

  • Look inside your dryer drum for the moisture sensor. It’s two parallel, shiny metal strips about four inches long, usually on the drum side of the plastic filter housing.
  • Clean the metal strips with a paper towel and rubbing alcohol.

Pro tip: Anti-static dryer sheets coat the metal strips with a waxy substance, preventing the controller from sensing if the clothes are dry. This results in extended drying times.

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Gas Dryers: Check Gas Line

  • Look behind your dryer for the gas valve.
  • Turn your gas valve so the knob is parallel with the gas line (see photo). Parallel lets gas flow. Perpendicular shuts off the gas.
  • Make sure the gas line isn’t kinked, which would stop gas flow and prevent the dryer from heating. If it’s kinked, call a pro to replace it. Do NOT try to straighten it yourself.
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Electric Dryers: Check Circuit Breaker Box

If your electric dryer runs on 220 volts, it might not be heating because one of the two circuit breakers dedicated to the dryer is in the off position.

  • Turn both breakers for your dryer all the way off, then all the way on.
  • If your dryer still won’t heat, call an appliance technician to fix it.
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Lint being removed with a brush from a dryer vent
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Check Airflow From Dryer Vent Tube

  • While the dryer is running, go outside and check the volume of air coming out of your dryer vent tube. In volume and temperature, it should feel like a hair dryer. If the air is cold, the heating device in your dryer is no longer working. Call a pro to repair it.

Clean the dryer vent tube

  • If air flow from the tube is weak, a buildup of lint could be obstructing it. You can clean the dryer vent tube yourself in about an hour with dryer vent cleaning kit. When you pull out cleaning tool, you’ll likely see a lot more lint than you imagined!