Thousands of dryer fires are caused by lint every year, yet they can be easily prevented with a few minutes of cleaning. Learn where lint is, how to get at it, and the best way to clean it out.
By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine
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Get the lint out
Nearly 25,000 dryer fires every four years cause millions of dollars in damage and hundreds of injuries, some fatal. Dryer fires start when built-up lint near the motor, gas burners or heating elements catches on fire. This fire can then spread to ignite lint in the vent pipe.
The best precautions are to empty the lint trap after every load, vacuum behind the machine regularly, keep flammables away from the dryer, and annually clean lint from inside the dryer cabinet and vent duct.
We show how to “de-lint” a gas dryer with a front access panel. Electric dryers have a heating element instead of a gas burner. If you have an electric dryer, or your dryer differs from the one shown, consult your manual for instructions on accessing the heating element or cabinet interior.
The most important step in cleaning the dryer is to remove any lint buildup around the motor and gas burner or heating element. Then clean out the vent duct with a 4-in. dryer vent cleaning brush (sold at appliance repair stores, or online).
If your dryer has a plastic vent ducting, replace it with a metal one. The plastic ducting itself can catch on fire and set the house ablaze.
Finding the Lint Traps
Unplug the machine and turn off the gas valve. Pry the access panel loose with a big flat-blade screwdriver. Vacuum the inside of the cabinet, especially around the gas burner and motor. If you have a brush attachment for your vacuum, use it to loosen built-up lint.
Disconnect the vent from the dryer and push a vent cleaning brush through the exterior vent hood. Otherwise, disassemble the vent and clean it by hand.
Unplug the dryer and shut off The gas valve before pulling it out to clean. If you smell gas after turning the gas valve back on, immediately turn it off and call your local gas utility.
Required Tools for this Project
Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.