How to clean a tumble dryer – including the filter, condenser and drum

Banish bad smells and keep your towels fresh

Cleaning your tumble dyer is unlikely to be a task that's high on your to do list. But if you've noticed your dryer emitting a stale odour and failing to dry your bed linens, it could be time to give your machine a little TLC.

Need a new tumble dryer? See our best tumble dryers guide for the best of the best

Other than cleaning out the lint filter, which should be done after every use, your dryer will only need cleaning once every few months. Well, unless you're regularly cleaning loads of messy kids clothes or hairy pet items, that is!

Follow our guide on how to clean your tumble dryer and take note of our few extra tips to keep your machine in top condition.

How to clean a tumble dryer

Bathroom washing machine white walls and white flooring

(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

The kit you’ll need

  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Cloth
  • Bleach
  • Water
  • White Vinegar poured into a spray bottle
  • Old towels

How to clean the lint filter

You have your kit ready, but first things first you need to clean out the lint filter or screen. You should do this after every use to avoid a build up of lint, that has the potential to cause a fire.

  • Make sure your appliance has cooled down fully.
  • Locate the filter, usually inside the door rim or behind a panel at the front of the dryer.
  • Remove as much lint as you can with a brush before swiping the screen with a used fabric softener sheet to pick up any lingering pieces.
  • Give the filter and the lint trap a once over with a vacuum cleaner to get it extra clean.

How to clean a smelly tumble dryer

Now it's time to get rid of that odd lingering smell in your dryer's drum. The last thing you want your freshly laundered clothes to reek of is mould.

  • Mix 1 cup of bleach to a gallon of warm water, and dip a cloth into the mixture and wring it out thoroughly.
  • Use it to wipe the inside of the drum and the door, before leaving the door open to let it dry.
  • After it has dried, wipe the drum walls down with water and leave to dry again.
  • Spray white vinegar onto a few old towels. Put inside the tumble dryer and run a drying cycle to neutralise any remaining odour.
  • Make sure the walls of the dryer are free of bleach before putting any load in to prevent discoloration of clothes.

How to remove sticky messes and scuffs from a tumble dryer

kitchen washing machine wooden counter with white cabinet

(Image credit: Ti Media)

Despite the best efforts to remove everything from you and your family’s jeans pockets, the occasional piece of gum or crayon might slip through.

  • Remove sticky messes by rubbing them with warmed olive oil, then gently scraping them off.
  • You can get rid of scuffs with a Magic Eraser or gently rubbing with a paste made out of baking soda and water.
  • Afterwards spray the drum walls with an all-purpose cleaner and wipe clean.

How to clean the exterior of a tumble dryer

Aside from the drum, it is important to keep the back of the dryer from building up a layer of dirt.

  • Wait until the dryer is cooled and switched off.
  • Unplug it and pull it away from the wall.
  • Remove the back panel, and clean the inside area with a vacuum cleaner.
  • Replace the back panel and push it back into place.
  • Give the rest of the outside of the dryer a once over with a damp cloth dipped in washing up liquid.

How to maintain a tumble dryer

white walls with wooden flooring basket and washing machine

(Image credit: Future PLC/Tom Meadows)

If you want your dryer to outlive it’s warranty and keep you in fresh and dry shirts follow the below tips.

Empty all pockets

Ensure all clothes are clean and pockets are empty before putting inside the tumble dryer.

Be careful of overloading

Be careful not to overload it with clothes. Stuffing the drum full will mean the clothes won’t be able to move freely and make the most of the hot air. Instead you’ll be left with damp clothes, and that unpleasant mould smell.

Clean the plug socket

Check there is no dust build-up on the plug socket. Pull the tumble dryer out every nwt and again to clean the area.

Check the position of your dryer

Whether you have you your tumble dryer in your kitchen or utility room, make sure it's somewhere with good ventilation. The appliance can cause humidity, so ventilation is key to reduce the chance of the machine overheating.

Related: Which? have named this THE best washing machine ever tested

A bonus tip is to place your dryer in a warm room – 'Dryers located in a warm room will use less energy and those in a cold area will use more, so this should be a consideration for energy-conscious consumers,' says Steve Macdonald, Business Director at Hoover Freestanding.

Rebecca Knight
Deputy Editor, Digital

Rebecca Knight has been the Deputy Editor on the Ideal Home Website since 2022. She graduated with a Masters degree in magazine journalism from City, University of London in 2018, before starting her journalism career as a staff writer on women's weekly magazines. She fell into the world of homes and interiors after joining the Ideal Home website team in 2019 as a Digital Writer. In 2020 she moved into position of Homes News Editor working across Homes & Gardens, LivingEtc, Real Homes, Gardeningetc and Ideal Home covering everything from the latest viral cleaning hack to the next big interior trend.