Modern clothes dryers are miracles of engineering and convenience. They dry your clothes, keep wrinkles out, leave linens fresh, and do everything else except fold your laundry and put it away for you! But the key function of a dryer is to dry clothes and to dry effectively and efficiently. So what do you do if your clothes dryer is not drying? Your dryer may be showing signs of life: it might still tumble, or move through its cycles. But if it’s not drying, you won’t be able to get any laundry done in your house. If you have a clothes dryer that’s not drying, this guide can help you get to the bottom of the problem.
When working with any appliance, it’s always important to remember and follow a few basic safety tips. Although safety procedures can differ depending on appliance and situation, here are some safety basics:
Always make sure you have adequate space when working on your appliance. Pull it out away from the wall when necessary. Always make sure the appliance is unplugged before opening the cabinet or servicing interior parts. Make sure the appliance is cooled down and not hot before your work on it, and always wear appropriate clothing when working with tools and equipment.
Finally, if you don’t feel comfortable working in or around your dryer, don’t be afraid to call in a professional who can help you solve your problem in a safe and efficient manner.
The first component of your dryer that you should check out if your clothes dryer will not dry is the lint trap. Locate the lint trap on your dryer and be sure that it is clean and clear of major lint buildup, dirt, dust, or hair. You should clean your lint trap every time you run your dryer. A simple wipe-out should suffice, but if it’s been awhile since you’ve cleaned your trap, you can also clean it with warm soapy water for an extra level of clean.
If you’ve allowed your dryer to go too long without cleaning the lint trap, there may be lint built up inside the dryer cabinet, in the areas that direct exiting air toward the vent. If you’ve failed to clean your lint trap in a long time, it may be worth it to open the cabinet and look for lint buildup inside. Also be sure to check your entire vent hose system (see below).
A second component to check if your dryer isn’t drying is the venting system of the dryer. The dryer moves hot air out of the appliance and out of your home via an exhaust vent on the back of the dryer. Depending on your home’s setup, either a flexible duct or a combination of flexible duct and rigid metal duct then directs the air out of your house. Some vent systems have a mesh or wire screen over the final exhaust port on the exterior of the home. All of these elements should be checked for the buildup of lint, hair, dirt, water, or other debris and materials.
Disconnect the vent ductwork from the dryer and inspect the opening in the dryer cabinet. Check that the length of ductwork leading to the exterior of your home is clear of lint and hair. Check where the duct exits your home. There is usually a hood installed to keep water out, and sometimes a mesh screen to prevent small creatures from entering the duct. Be sure that the hood and screen are clear of any lint buildup or obstructions.
Malfunctioning, broken or failing heating elements are a third common problem that can cause a clothes dryer to take too long in drying clothes. In some clothes dryers, you can visibly check the heating element from the rear of the dryer cabinet, where it can be seen glowing red or orange hot during operation. A good first step is to run your dryer, check for heat, and observe the vented area near the heating element to see if it’s working at all during operation.
If you can’t find any signs of a properly working heating element, use your clothes dryer owner’s manual to locate the position of your heating element, and access it inside the cabinet. Be sure to follow all safety precautions outlined at the beginning of this article. Examine the heating element for signs of damage or wear, such as cracking, discoloration, or blistering. Any of these signs may indicate that your heating element is damaged or blown out. This is not an uncommon problem, and luckily is not too expensive or difficult to fix. A damaged heating element needs to be replaced with an identical replacement part immediately, according to the specifications and steps listed in your clothes dryer’s owner’s manual.
A fifth consideration to make if your clothes dryer is not drying is to evaluate your clothes drying habits and procedures. Be sure that you are running and operating your dryer within is specifications, and according to the user’s manual. Understand what each cycle and mode is for, and understand which sorts of clothes are appropriate for each setting.
Make sure that your cleaned clothes are being properly spun out by the washing machine, and that they are not too wet when they enter the dryer. Sometimes problems with the clothes dryer are actually starting in the washing machine.
Be sure not to overload your dryer, especially with bulky items like bath towels or heavy jackets. These heavy items put a load on both the heating system and the tumbling mechanisms of the dryer, and can prevent your clothes from ever getting totally dry in a single cycle.
Put your cycle on the proper settings. Read your manual to learn more about each setting and mode, and about what sort of clothes and fabrics are most appropriate for each setting. Some types of fabrics dry better on different settings, so pay attention to how you operate your dryer.
If you've worked through this page and you still don’t feel you’re making progress, it may be time to call in the professionals. Modern appliances can be difficult to diagnose and troubleshoot, but a local appliance servicer will have the experience to handle your clothes dryer repair without a second thought.