How To Fix a Dryer That Doesn’t Dry Clothes

If your clothes dryer fails to dry clothes, try clearing the dryer vent tube before calling an appliance repair tech.

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Next Project
Time

An hour or less

Complexity

Beginner

Cost

$20-50

Introduction

It's disappointing to open up the dryer door and find damp, dank-smelling clothes. As an appliance technician with more than 30 years of experience, I 'm often asked to repair a dryer that no longer completely dries clothes. Often, the problem stems from a lack of maintenance.

Dryers are all about airflow. A dryer with poor airflow will take twice as long to dry clothes as one with good airflow. Your dryer heats the air that mixes with your wet clothes, then carries that moist air out of your house through the dryer vent tube.

A clogged dryer vent tube or lint filter can severely diminish your dryer's efficiency, wasting time, energy and money. On top of that, clogged or poorly installed dryer vent tubes cause thousands of dryer fires each year in the U.S.

You can clear a clogged dryer vent tube yourself without calling a pro. Here's how to get a no-longer-drying dryer working again.

Tools Required

  • Dryer vent-cleaning kit
  • Dust mask
  • Electric hand drill
  • Flathead screwdriver

Project step-by-step (9)

Step 1

Test Dryer

  • Set your dryer for Normal Dry and turn it on.
  • Wait three minutes for the dryer to get up to temperature.
  • Go outside and feel the exhaust coming out of the dryer vent tube. The volume of air and the heat should feel like a hair dryer.
    • If you DON’T feel a strong volume of air, accumulating lint is most likely clogging the moist airflow. Move on to the next step.
    • If you DO feel a strong volume of air, then you know the problem isn’t the common clogged vent tube. Instead, the issue is the less-common failed heating system which will take a pro to resolve. My guess is it’s a blown (and inexpensive) hi-limit fuse.
    • If your dryer tube vents on the roof, which is common in condos and apartments, proceed to Step 4. (Lint clogs vertically vented tubes much faster because the blower fan has to fight gravity to get the moist air out of the dryer.)

Test The Dryer Scott Flint/Family Handyman

Step 2

Clean Dryer Vent Tube Exit

If the airflow is weak:

  • Go inside and turn off the dryer.
  • Go back outside and examine the dryer vent tube where it exits your home. It’s likely covered by three plastic louvers or a plastic screen, which keeps small animals out of the tube. These screens are also notorious for filling with dryer lint and obstructing more than 90 percent of the dryer exhaust.
  • Remove the louvers or screent.
    • If your driver vent tube has plastic louvers: Carefully bend them slightly so their end pivot pins can come out of the holes in the plastic side housing.
    • If your driver vent tube has a plastic screen: Use a flat-head screwdriver to carefully pry off this screen.
  • Wash the louvers or screen with hot water to clean any stuck-on lint.

Lint being removed with a brush from a dryer ventJodiJacobson/Getty Images