October 20, 2017

Dryer Legends

wash clothes dryer lint filterClaim: Washing the lint filter in your clothes dryer can help extend the lifespan of that appliance.

Status: According to Snopes, this is True.

Ask the average person, for example, how a clothes dryer works, and you’ll probably get an “Are you kidding me?” look in return, along with a terse explanation that a dryer makes stuff “hot,” and everybody knows stuff dries faster when it’s hot.

That explanation isn’t technically wrong (as far as it goes), but it’s rather simplistic. Knowing a bit more about the process involved is the key to understanding why the advice to keep your dryer’s lint filter clean can help improve the performance and lifespan of your clothes dryer.

In a standard (gas) dryer, a fan pulls fresh air into the dryer and sends it flowing over a gas burner. The burner heats the air, which is then channeled into a tumbling drum where the wet clothes are held. The heat, air flow, and tumbling motion all contribute to evaporating the moisture held in the fabrics, and that moisture is absorbed by the gas-warmed air. (Warm air is capable of holding more moisture than cold air.) The warm air — and the moisture it now holds — passes through a filter to trap lint and other particulate matter stirred up by its movement and is vented to the outside so that it can be replaced with new, less-moist air. This process repeats until enough moisture has been evaporated and carried away for the clothes to be considered sufficiently “dry.”

Of course, if you neglect to clean the lint filter between dryings, or something else occludes the filter, moist air cannot be vented from the dryer as easily. The result will be that your dryer will work less efficiently — you will have to run your dryer longer to dry a load of clothes, which means higher electricity and gas charges for you and a shorter lifespan for your dryer.

So, keeping the lint filter clean is one simple way to increase the efficiency and lifespan (and decrease the operating costs) of your dryer. Just removing the lint from the filter isn’t always enough — the fine mesh of most dryer filters can be clogged in ways that aren’t obvious at a casual glance. As suggested by the piece quoted above, softener sheets can cause waxy build-ups on lint screens that require a little extra effort — usually no more than a quick scrub and rinse in warm, soapy water — to remove.

Many modern dryers also use moisture sensors rather than ordinary timed cycles, and residue from dryer sheets can coat the sensors and interfere with their ability to function properly. Cleaning the sensor screen with a little detergent and a soft brush, and wiping off the sensor itself with a cotton ball and some rubbing alcohol can rectify this problem.