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How Do Clothes Dryers Work?

While not all clothes dryers are the same, the way they work are pretty similar. There are several main components to every clothes dryer. These include:

  • Air Flow
  • Heat
  • Drum Rotation

Understanding the basics of a clothes dryer first will help us dive into the why behind needing to clean your dryer vent on a regular, annual basis.

Air Flow

Most clothes dryers have some sort of blower motor which pulls air into the machine. From there, the air gets heated and flows through the clothes in the drum of your dryer. The drum then rotates, allowing the heated air to circulate through the clothes even more efficiently. Most clothes dryers work in 40-60 minute cycles. If you find that your clothes dryer is taking significantly longer to dry, it is certainly possible that the air flow to the machine is restricted. Ensure your clothes dryer is in an open area with at least a few inches of space on every side of the dryer. If the blower motor and heating unit are cramped and blocked off, the thermostat may cycle on and off, causing extended drying times.

The heated air that has circulated and passed through the clothes then needs to be expelled. An exhaust fan on your clothes dryer will push that warm air through the vent and outside of your home. There are several different types of materials used for dryer vents. Ensure you have the proper dryer vent material to avoid melting the vent or restricting air flow. These dryer vents should be cleaned at least once per year.


Your clothes dryer has a motor that is wired through multiple switches, thermostats, and heating elements. The temperature is controlled by multiple thermostats, cycling on and off during your drying cycle to maintain the ideal temperature. This heating process is crucial to efficiently drying your clothes. 

If one of the thermostats or heating components fails in your dryer, your machine will not be able to dry your clothes. A good sign of this failure is when your clothes come out of a finished cycle still damp and wet. If you have to run multiple cycles, this is a good indication that one of your heating components may have failed.

Drum Rotation

Most drums in a clothes dryer are driven by a belt, similar to your vehicle, which is attached to a motor and pulleys. The heated air is drawn into the drum where the clothes will then spin, rotate, flop, and turn in the drum. Each clothes dryer has baffles that will assist in spinning the clothes, ensuring each article of clothing receives adequate air flow and heat. 

The drum sits on supports or mounts, which may wear out with time. A good indication that your drum supports are worn is if your clothes dryer vibrates, shakes, and gyrates an excessive amount. You’ll notice this movement when it’s under normal operation. If your drum belt is broken, you will hear the clothes dryer operating like normal. However, it may fail to rotate and spin.

Now You Know!

These are the main 3 components to a clothes dryer. While these parts can become complicated, especially when one breaks, you should now have a better understanding of how your dryer works. 

If you live in the great Northern Delaware Area, we can help with cleaning out your dryer vent. Annual cleaning of your dryer vent and exhaust fan is extremely important to maintain normal operating times and proper heating. If it has been longer than a year, you may be due for a service. Reach out today so we can help!