The Tool In Your Haircare Routine That Definitely Isn't Getting Cleaned Enough

You may have one drawer or cabinet in your home that always stays closed. You can afford to keep it closed because it contains all the hair tools from your past — all the curling irons, curling wands, crimpers, flat irons, volumizers, and diffusers that, at those moments, you just had to buy. And with good reason. Each tool held the promise of helping you create a style that could define your look for years — or become a here-today-gone-tomorrow fad that would bring a nostalgic smile to your face years from now.

It's enough to make you wonder: if you had room for only one tool, what would it be? If you're a professional hairstylist, it would probably be your cutting shears. At least, this is the tool that stylists like Sam Villa put at the top of his list. As an amateur stylist, your favorite, most-used haircare tool probably sits in plain view, on your bathroom counter. You want to be able to grab it and press it into action at a moment's notice. Such exposure and activity mean you should clean it regularly, but many aren't completing this necessary step.

Is it your most important hair tool?

The haircare tool in question is your hair dryer — the tool that Lifestyle Asia says should play an "absolute, non-negotiable," and front-and-center role in everybody's hair tool collection. A hearty endorsement comes from Murdock Barbers of London, who says that a hair dryer "should definitely make the top of your hardware wish list if you're looking to embark on professional levels of DIY hair styling at home."

Many stylists caution against using heat (or the ambiguous "too much heat") on hair. Others present an interesting opposing thought. Take Alan Truman, who says that even the "intense heat" of a hair dryer is better than letting hair air-dry because heat removes the damaging, weakening influence of water. For this reason alone, you should keep the vents of your hair dryer clear of all the elements that swirl around it, including hair, dust, and the residue of hair products. A hair dryer that can't vent air properly risks overworking the motor or building up an internal temperature that could cause the hair dryer to overheat and ignite (via Real Simple). Plus, a clogged hair dryer can blow dust and other build-up right back onto your clean hair, The Maids say. This is a dirty, passing thought, but it's one you can easily bring to a neat conclusion.

Clean your tool like a pro

Spread out an old towel (that you can shake out) or a plastic bag or paper towel (that you can throw out) before going to work on your hair dryer. To begin, check that the hair dryer is unplugged before you set it down. Then find the vent, which is covered by a filter. It should twist right off, though older models may detach only with a screwdriver (via Real Simple).

If you have a weak stomach, you may wish to take an antacid; the gunk you'll probably find under the filter may give your stomach a jolt, especially if you've never cleaned your hair dryer before. A variety of tools can help you loosen the hair and gunk you can't reach or remove with your fingers: cotton swabs, toothpicks, and especially an old (meaning never-to-be-used-on-your-teeth-again) toothbrush. There is no right way to carry out this cleaning job; it depends on what's clogging the filter and how badly it's jammed. You have to be resourceful, even if it means hooking up a clumsy vacuum cleaner attachment.

When you're done, rinse the filter under cool water or wipe it down with a damp cloth (via The Maids). Let the filter dry before reassembling the hair dryer and returning it to its trusty post on your bathroom counter, ready for action.