If your spring-cleaning list includes deep cleaning the laundry room, be sure to include cleaning the dryer vent. When your dryer’s vent becomes clogged, the appliance won’t dry your clothes properly. Cleaning it out also increases your household's safety. The U.S. Fire Administration reports that dirty dryer vents are the main cause of home dryer fires. The agency advises homeowners to clean their dryer vents at least once a year.
Can I Clean My Dryer Vent Myself?
Cleaning the dryer vent is a relatively simple task, and you can do it yourself with a few tools and a bit of time. Before you begin the dryer vent cleaning process, check to see if your clothes dryer operates on gas or electric power. Dryers that use electric power have an electrical outlet that’s grounded at 240 volts while gas-powered units plug into a standard 110-volt outlet that has three prongs. It will also be connected to a gas valve.
If your dryer is gas-powered, be sure to turn off the gas valve before you begin cleaning. Also, use caution and avoid moving the gas line when shifting the dryer. If you have concerns about the supply valves, then contact a professional.
Why Should You Clean Your Dryer Vent Yearly?
Because lint accumulates each time you dry your clothes, you should clean your dryer vent every year. When lint comes into contact with hot air, it can ignite. This makes dirty dryer vents a fire hazard. Each year, fires in dryer ducts result in around $35 million in damage plus hundreds of injuries and even some deaths.
How Do I Know if My Dryer Vent Is Clogged?
If you're experiencing any of the following issues, you may have a clogged dryer vent.
- It’s taking longer than it usually does to dry your clothes.
- It smells like something is burning when you’re using the dryer.
- You can see debris or dryer lint inside the hose or surrounding the outside flap.
- Your clothes feel hot after the dryer cycle has ended.
If you haven’t cleaned your dryer vents in more than a year, then you should set aside time to do so right away. Clean your dryer vent more than once a year if you have several people living in your home. More people equal more dryer use.
Dryer Vent Cleaning: Step by Step
Wondering how to clean a dryer vent? Prepare to clean your vent by purchasing a vent cleaning kit. These are available from your local hardware store, or you can buy them from the hardware retailer online. Also, make sure that you have a power drill on hand as well as a vacuum cleaner or broom and dustpan.
Step 1: Locate the Vent
Step one is to locate the dryer vent. Most dryers are attached to a short exhaust pipe that measures about 4 inches in diameter. The exhaust pipe is connected to the ductwork that’s located within the wall. When your dryer creates hot air to operate, the air is pressed through the pipe and released through a vent that’s installed along the exterior of your home.
Once you’ve located the outdoor exhaust vent for your dryer, look inside it for debris. This may include lint, dust, leaves, and even dead insects. Wash the screens and remove any noticeable blockages.
Step 2: Disconnect Your Dryer
After you’ve located the vent, use caution to disconnect the dryer. Once it’s unplugged, remove any metal tape that's present and detach the clamps that connect the vent pipe to the dryer’s exhaust. Use gentle pressure when you’re removing the pipe from the duct in the wall. It’s important to avoid breaking the pipe.
Step 3: Vacuum out the Lint
Disconnecting the dryer should allow you to gain a clear view of the interior of the dryer vent. Use your vacuum’s hose attachment or shop vac to suction out lint and debris you find inside the hole of the vent or around it.
If you’re working with a handheld vacuum, use it to suck out any debris or lint along the outside of the duct as well. If you don’t have a vacuum that you can use outside, then clear as much debris as you can manually from the outside.
Step 4: Clean the Vent Thoroughly Using a Brush
Your dryer vent cleaning kit will include a brush. Connect the brush to your power drill. Then, place the brush side of the tool inside the duct. Slide it in as far as it will reach.
Keep in mind that you might have to carefully maneuver the hose connection based on the path that your dryer duct follows. If you aren’t able to slide the brush through the full length of the duct, or if the brush isn’t as long as the duct, then insert the head of the brush into the exterior duct as well.
Step 5: Reconnect and Tidy Up
When you start cleaning your dryer vent, you’re likely to wind up with a good deal of lint and debris on the floor of your laundry room. Use your vacuum cleaner or a broom to clean up the mess. Then, plug the dryer back into its outlet and reattach the wall duct.
If your dryer uses a soft foil vent as its connection point to the wall duct, be sure to replace it with a product that’s more durable. A better option is a 90-degree aluminum elbow that’s fire-resistant. This type of attachment will also give your dryer vent good airflow.
After plugging your dryer unit back in, allow it to run for 15 to 20 minutes on the air or fluff setting. Operating the dryer will help you confirm that you’ve reconnected the appliance properly. It will also eliminate any additional debris or lint that may still be present.
Cleaning a dryer vent isn’t a fun task, but it is a necessary one that will keep your dryer working effectively. It will also make the appliance safer to use.
Prevent Vent Debris Buildup
To avoid an excessive amount of lint buildup, be sure to remove the lint trap filter after every dryer cycle. It’s also a good idea to vacuum the lint screen regularly. Determine how often you should do this by how much you use your dryer. If you have a large household and use the dryer often, then clean the filter more frequently. Also, be sure to clean around your dryer by sweeping and dusting the area.
Experts advise people to avoid operating a dryer unattended. Don’t turn it on and leave to run errands. If you’re not home when a fire starts, it can cause a great deal of damage before someone notices flames and contacts the fire department.
Make sure that your dryer has a little extra space around it. If you place storage items or other products around the dryer, you're making it a bigger fire hazard.
Maintain Your Dryer for Safety and Appliance Longevity
These dryer vent cleaning tips will help you maintain your dryer. When you clean out the dryer vent, the appliance will be safer and likely to last longer. To purchase dryer vent cleaning products or a kit, use the True Value store locator feature on our site.