Steps to Maintain Your Dryer Vent

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Home Improvement

If your clothes are taking an extended period to dry, there might be a lint buildup in your dryer. This can be harmful to your home. Eleonora Galli/Getty Images

Is your laundry taking longer than usual to dry? Do you smell something burning in the laundry room? Is the top of your dryer too hot to touch after putting in a load of laundry? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, it’s time to maintain your dryer vent. These warning signs might indicate that there is a dirty or clogged dryer vent that could potentially cause a fire.

From 2014-2018, local fire departments across the United States responded to nearly 14,000 fires involving dryers per year, and about one-third of these fires were attributed to clogged dryer vents filled with lint, dust and fiber. The combination of clogged vents and hot air makes it easy for fires to start.

That’s why Russ Dimmitt, director of education at the Chimney Safety Institute of America, a nonprofit educational institute that trains and certifies chimney and dryer exhaust technicians, recommends dryer vent cleaning annually.

“If your clothes take longer to dry than before and the time keeps increasing, it’s a sign that the vent is starting to plug and you’re losing airflow,” Dimmitt explains. “Airflow is essential for the clothes to dry properly.”

When was the last time you cleaned your dryer? If your answer is “a while” or “never,” here’s how you can clean your dryer vent, according to Home Depot and Family Handyman.

Necessary Tools and Equipment

  • Safety gloves
  • Screwdriver
  • Dryer vent cleaning kit (This kit contains brushes and flexible rods that can assist you in cleaning your dryer. It is available at most hardware stores.)
  • Vacuum with a hose attachment

Step 1. Disconnect Your Dryer

  • Unplug the dryer’s power cord from the outlet or turn off the gas/propane valve if you have a gas dryer before you start cleaning the dryer vent. You may need to pull the dryer about a foot away from the wall to access the cord.
  • Remove the dryer vent duct or dryer vent pipe (the thick silver or white hose) from the wall and the dryer. You may need to use a screwdriver to remove the duct. Be sure to remove any metal tape or clamps that attach the vent pipe to its exhaust.
  • Find the exterior vent outside your home and take off the vent cover from the exit point. This will make it easier to clean with a brush. If you’re unsure where the exterior vent is, turn your dryer on and go outside your home and walk around, listening for the sound of the dryer.

Step 2. Clean the Vent With a Brush Kit


Cleaning your dryer vent and duct on a regular basis with a dryer duct cleaning kit is necessary to prevent dryer fires. Benjamin Clapp/Shutterstock

  • Assemble the cleaning kit and attach the brush to one of the flexible rods.
  • Insert the brush into the vent and slowly spin the brush while moving it back and forth to remove all the lint. If the brush is long enough, it may even reach the exit point outside.
  • Continue cleaning until the vent is free of lint.
  • After cleaning the vent, clean the duct and the inside of the dryer.

Step 3. Vacuum the Vent

  • Attach a hose to your vacuum so that it can reach any remaining lint that the brush missed.
  • Insert the vacuum into the vent and remove any leftover lint or dust.
  • Vacuum up the lint from the duct and inside the dryer as well.
  • Go outside your home to the exterior vent and vacuum it. (If your vacuum is for in-home use only, skip this step and just clean with the brush.)
  • Replace the exterior cover on the vent.

Step 4. Reconnect Your Dryer

After cleaning the vent, it’s time to reassemble the dryer.

  • Make sure the dryer ducts are undamaged before reconnecting everything. Replace the duct if it’s bent or has holes in it.
  • Reattach the ductwork to the vent and dryer using the screwdriver from earlier.
  • Move the dryer back into position.
  • Plug the dryer into the outlet or turn the gas/propane valve back on.
  • Test the dryer by running it for a few minutes to ensure it’s properly connected and to remove any remaining dust.

Note: Although you can clean your dryer vent yourself, it is recommended to hire a professional like Dimmitt. They know other things to check, such as proper installation. Additionally, if your dryer vents through your roof, you may not want to climb up a ladder to clean it.

If you’re a visual learner, you can watch a step-by-step video on how to clean your dryer vent. Once your vent is clean, it’s essential to keep it that way. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission suggests some tips to reduce the amount of lint in your vent. These include cleaning the lint trap filter after every load of laundry, vacuuming in and around the lint filter, sweeping the area around and behind the dryer, and regularly cleaning inside the dryer. Additionally, you can replace plastic or foil ducting material with semi-rigid metal duct that provides maximum airflow. If you wash clothes stained with gasoline, cooking oils, or other volatile chemicals, it’s better to hang dry them instead of putting them in a dryer. Finally, it’s recommended to clean your dryer vent every one to three years, depending on how often you use it and the type of venting system you have. By following these tips, you can ensure your dryer vent stays clean and safe.

FAQ

1. Why is it important to clean your dryer vent?

It is important to clean your dryer vent to prevent a potential fire hazard. When lint and debris build up in the vent, it can block the airflow and cause the dryer to overheat, potentially igniting a fire. Additionally, a clogged vent can cause your dryer to take longer to dry clothes, which can increase your energy bills.

2. How often should I clean my dryer vent?

You should clean your dryer vent at least once a year, or more often if you notice that your dryer is taking longer to dry clothes. You may also need to clean your vent more frequently if you have a large family or pets that shed a lot of hair.

3. What tools do I need to clean my dryer vent?

You will need a few tools to clean your dryer vent, including a vacuum with a long hose attachment, a dryer vent brush, and a screwdriver. You may also want to have a flashlight on hand to help you see inside the vent.

4. How do I clean my dryer vent?

First, unplug your dryer and pull it away from the wall. Disconnect the vent from the back of the dryer and use the screwdriver to loosen any clamps or screws holding the vent in place. Next, use the dryer vent brush to remove any lint or debris from the vent. You can also use the vacuum to suck up any loose material. Finally, reattach the vent to the dryer and plug it back in.

5. Can I clean my dryer vent myself, or should I hire a professional?

You can clean your dryer vent yourself, but if you are not comfortable doing so, or if you have a particularly long or complicated vent system, it may be best to hire a professional. A professional dryer vent cleaning service will have the tools and experience needed to safely and effectively clean your vent.

6. Are there any other ways to prevent dryer fires?

In addition to cleaning your dryer vent regularly, there are a few other things you can do to prevent dryer fires. First, make sure to clean the lint trap after every use. You should also avoid overloading your dryer and avoid drying items that have been soaked in flammable materials (such as gasoline or cooking oil). Finally, consider installing a smoke detector near your dryer for added safety.

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