A step-by-step to cleaning your dryer vent
Many people have a washer and dryer in their home. These everyday tools operate with very little supervision or maintenance, and they save you the hassle of having to hand wash your clothes or hang them to dry. While appliances like these do make life so much simpler, they can also pose an unnecessary risk to you, your home, and your family if they are not properly maintained and cleaned on a regular basis. Neglected dryer vents, specifically, can lead to a home fire that destroys everything in its path.
Do you know how to clean your dryer vent? Do you know how often you’re supposed to clean it? Do you know how to check your dryer vent for signs of wear and tear? Are you taking all the proper steps to keep your home and family safe? If you answered no to any of these questions, don’t worry. Keep reading to learn the ins and outs of dryer vent maintenance. It will help keep your family and home safe and eliminate unnecessary risk.
Is Cleaning my Dryer Vent Really Necessary?
Yes! Even though it seems like a menial and pointless spring cleaning task, cleaning your dryer vents is essential to your safety. When dryer vents are clogged with lint and other debris, they can quickly and easily catch fire while your dryer emits tons of excess heat. The extra heat travels through the ducts and out the vents. If airflow is restricted by lint, which is incredibly flammable, it can catch fire in the blink of an eye! This fire can spread throughout your home, destroying everything in its path and potentially injuring or killing you or your family. Even if you and your family survive this home fire, you could potentially lose your entire home if the fire spreads enough.
So, dryer vent cleaning is clearly necessary. It is not a task you can put off for long periods of time. It does not take a long time to complete maintenance, and you will be saving your home and family from pointless worrying and risk. Trust me, it is worth it.
You might now know where to even start, and that’s okay. We’ll cover all the basics—from what you need to get started to how to put everything back together when you’re finished!
What You Will Need
The following items will be needed to effectively and efficiently clean your dryer vent:
- Screwdriver Set
- Hand Brush
- Damp Rag or Mop
- Dryer Vent Cleaning Kit
- Electric Powered Drill
- Ladder or Step Stool
- Foil Tape (for sealing any small leaks)
Understanding Your Dryer Vent
Before you start cleaning, it is important to get a grasp on the different parts that make up your dryer vent. Somewhere inside your dryer, you should find a lint screen and trap. Sometimes it is near the door, and other times it is somewhere along the top of the dryer. If you are unsure, contact your manufacturer and inquire. This should be emptied each time you dry clothes.
If you do not clean your screen enough, lint can build up in the actual dryer duct, which is the pipe that expels hot air from the dryer and blows it outside. As the screen fills with lint, the pipe will just continue to become more and more clogged. Do not let your screen become clogged, and you can avoid having to clean your entire dryer duct (which is a much more strenuous and tedious process).
You might need a flashlight or a stepstool to see what you’re doing as you work. You also might need to slide the dryer out from the wall to see better. Either way, you should unplug the appliance before you begin the cleaning process.
Cleaning Your Dryer Vent—Step by Step
Once you feel comfortable with the inner workings of your dryer, you can begin cleaning. Follow the steps below for a quick and easy cleaning process.
1. Unplug the Dryer and Disconnect the Vent
- As previously stated, you must unplug your dryer while you are cleaning. If it is gas-powered, be sure to also shut off the supply valve by turning the knob to the gas line with a wrench.
- Move your dryer to where you can reach the dryer vent. Disconnect the vent from your dryer and the wall by using a screwdriver. It is typically a band clamp that holds both parts in place.
2. Clean Your Vent Out
- Once the vent is disconnected, carefully move the vent and tube outside. You can shake the tube out into a trash bag to remove any large lint clumps. Then, use your vacuum to suck any remaining lint clumps or debris out of the vent hose. You can also use a large brush to flush out any stubborn formations. Once it is clean, set it aside.
3. Clean Your Attachment Points
- While still outside, take some extra time to vacuum the outdoor vent cover. It can sometimes contribute to clogs if lint becomes stuck while it is on its way outside. Then, go back inside and vacuum the vent on the inside of the wall. Finally, you can vacuum the vent on the backside of the dryer where you disconnected the pipe. Be sure to thoroughly clean up any signs of dust, dirt, lint, or debris. You can use a hand brush to remove stubborn lint here as well.
4. Clean Your Lint Screen
- Even though you should already be cleaning the lint screen on a regular basis, take some additional time to vacuum and wipe out the screen now. Notice if you are having trouble removing all the lint from the screen – this might mean it’s time to replace your screen with a new one.
5. Check for any Issues
- Take some time to inspect all of your vents and ducts attached to the dryer. If anything looks damaged or worn, consider buying replacement hardware. It will not be too expensive to replace parts of your dryer, but it could be very expensive to replace the entire thing or to repair your home after a house fire.
- If your dryer is located in a closet, you should make sure there is room for airflow around your dyer. Vacuum up any dust around the base of the dryer to ensure proper ventilation.
- If you notice anything seriously wrong with your dryer, you might want to call a repairman to have them check it out. It’s never worth the risk.
6. Put it All Back Together
- Now, you just have to undo what you just did! The hard part is over.
- Place your clamp back on your dryer duct and reattach it to the wall. Make sure it’s fully sealed and tightened. Do the same thing on the other end with the dryer and the dryer duct. Use foil tape to seal both sides of the dryer duct—this will prevent any leakage.
- If you moved your dryer, move it back into its original home and plug it back in. Likewise, turn the gas supply back on if you turned it off at the beginning. Be sure the dryer vent hose is not twisted or kinked in any areas, as this will prevent the dryer from funneling out lint and extra heat. You don’t want your dryer to overheat because of this!
7. Test it Out
- Quickly run a short cycle with your dryer and make sure everything looks and sounds the way it’s supposed to. You can also use this time to check for any leaks and seal them with your foil tape. Check that your exterior exhaust vent is pushing out hot air. If not, you probably have a leak somewhere or your pipe could be kinked. Be sure to fix any issues immediately!
Save Yourself Time in the Future by Staying on Top of It!
There’s no substitution for regular cleaning and maintenance. However, you can save yourself time by doing a few things to keep lint from building up and putting your family at risk:
- Vacuum and dust the area around your dryer regularly. Even though it doesn’t seem like the outside of your dryer would affect functioning on the inside, the more dust surrounding your dryer, the more dust and lint will make it inside of your dryer. By spending a few extra minutes vacuuming the area, you can save yourself time cleaning the ducts later on.
- Clean the lint trap every time you use your dryer—it will perform better and keep lint from clogging your dryer vent. The more you allow lint to build up on the screen, the more lint will enter the vent and duct. This will cause the ducts to clog. As a result, your dryer will not perform as well, and you could be putting yourself and your family at risk.
- Vacuum regularly around the lint trap and screen. This will further promote a clean lint trap, which will also help keep the vent and duct free from clumps.
How do I know if my exterior dryer duct is functioning properly?
Your exterior dryer duct should have a little flap that opens when air flows out and closes when there is no airflow. Make sure this is properly attached and sealed when it is not in use. If your vent flap remains open, you could be inviting more debris into your duct, not to mention potential unwanted critters like mice or bugs!
Why are there screws in my dryer vent, and what should I do?
There should not be screws anywhere along your dryer vent or duct; however, if you notice them, you should replace your duct as soon as possible. Screws are more likely to catch lint and clog your vent even further. Plus, they could be causing leaks. Foil tape is the best way to secure your dryer vent and hose.
How many twists and turns should my dryer vent hose have in it?
Ideally, none. Any kinks or bends in the dryer vent hose will restrict airflow, causing lint and debris to build up over time. If you notice a lot of elbows or sagging in your duct, you might want to get a replacement that is more appropriately sized for your space. If you must have some 90-degree elbows in your hose, you should reduce the length of your vent by five feet per elbow.
Can I clean my vent on my own, or should I call a professional?
You can easily clean your dryer vent by yourself if you are familiar with the different parts of your dryer and how to remove and replace them. If you are not confident in this, you should hire a professional to take care of it for you and avoid risking your safety or breaking your dryer. Either way, you need to have it cleaned regularly.
Can I use PVC to replace my dryer vent?
This is a big NO-NO! PVC is not allowed to be used as a dryer vent. It can build up a static charge and ignite a fire. Please do not do this. Buy an actual dryer vent instead, even if it costs a few extra bucks.
How often should I clean the dryer vent and duct?
You should clean your lint trap after each use; however, you can clean your vents and duct once every six months to once per year, depending on how many people live in your home and how often you wash clothes.
What else should I be doing to keep my home and family safe from a dryer-induced house fire?
- Keep a fire extinguisher in your laundry room near your dryer. This way, if a fire were to break out because of your dryer, you would have an effective exhaust method close by to prevent the fire from getting worse.
- Don’t run the dryer if you see visible signs of lint building up anywhere. This will reduce the chances of lint clumps catching fire while your dryer runs.
- Don’t start the dryer before you sleep or leave your home. Even with proper maintenance, there’s still a chance your dryer could catch fire at any moment. So, it is important to be present and aware while it’s running in case of a surprise incident.
- Install a smoke alarm and a carbon monoxide alarm in your laundry room. Be sure to check it every few months and replace the batteries for proper functioning.
- Never overload your dryer. Always follow the instructional manual and safety guidelines.
- Consider having your dryer inspected by a professional from time to time. You don’t know everything, so it’s always good to get a second opinion sometimes. This is especially true if you have a gas dryer.