How Often Should You Clean Your Dryer Vent

ByMarc Silberberg


Laundry is one of the things that is part of our daily lives. Most people don’t like doing laundry but there are a few folks out there that find it somewhat therapeutic. They enjoy the fresh smell of the detergent and the reset of newly laundered clothing. Regardless of what your opinion is on laundry there is one thing that needs to be prioritized, that is to get your dryer vent cleaned at least once a year. 

According to the National Fire Protection Agency or better known as NFPA, an estimated average of 15,970 home structure fires involved clothes dryers or washing machines. During the period of 2010 to 2014, 27% of the clothes dryer fires were caused by dust and lint which could have been avoided if properly cleaned by a dryer vent cleaning specialist. Another 26% of these types of fires associated with clothes dryers stemmed from the actual clothing catching fire. With that said it’s imperative to homeowners to make it their business to get their dryer and dryer vent cleaned thoroughly at least once a year.  

How Does a Clothes Dryer Fire Start?

Unfortunately, clothes dryers are the perfect place to start a fire. There is plenty of fire beneath the drum that gets to a very high temperature. When the dryer vent line is overwhelmed with too much lint and debris, the next dry cycle will tend to exhaust the new elements to anywhere. This includes any place that the air could be blown into, such as the nearest heating element. All a fire needs to start is one spark and some oxygen. Then once the fire begins, the clothing inside the dryer will be used as fuel for the fire. One can only imagine what other combustible materials are sitting around the laundry room. It’s of utmost importance to have a smoke detector in your laundry room or near your laundry room that can be an early warning signal for a potential fire. 

How Does Lint Get Into The Dryer Vent?

Even though there is a lint trap it will often let pass some of the elements into the vent hose and exhaust out of the home. If you go to the outside of your home and take a look at the dryer vent cap it will often be littered with lint, strings, and dirt. This is especially true when there is a gridded cap that prevents animals or birds from getting inside. Instead, elements are being scattered around the perimeter on the vent cap causing the lint to form a cakey substance on the outside of the bird guard. Sometimes there is a screen on the inside of the vent cap which can also lead to a build of lint and debris. The challenge here is that you do not want to play host to animals or birds in your dryer vent line. That is why the creators of these dryer vent caps have created screens or guards. But you as a homeowner need to make it your business to keep an eye on the lint build up and clean when necessary. If you happen to be in the yard, give a glance at the dryer vent cap to see if it needs to be cleaned. If it does need to be cleaned, chances are that the dryer vent will need to be vacuumed out as well. 

When the dryer does not exhaust properly there will be less room for the particles to escape which makes it easier for the build up of lint inside the dryer vent. There is simply no place for it to go and it will either remain in the housing or disperse back into the dryer. All parts of the dryer vent need to be clear to allow for the heat to exhaust safely and efficiently. 

Signs Of a Clogged Dryer Vent

It’s important to always make sure that there is a proper air flow in the dryer vent. One of the signs of a poor air flow and a potential clog is after a complete dry cycle the clothes are still somewhat damp. Also take note of the lint trap if it’s moist after the dry cycle. These are signs that the dryer is not exhausting the heat properly which can hamper the appliance’s performance and even worse lead to a fire. It’s also important to note that too many towels in the dryer may not get completely dry even without any air flow issues. The drying capacity has been most likely overwhelmed leaving you with damp bath towels. That’s why it’s highly recommended by many service repair men to do smaller loads of towels. Always make sure that the dryer drum is never more than 75% full in order for there to be room for the items inside to tumble and dry properly.

How Often Should Larger Households Clean Their Dryer Vent?

Living in a house with my wife and four children, I find that the laundry machine and dryer seem to be always going. One can only imagine how often these appliances run in homes with eight or more children. Such homes have brought into their home two washing machines and two dryers because one set of appliances simply cannot handle the load.

Homes that are running their dryers more often should have their dryer vents cleaned at least twice a year. The NFPA recommends to clean dryers once a year but this is based on the average home. Households that find themselves running the clothes dryer pretty often need to keep a close eye on how the appliance is performing. If one is getting the sense that the dryer is not fully drying the clothing inside, it’s highly recommended to have someone come and check it out. If you are not willing to pay a serviceman to check it out at least take a peek into the vent hose with a flashlight. This can be pretty much done by any amateur. If you take note of a buildup of lint, you now know it’s time to get your dryer vent cleaned.

Laundromat Dryer Vent Cleaning

When running a commercial laundromat one needs to make sure that it’s dryer vents get cleaned at least once a year. Unlike home clothes dryers, the appliances used in a laundromat are bigger and more powerful. This allows them to handle larger amounts of laundry at a higher rate. At the same time there is a build up of lint and all of the lint trays need to be cleaned every so often. For this type of job a simple Hoover vacuum is not going to the job. You need to hire a laundromat dryer vent cleaner that can do a very thorough job on all the clothes dryers. That means vacuuming out the front and back of the dryers and the drum compartment area. The real difficult part of which you will need an expert cleaner is for the actual dryer vent. These vents are at least twice the size of a residential dryer vent and can play host to many combustible elements. The specialist will take a special dryer vent cleaning brush and attach it to an air pressured hose which is placed up the vent. At the opening of the vent where the brush is inserted, the cleaner will place a powerful vacuum hose to suck out all the debris which was loosened by the brush. Trying to do this by yourself is a bit complicated and can also be very messy. This is why it’s highly recommended to hire a laundromat dryer vent cleaner that is licensed and insured. Using anyone off the street with no prior commercial dryer vent cleaning knowledge might damage the hosing which can hinder the performance of the appliances.  

Final Words

What should come to mind when thinking about getting your dryer vent clean is fire prevention. It is not uncommon to hear stories about house fires that began from the clothes dryer. I myself can think of two stories where a house fire started from a clothes dryer. The first incident was when a close friend of mine’s dryer went on fire destroying the laundry room and other parts of the home sustained smoke damage. Luckily the home was not destroyed and the family was back in their house just a few months later. Another story that happened around 10 years ago was when a young couple who were renting an apartment had a fire from a clothes dryer. All their belongings were destroyed and they did not even have renters insurance. It was a total loss. Thereafter, the couple made it their business to publicize the importance of having renters insurance.

Homeowners and renters need to make sure that their clothes dryer is performing properly. Damp clothes can be the first sign of a dryer vent being clogged. If you happen to notice that it’s clogged, stop using the appliance and get it cleaned. The NFPA says the following fact, “The leading cause of home clothes dryer fires is failure to clean them”. Adhere to the importance of being cognizant of potential dryer vent clogs and stay safe. 

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