How To Keep Your Dryer Vent Clean

ByMarc Silberberg


Springtime is here and homeowners are sorting through their clothing to see which items are in good condition and which are not. Along with that comes loads and loads of laundry and then to your surprise the clothes are still damp when the dryer rings. Naturally the alarm bells go off in your head thinking that your ten-year-old electric dryer needs to be replaced. However, this problem may be caused by a clogged dryer vent, not allowing the heat to exhaust properly resulting in damp clothing. It’s kind of ironic how your good deed might have just led to saving your home and more importantly your life. 

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, clothes dryers are responsible for 15,600 fires annually, causing 15 deaths and over 100 million dollars in damages. Cleaning out your dryer vent every so often is highly recommended and also extends its life expectancy. This will allow for the heat to exhaust properly and safe usage of a home clothes dryer. Keeping your dryer vent clean is not complicated if you’re the type that likes to do home projects by yourself. It will require some maneuvering of the heavy appliance, getting a little dirty, and a Shop-Vac®. For all other homeowners it is recommended to find a local company that cleans dryer vents that will get the job done for you at a good price.

Finding Your Dryer Vent

The dryer vent is quite easy to find, right behind or beside the clothes dryer. The challenge is when you’re dealing with a longer vent hose like in a duplex or an apartment loft. In such a scenario, the hose will lead to a PVC chimney pipe which exhausts the heat somewhere on the perimeter of the building. For now we will focus on  dryer vent cleaning  for single family homes where the flexible metal duct is short and is hooked up to the dryer vent cap on the outside of the house.

Once you locate the dryer vent, unplug the power and make sure not to disturb the gas line. In most cases, the gas line will flex just enough for you to pull out your clothes dryer. If you max out the flex pipe, stop pulling the dryer out and make the best use of the allotted space to clean out the dryer vent. Now it’s time to disconnect the dryer duct from the wall.

Cleaning The Clothes Dryer

Before cleaning the duct, vacuum out the area on the back of the dryer where the duct was previously attached to. If there are areas which the vacuum hose can’t seem to get to, try using a cloth or a paint brush to remove the lint and dust. One you’re finished with the back of the dryer remove the lint trap and vacuum out the area where the lint trap sits. Very often you will find dust, hair, and clumps of lint there that can get into your dryer vent.

Dryer Vent Cleaning Tool

Now that your appliance is clean it’s time to start cleaning the actual dryer vent. In recent years, residential home owners have gotten their hands on a dryer vent cleaning brush to remove the dust hugging the walls of the dryer vent. The brush has a flexible rod that can be attached to any power drill which will loosen any unwanted elements from the dryer duct. Just be careful with this dryer vent cleaning tool and make sure that the bristles are not too stiff as they could potentially harm the vent resulting in an expensive repair. In addition, it is not recommended to use this type of brush on the flexible metal duct that is attached to your appliance. This is even softer then the actual dryer vent and can easily perforate a hole, hampering your clothes dryer’s performance. These tools work nicely but just be careful not to damage anything. At the same time, one could accomplish cleaning the dryer vent pipe with a household vacuum too.

Cleaning The Dryer Vent Cap

Just like lint and dust will accumulate on the inside of the house it will also build up on the perimeter of the house at the dryer vent cap. Sometimes it can be so bad that a cakey block of lint has totally obstructed the heat from exiting the dryer vent. In such a case it would be no surprise as to why your clothes are still damp after running multiple drying cycles. 

Remove the cap on the outside of the house and vacuum around it until it is free from any debris. Take the cap and pick out any hair or lint that has assisted in creating a netting for the lint build up. This is especially true in a house with lots of girls where long hairs get into the laundry and end up getting blown out of the dryer vent. Once all the unwanted elements are cleared from the surrounding area check the vent cap and see if it needs to be replaced. Dryer vent caps are the front line of defense against any birds or rodents finding a nice warm cozy home in your dryer vent. Once all systems are a go it’s now time to put the vent cap back on.

Check Your Dryer Duct For Damage

Since you were working in the area and maneuvering a vacuum or dryer vent cleaning tool in the duct work it’s now time to check for damage. The foil flexible duct would be the easiest to puncture and a thorough inspection of the hose would insure that it’s fully intact. Even the slightest hole can negatively impact your clothes dryer performance. Once the inspection is complete it’s now time to put your dryer back together again and turn on.

Professional Dryer Vent Cleaning

Clothes dryer vent cleaning can be a bit of a challenge when the vent leading outside the residence is long and hard to access. Sometimes the dryer vent can lead to the roof or to the far side of a building two or three stories up. In such a case it’s recommended to hire a reputable dryer vent cleaning service. They will do all the work necessary and ensure that your clothes dryer is exhausting its heat properly. At the same time, they will use a mix of air blowing and ultra sensitive brushes to insure that none of the duct work gets damaged. 

Roof Dryer Vent Cleaning

If the dryer vent exhausts to the roof the service technician will require access there. Always be sure that you’re dealing with a dryer vent cleaning service that is insured just in case anything happens. Once the worker gains access to the roof the dryer needs to be turned on to identify the correct vent. Sometimes there are multiple vents on top of the roof and you want to be sure that the correct one gets cleaned. Once the vent is located the tabs on the cap  will fold down to allow for removal exposing the dryer vent. Always remember that the dryer needs to be on in order to blow the lint and dust out of the home as not to allow it to fall down the vent. At this point the technician will use a mix of sensitive brushes and air pressure to loosen the lint and dust off the wall of the dryer duct. As the dust becomes loose it will be blown outside the home since the clothes dryer is currently on. 

Roof dryer vent cleaning is not so complicated it’s just that most homeowners are not comfortable working in such a setting. Not only does one need to get dirty from the dust and dirt stuck in the dryer vent, they need to be two stories high doing it. In addition, the last thing you want is to damage a corrugated pipe situated on the roof of your house. Any excess pressure from a dryer duct cleaning brush can perforate the piping that will result in an expensive replacement.

Final Words

Regardless of how you get your dryer vent  cleared, it is something that needs to be done every so often. Simply check the outside vent cap and around the back of the appliance to determine if there is a build up of lint that can signal a build up in the line. While cleaning the dryer vent, clean with care as not to damage any of the duct work. If you live in a residence where the dryer vent leads to the roof it is recommended that you hire a professional dryer vent cleaning service that is licensed and insured. Keep in mind that a clear dryer vent line is not just vital to the performance of your appliance but could actually prevent dryer fires caused by clogged dryer vents. Make it a habit to look out for signs of lint build up in your dryer vent line and not only will your dryer run more efficiently, you and your home will be safe for years to come. 

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