Taking Care of Your Washer & Dryer Personally

ByMarc Silberberg


I like to think that I have an open house to guests and try to emulate our forefather, Abraham. I enjoy cooking and baking our guests’ favorite dishes and making sure the guest room is fully stocked with water and refreshments. I want my guests to feel free to borrow the terry robe in the guest closet and open my frig whenever they want. However, there are two items in my house that I am very possessive about and those are my washer and dryer. I have had to replace these appliances a couple of times already and do not want them to be abused by strangers. Even the few times I have had my housekeeper try to use the washing machine I was so sorry I did. Ramming in the most towels and sheets that could possibly fit is not my idea of doing a load. Besides the fact the laundry pieces become creased and worn out before their time, there is a good chance that the washer will eventually break no matter how heavy duty the manufacturer claims it to be.

Once I had an incident with a member of the family who decided to do a load right when my guests were settled in the guest room downstairs right near my laundry room. The person in question failed to balance the clothes and underloaded the machine when he pressed the extra-large load button. Lucky for us that there was a wooden saddle at the doorway of the guest room because the water overflowed from the washer onto the laundry room floor and into the hallway adjacent to the guest room. One of the guests who needed to use the restroom did not have his rain boots with him and had to embarrassingly call for help.

As far as my clothes dryer, I am even more protective of it than my washer. Unfortunately, many years ago the sister of an acquaintance of mine was killed when her house caught fire as she was asleep, and her dryer was on. So, it’s more than keeping my dryer working, I am obsessed with making sure no one turns on the dryer late at night or when no one is home. There are just too many rules that I have acquired over the many years for me to explain to a visitor. I may appear nosy but if a guest is in need of my laundry appliances, I must be there in the laundry room to supervise.

Some of us might believe that it is only the brand that will determine the effectiveness of our clothes dryer. There are many ratings online to show us which brands are the best to purchase. Those of us who have had years of experience with clothes dryers know that it goes much deeper than that. The prices of appliances such as stoves and clothes dryers can be determined just as much on their outer trappings than on the actual efficiency of the appliance itself. It would be much more prudent to check on the safety features of a potential dryer purchase than the fancy buttons and computer capabilities.

How Can a Household Assure the Safety of its Clothes Dryer?

I have a sign glued onto the front of my clothes dryer above the lint trap warning users that they must clean the lint trap before and after every use. This is still not a sufficient safety measure although it is the easiest one to implement. That’s because the lint buildup does not stop at the lint trap.

If you are fortunate enough to live in a single dwelling home, then you can see exactly where the dryer exhaust vent is going. If your laundry room is situated adjacent to an exterior wall, then you will have easier access to your outside dryer exhaust. I once tried to check if the coast was clear of lint and debris in the vent channel that goes from the outside of the house to my dryer. I was tempted to use a straightened-out hanger to clean the vent but realized that would not be wise and found instead a blunter piece of leftover wood. I was afraid to get too close to the sides of the vent for fear of puncturing it. So, I was not successful in checking if there was any blockage of lint and debris in the vent. This is something that a professional vent cleaning service should be called for.

Because if the vent is clogged it won’t matter how diligent you are in cleaning out the lint trap on your dryer, there will be backup from the outside vent. This is where the fire hazard begins. So, although I am persistent in making sure that I always clean the vent before and after each load this is not a fool proof method of fire prevention. In fact, if you take out the lint depositing piece you will see a large hole that has some lint in it as well. All this must be cleaned professionally to be totally effective. Also, don’t be foolish and think that vent cleaning is an unnecessary expense, it will end up saving you money. This is because the drying time decreases when all the lint traps, filters and vents are spic and span. If you notice that your fluffy towels are not drying properly, or you have to keep repeating a cycle over again it is time to check out your dryer vents. Yes, it’s important to clean the lint trap, but that is just the first step.

So, You Want to Clean Your Dryer Vent Yourself

It sounds fairly easy especially if you have watched some do it yourself videos on YouTube. Why can’t a single-family homeowner clean their own dryer and vents by themselves? Let’s look at a superficial view of dryer vent cleaning from a novice’s perspective. You see that the vent can be removed fairly easily from the back of your dryer. You are instructed to use a vacuum cleaner and not put your bare hands into the vents. Sounds so far so good. You realize that the tube is not more than about four feet in length so you could use a long dust brush in addition to the vacuum cleaner to get the sides of the tube cleaned out. Although this sounds and looks easy enough, beware of complications. For example, if you have a great buildup of debris and lint you will be transferring this garbage from your vent to your vacuum cleaner. How much abuse do you think your vacuum cleaner can withstand? After all it is not an industrial machine but really made to pick up dust and small particles from your floors. So, let’s imagine that you were successful in cleaning your ducts. What will happen to your vacuum cleaner? There is a fair chance that it will not outlast this rigorous cleaning experience. So, you traded in the money you thought you saved on dryer duct cleaning with the price of purchasing a new vacuum cleaner.

Also are you sure you will be able to reattach your vent hose properly to the clothes dryer? If it is not repositioned in an airtight way you will be losing precious heat and money that could have been spent on a professional vent cleaning service. Also, there is a chance that you will puncture the hose and it might not be in a place you will notice immediately.

Another unwelcome surprise could be a dead bird or some other small animal that has either gotten stuck in the duct or decided to bear their offspring in your nice cozy soft and warm dryer duct. This is certainly a job for an expert as you will not know if the dead animal has stuck to the dryer duct until you start cleaning it. The duct may be beyond cleaning and the easiest thing would be to replace the duct tubing with a brand new one. From my experience even people who do succeed in cleaning their dryer duct without damaging it do not really clean it completely. It’s only half a job done for the time being but eventually the lint and debris that is stuck to the tubing can only be cleaned out in a professional manner.

In Summary

To a devoted homeowner, their laundry room is personal. There are personal items that must be washed and line dried or very delicately thrown in the dryer for a short time. It pays to stay close by while your clothes and linen are in the dryer. It will save you hours of work in ironing and folding your laundry. Keeping an eye on the goings on with your clothes dryer will save you much anguish if something breaks or more seriously causes a fire. A stranger, housekeeper or guest may stuff the dryer with lots of heavy paraphernalia that would be more appropriate for an industrial type of dryer. Sometimes guests who are staying for a brief stay on a long trip away from home will want to get a good fat load in before leaving. Make sure you are right there to prevent that from happening. If you do find that your dryer has stopped working properly make sure to call in a highly recommended vent cleaning specialist. You will be happy you did.

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