How and Why You Need to Clean Out Your Dryer Vent

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The dryer.  It’s one of those appliances that you forget about until it doesn’t work, right? Nothing is quite as bad as either running to the laundromat or ‘freeze drying’ your laundry in December because the dryer took a dump. Sure, we’ll remember to clean out the lint trap every once in a while. Hey maybe you even have a trash can next to the dryer with enough lint to make a quilt thrown in there. But another key part of maintenance that is often neglected is the dryer vent. Rarely does anyone take the vent off to prevent clogs. But that vent is a very important part of maintaining the dryer.

Heck, It’s Out of Sight – Why Clean the Dryer Vent?

The vent, you might be shocked to learn, is there to…gasp…vent the hot air out of the dryer and out of the house. Not only is the air hot, but it’s incredibly humid as it carries all the wetness from your clothes out also. It’s pretty simple if you think about it. But the vent also can carry bits of lint and fibers of fabric that are not caught by the lint trap – which can be a lot of material if you forget to empty the trap like I do.  When the trap is full, the lint has nowhere to go but into the vent. It can take a long time to accumulate a clump, but rest assured, clumps do happen, and when they do it’s no bueno for sure.

There are a couple of reasons why you should check the vent for clumps. First, it can really kill the efficiency of the dryer. A clump blocks and slows air from leaving the dryer, which results in a backup of moisture in the dryer, causing the clothes to take even longer to dry. It can also cause an accumulation of moisture in the lines (which may freeze in winter months) or inside the dryer as well, which can cause problems with rust and electrical problems. However, the greatest concern from unchecked vents comes from dryer fires. Lint that isn’t sopping wet is actually incredibly flammable. I remember a survival instructor once told me that the greatest fire starter ‘stuff’ to carry was a 9 V battery, steel wool, and dryer lint.  Works every time.  Tell you something?  A large clog that is overheated or gets hit by a spark can go up like a roller skate Barbie rolling through a puddle of gasoline. Seriously, over 15,000 dryer fires occur a year.  Check the video below if you don’t believe me. The sad thing is, cleaning a dryer vent is fairly easy.  It just takes some muscle.

Now That You Know Why –  Here’s How to Clean That Vent

  1. Pull the dryer away from the wall. You’ll want to unplug it and turn off the gas if you have a gas model.
  2. Using a screwdriver or nut driver, unhook the vent from the vent connection on the back of the dryer and finish pulling the dryer out of the way.
  3. Pull any lint from the vent connection and reach into the vent line to remove any clumps that have formed inside.
  4. If the vent is deeper than your arm is long, try using a plumber’s snake or a straightened clothes hanger to reach the rest.
  5. Go outside where the vent attaches to the wall and reach inside (removing the faceplate if necessary).  Remove anything from this end.
  6. Re-attach the vent and hook the dryer back up, pushing it gently so that you don’t crimp or crinkle the dryer vent.
  7. Run the dryer for a few minutes with no laundry to help blow out any loose particles that may still be floating around.

Congratulations – you’ve successfully avoided letting your house catch on fire and maybe saved yourself some loot as well!

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About Leroy

LeRoy was born into a long line of contractors/carpenters/missing links which maybe why he fell naturally into tools and fishing with his paws, errr, bare hands. He has since punctured, stabbed or electrocuted every appendage that can be discussed in mixed company. Given his natural fur vest, he has never been cold. In his parallel life he is a mild mannered environmental scientist where he builds, destroys and builds again. Which let’s face it is much cooler than Superman’s parallel life.

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6 thoughts on “How and Why You Need to Clean Out Your Dryer Vent”

  1. Our vent is at the rear of the dryer and it then runs straight up to the roof of the house. It is smooth metal. Any suggestions on how to clean that out, in addition to the short piece of flexible tubing immediately out the rear of the dryer?

  2. It’s so important to clean the dryer vent. I never leave the house or go to sleep when the dryer is running and have a smoke detector in the laundry area.

  3. I would also add that straight metal duct with elbows is much better than using an accordion hose. Using rigid duct is not always possible but if you can rig one up it will make life much easier. I have an 4 inch x 10 foot section with two 90’s and in the past two years it has accumulated only the slightest hint of fuzz on the inside. Bonus: the duct is all metal and grounded to the machine so you don’t get static and if you attach the pieces with aluminum tape there are no screws for the lint to catch on. Fix it right and forget it.

    • Just cleaned my own yesterday and Bob is definitely right, the smooth interiors of straight duct (not flex/accordian type) and using metal duct tape make for much better and cleaner ducts. After hearing some horror stories from a couple jobs my Dad (aka Phil who writes for Home Fixated and was kind enough to lend me his dryer duct brush tool) just worked on, I wanted to clean mine right away…I was actually disappointed at how little mess we got but I think that’s all the more argument for using as smooth a duct as possible!


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