In a period of only four years, there were an estimated 15,970 home fires that were caused by clothes dryers or washing machines each year. In fact, clothes dryers were the culprit for a shocking 92% of those fires. Not only does proper dryer vent cleaning keep your dryer functioning efficiently, it also helps reduce your risk to become one of these scary statistics.
Important Note: If you aren’t cleaning out your lint trap every time you use your dryer, start doing that immediately! It’s much more than just a place that collects lint. First, all that moist air in your dryer goes through that filter, and out the vent. If the filter is clogged, it can’t get out to the vent, making your dryer time much, much longer. Secondly, lint is flammable. If it builds up in a huge appliance that intentionally creates heat, you’re playing with fire. Every other month, take it out, wash it with warm soapy water and a scrub brush, and replace it.
Here’s how to give your dryer vent a proper cleaning, DIY style:
Locate: Track down the dryer’s ventilation system. You’ll need to know where it starts and where it ends. Most dryers will have an exhaust that connects to piping and ductwork inside the wall, and releases the hot air that travels through it, to an opening on an outside wall of your home. If you often smell that fresh dryer sheet scent wafting around outside, just follow it, and you’ve found the opening!
Disconnect: You’ve now located the beginning and end of the duct, so now you can disconnect the dryer. Electric dryers are much more simple – unplug it, then remove the clamps that are keeping the vent pipe attached to its exhaust. Pull the vent pip away from the wall duct – but be very gentle. Now, you can easily move the dryer out of the way.
Natural gas dryers are a little more complicated. Be sure you don’t move the gas line too much when you move the dryer. This can cause a gas leak if they aren’t tightly attached. Move slowly, deliberately and cautiously when working with natural gas dryers.
Clean: Now that you can see the dryer duct opening in your laundry room, you need to remove the duct flap or cover from the outside exit vent. For this next step, your best bet is to purchase a vent cleaning kit. You’ll find these for around $20 at home improvement stores. They will contain a lint brush, and multiple 2-foot-long flexible segments that will fit together to create a rod reaching 12 feet. If you’re pretty handy, you may be able to attach a standard power drill to the rod, to get that brush spinning at a better speed than if done by hand.
Slide the brush end of the rod into the entry duct or the exit duct. Gravity will be your advantage in this scenario, so figure out which ducts is higher and insert the brush from that end. Not that whichever end the brush is pointing to, will be the end that pushes out debris. Cover your laundry room floor to save time with cleanup if you enter through the outside vent and push debris into the laundry room vent.
Push the rod, brush end first, as far as you can. Note that there may be twists and turns in this dedicated ductwork, so move slowly and be patient with it. Move it back and forth (or use the power drill to speed up the process) until debris begins to come out the other end. Be prepared – if you’ve never cleaned the dryer vent or it’s been quite a while, there will likely be a lot of lint, dirt and debris buildup coming out of the pipe and onto your floor.
Re-assemble: One you’re done cleaning, simply work in reverse to re-assemble the dryer to its vent. Attach it securely, then move the dryer back into place. Viola! You’re done!
A fun test will motivate you to clean your dryer vent more frequently. Run the dryer with a full load of wet laundry, and time it. Don’t stop the timer until the laundry is fully dried. Do this before cleaning the vent. After cleaning the vent, run another load of similar weight and size. You’ll notice that your laundry is done much quicker, because the hot, moist air is moving more efficiently through the piping now! That save time AND money, plus keeps you from having to purchase a new dryer, which is much more costly than a few hours of time and a $20 kit.