In only four years, there were an estimated 15,970 home fires per year that were caused by clothes dryers or washing machines.Clothes dryers were the culprit for a shocking 92% of those fires. Not only does proper dryer vent cleaning keep your dryer functioning efficiently, but it also helps reduce the risk of becoming one of these scary statistics.
First things first
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. All the moist air in your dryer goes through the filter, and out the vent. If the filter is clogged, it is unable to push the moisture out the vent, making your drying time much, much longer. Most importantly, lint is flammable. If it builds up in an 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.
Locate the duct
Before you can adequately clean your dyer’s ventilation system, you need to track down the exhaust vent. You’ll need to know where it starts and where it ends. Most dryers will have an exhaust vent that connects to piping and ductwork inside the wall. This allows hot air to travel to an opening on an outside wall of your home. Don’t worry; the outside exit vent is capped, allowing warm air to escape while keeping unwanted guests out.
You’ve now located the beginning and end of the duct, so it’s time to disconnect the dryer. Electric dryers are much more straightforward – start by unplugging the unit from the outlet. Remove any clamps or tape that are keeping the vent pipe attached to its exhaust. Pull the vent pipe away from the wall duct – but make sure to be very gentle when doing this. 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. The hose should be attached tightly but proceed with caution. If disconnected, you can cause a gas leak. Move slowly, deliberately and cautiously when working with natural gas dryers. If you are unsure or do not feel comfortable doing this yourself, call a professional.
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 handy, you can attach a standard power drill to the rod to get the 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 are higher and insert the brush from that end. Whichever end the brush is pointing to will be where the debris comes out. Cover your laundry room floor to save time with cleanup if you enter through the outside vent and push the 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 the rod 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.
Once you’re done cleaning, 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!
Try a fun test that will motivate you to clean your dryer vent more frequently! Before cleaning your vent, run the dryer with a full load of wet laundry, and time it. Don’t stop the timer until your items are thoroughly dried. Once you’ve completed cleaning the vent, run another load of similar weight and size. You’ll notice that your laundry is dried much quicker because the hot, moist air is moving more efficiently through the piping now! That saves time AND money, plus keeps you from having to purchase a new dryer.