Your clothes dryer is a fantastic appliance that makes doing laundry easier and more convenient than ever.
Let’s talk about how you can maintain your dryer vent system and the dryer lint trap to achieve optimum energy efficiency, appliance longevity, and keep your home safe.
How often to clean dryer vent? The best practice is to clean your dryer vent system at least once a year and some experts recommend twice. If you have a large family or use your dryer a lot for any other reasons, you will want to clean it more frequently.
WHAT’S CLOGGING MY DRYER VENT SYSTEM?
The simple answer is: LINT. Every time you wash a load of clothes, tiny fibers are removed from the edges of your clothing.
These fibers stick to your wet garments when you transfer them into your dryer.
The hot blowing air in your dryer removes them from your tumbling clothes by the thousands and they accumulate in your dryer and in its vent system.
WHY IS CLOGGING A PROBLEM?
A lot of lint is captured in your dryer’s lint trap and much more can accumulate in your dryer’s lint trap housing, inside the dryer duct, inside the dryer vent, and even inside the dryer itself.
Your dryer does its job by expelling hot, moist air, so the lint can bunch up and clog when it’s moist and then dry out.
- A clogged dryer vent system is a fire hazard because lint is flammable and your dryer blows hot air through the vent system. According to FEMA, there are about 2,900 home dryer fires every year, resulting in 5 deaths, 100 injuries, and $35,000,000 in property damage. The leading cause of these fires – more than 1/3 – is the homeowner’s failure to clean their dryer on a regular basis.
- A clogged dryer vent system increases your energy costs. Your dryer’s efficiency depends on fluidly blowing hot air out of your dryer through the vent system. If your dryer vent system is obstructed by accumulated lint, it takes longer for your load to dry and so it takes more energy to run the dryer longer and push out the hot air.
HOW DO I KNOW IF MY DRYER VENT NEEDS CLEANING?
You don’t have to be an appliance expert to know when your dryer vent system could use a good cleaning.
Here are four simple indicators that it’s time to clean your dryer vent system:
- It’s been a year since the last time you cleaned it
- You see that there’s a lot of lint accumulated behind the dryer, which tells you that all the lint isn’t able to get into and then through the vent system and is backing up
- You notice that there are mold and mildew around the dryer or where the vent goes through the laundry room wall, which indicates that the moist air from the dryer is escaping because it can’t flow freely through the vent system
- Your drying is frequently overheating, which could be because it’s motor is working too hard to push out the hot, moist air and it’s running too long to dry a load
If you observe any of these things, it’s time to take immediate action to save on energy costs, to prevent costly repairs necessitated by having an overworked dryer, and, most importantly, to protect your family and home from a tragic fire.
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CAN I CLEAN DRYER VENT MYSELF?
Many homeowners prefer to save money by cleaning their dryer vent system themselves.
It’s a good and relatively simple do-it-yourself project, but you should be aware of some limitations and cautions.
If your dryer vent system is too long, or if it has a lot of bends and twists to it, you may find that cleaning it by yourself is extremely difficult or maybe even impossible. How do you know?
You can get a good idea about the length of your dryer vent system by eyeballing or measuring how far the dryer is from the exterior wall where you find the dryer exhaust port.
If the dryer vent system’s path is short and straight, you can most likely easily do the job yourself.
If the vent path is long or twisty, it’s better to hire a professional.
It’s quick and easy to clean your dryer vent system if your dryer is located next to an exterior wall and the vent system path is short and straight.
In either case, you will approach this project both from outside the house and from inside.
OUTSIDE THE HOUSE
- Remove the vent system exhaust port cover. This isn’t difficult because it will just snap off and snap back on, or easily screw on and off. Most vent system exhaust ports are located on the side of your house, usually a few feet off the ground. Occasionally an exhaust port will be on the roof, especially if the dryer is located close to the center of the home.
- You’ll typically find a ball of lint just inside the duct. Reach in and gently remove any lint that’s accumulated. You’ll also want to remove any accumulated lint off the vent exhaust cover. You’ll be surprised by how much lint can accumulate.
- Run your ShopVac or vacuum into the vent and over the vent cover to suck up any remnants. You can also use a brush if you don’t have a vacuum handy.
- Reinstall the exhaust port cover by either snapping or screwing it back in place.
INSIDE THE HOUSE
- Safety First: Make sure that you unplug your electric dryer or turn off the gas if you have a gas dryer.
- Pull the dryer away from the wall. If you have a gas dryer, turn off the gas before moving the dryer. Be patient in either case, because It’s not unusual to have to go through some contortions to reach everything, but you can do it.
- You’ll see a flexible accordion-like duct running from the dryer to another vent inside the wall. It’s usually held in place by a band clamp, which you will unscrew to free the duct from the back of the dryer. Free the other end of the flexible duct and check it out for damage. They usually don’t need to be replaced unless you see a hole or tear or you notice that the duct has been crushed.
- Brush and vacuum lint from the inside of the flexible duct. When you do this, be careful not to puncture or tear the flexible duct.
- Brush and vacuum the lint from the solid vent system that runs through the wall to the vent system exhaust port.
- Reconnect the flexible duct to the back of the dryer and to the solid duct.
- Move the dryer back into its original position. You can plug an electric dryer in before pushing it back toward the wall if you want because it’s often easier to reach. If you have a gas dryer, push it into place before turning the gas back on.
Dryer vent cleaning kits range in price based on features and quality. You can expect to spend between $10 and $35 in most stores.
You can probably get away with the simplest, least expensive kits if you have a short, straight dryer vent system.
You may need to spend more if your dryer vent system is longer and you want to do a more thorough job.
Kits typically include a number of thin, flexible rods to which you attach a brush.
You gently spin the rod while moving the brush inside the duct to loosen lint deposits so your vacuum can suck them up.
Pricier kits include handy attachments like tools to break up clogs and templates for holding your rods and vacuum hose in place at the mouth of the duct.
WHEN IS IT TIME TO CALL A PRO?
If you’re not a do-it-yourselfer or your dryer vent system is long or features a lot of bends, you’re better off having it professionally cleaned.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO HAVE YOUR DRYER VENT CLEANED?
Your cost will depend on where you live and the type and condition of your dryer vent system, but most HVAC companies or duct cleaning specialists charge as little as $90 to clean a dryer vent system.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU CLEAN YOUR DRYER LINT TRAP?
Your lint trap is an important part of your dryer vent system and should be cleaned every time you dry a load of clothes.
DO DRYER SHEETS CLOG LINT TRAP?
The residue from dryer sheets can coat your lint trap screen. Here’s how you clean it:
- Roll the lint off with your fingers.
- Wet the screen with warm water
- Use a nylon brush to gently scrub the screen with dish detergent and water
- Rinse, pat dry, and reinstall
A clean dryer vent system is essential to smooth and efficient operation of your dryer. It should be cleaned every 6-12 months.
You can do it yourself or hire a professional. You should clean your lint trap every time you use your dryer.