Wondering how to clean a dryer vent duct? We’ve got you covered. A lot of us get excited when we get something new like a car, a new phone and so on but its one thing to get them and another to maintain it. I’ve seen that a lot of household equipment thrown away due to lack of maintenance. Our main focus today is the dryer vent which if not properly taken care of could cause the breakdown of your home dryer.
The dryer vent is one of the difficult parts of the dryer to clean. Telltale signs that your vent needs cleaning include:
- Clothes take longer and longer to dry or don’t dry fully
- Clothes are hotter than normal at the end of the drying cycle
- Outside of dryer gets very hot
- Outside exhaust vent flapper does not open very much, indicating low exhaust velocity
- Laundry room becomes more humid than usual
- Burnt smell is evident in the laundry room.
Cleaning your dryer vent should be done at least once a year depending on the size of the household and dryer usage because dryer vents accumulate highly flammable lint, and failure to clean out lint is the leading cause of dryer fires. A plugged dryer vent can also burn out the heating element. Here are some tips on how to clean your dryer vent.
These tips will not only maintain your dryer’s efficiency, but also prevent the appliance from breaking down.
Table of Contents
Get Your Cleaning Equipment
The following tools are quite necessary for cleaning your dryer vent:
- A dust cloth.
- Dusting spray.
- A dust brush with an extendable handle.
- Vacuum with a long hose attachment
- Dryer vent brush kit
- UL-listed metal foil duct tape
Special brushes are needed; An example is a long-bristle brush to clean the lint filter area, as well as a round-bristled brush that can clean out a 4-inch round rigid dryer duct—the kind you should have for all concealed portions of your duct run. The round brush tip fastens to a flexible fiberglass shaft that can be lengthened in sections.
Locate Your Duct
In order to properly clean your dryer’s ventilation system, you have to first know where it is and where it ends. In back of most dryer units is a short 4-inch diameter exhaust. This exhaust connects to dedicated ductwork inside the wall through an aluminum elbow or other pipe. Hot air travels along these metal pipes to eventually emerge through an opening on an outside wall of your house.
Safely Disconnect the Dryer
Now that you know the start and endpoints of your duct, it’s time to disconnect the dryer.
For an Electric Dryer
- First, unplug the machine’s power cord from the wall outlet.
- Next, remove any metal tape or clamps keeping the dryer vent pipe fixed to its exhaust.
If it’s easier you might only want to remove material attaching the vent to the duct inside the wall then gently pull the vent pipe away from the wall duct. This will open up more space to work.
For a Gas Dryer
Dryers that run on natural gas require more care, make sure not to disturb the dryer’s gas line too much if you need to reposition the unit. Like gas ranges, the fuel hookup usually consists of a flexible steel hose. The hose should be tightly attached but it’s best to play it safe. Gas leaks are a serious and dangerous business. If at any point you’re unsure, call in a professional.
Move Your Dryer
You will need to pull your dryer away from the wall to clean your vent. Sometimes, very heavy dryers cannot be moved. It may also be hard to move a dryer if you have limited space in your laundry room. In these cases, you may need to hire professional cleaners or get someone to help you.
Empty the Lint Trap Screen or Filter
To start, empty out the lint screen the same way you would after doing laundry. You should do this each time you do laundry. When cleaning the vent, check the lint screen first and remove any small amounts of lint. It’s always good to start with a clean lint screen when cleaning your dryer. Here’s how to clean your lint screen:
Remove and Clean the Lint Trap Filter
Although this action should be performed after each load of clothing that is dried, it is often ignored. Cleaning the lint trap with each load is the best way to prevent lint buildup.
Vacuum the Lint Trap Housing
Vacuum the inside of the lint trap housing, using a long, skinny hose attachment. Follow the initial vacuuming with a second pass, using the long flexible brush from the brush kit. Extend the brush all the way into the bottom of the cavity. With a gentle and slight twisting motion, pull out the brush to extract clumps of lint. Clean the brush bristles with the vacuum. Repeat as needed until there is no more lint that can be removed from the cavity.
Clean the Vent
Visually inspect the outside vent opening and remove any obstructions — usually these are animal nests. Vents at ground level are perfect for rodent nests (chipmunks, squirrels and rats). Upper level vents are more attractive to birds then you tackle the lint. There are several options for removing lint buildup:
- A flexible brush with an extendable wand to grab the lint for easy removal.
- An air compressor to blow it out.
- A combination vacuum cleaner and brush to suck it out; For thorough dryer vent cleaning, vacuum attachments alone do not work as well because they do not agitate the lint to remove it from the walls of the duct, and they can’t reach deep enough inside the dryer’s lint filter housing.
Whichever method you use, it’s important to remove lint throughout the entire length of the vent.
But that’s not all. After removing the lint from the vent, also check the area behind the dryer— the floor, under the dryer and the back of the cabinet because the air being pulled into the dryer comes from behind the dryer, so if there’s lint around there, it will be drawn into the dryer, causing further buildup in the vent.
Put everything back the way it was — with one exception. If your dryer used a soft foil-style vent to link to the wall duct, get rid of it. These hoses are a known fire risk. Instead, replace the original semi-rigid venting with a pair of 90-degree aluminum elbows. Adjustable yet hard, they’re durable and provide the best airflow period. Also make sure all concealed ductwork (hidden inside walls, floors, etc.) must be round, rigid metal duct. Replace any flexible duct that isn’t exposed with rigid metal ductwork.
Then you seal permanent duct sections with UL-listed metal foil duct tape. Do not use regular plastic duct tape, which dries out and fails over time
Push the dryer back into its normal position, making sure it’s not kinking or deforming any of the ductwork. Make sure the lint screen is in place.
Now test run your dryer and confirm that it is venting completely and working smoothly!
Safety Measures To Take
Replace plastic or metal ribbed ductwork with a smooth walled metal ductwork
The flexible plastic or metal foil ductwork that was once commonly used to connect dryers to outside vents are now forbidden by most building codes. These vent tubes were popular because of the ease with which they can be routed through difficult spaces, but because their inside surfaces are ribbed, they can easily catch lint and cause fires due to overheating.
If you have one of these flexible ducts installed, it is best to replace it with smooth-walled metal ductwork. If you can’t remove and replace it, the ductwork should be regularly removed and carefully cleaned out from one end to the other.
Unplug your dryer
Never start cleaning a dryer vent while the dryer is still plugged in. This can be extremely dangerous. Find where your dryer’s cord is plugged into the wall. Disconnect the plug.
Keep the floor around the dryer clean
During the regular cleaning, sweep up any lint or debris found around the floor of your dryer. Your dryer vent will suck up dirt and debris from the floor, which can get the vent dirty faster. Regular sweeping helps maintain a clean dryer vent.
Limit the use of dryer sheets
Dryer sheets can make your clothes smell fresher, but can also contribute to built up lint in a dryer vent. In general, opt against dryer lints when possible. Fabric softener should also only be used in moderation, as debris from fabric softening can clog a dryer’s vent.
Stick to brief dry cycles
Do dry cycles in 30 to 40 minute intervals. This allows for better air circulation. Poor air circulation can cause the buildup of dirt and debris in the dryer vent.