Over time, you may notice that your dryer takes longer than usual to completely dry a load of laundry – maybe two or three cycles are needed rather than one. You may also notice that the outside of the machine gets quite hot while it is in operation or you may feel something burnt. If you notice any of the above, especially the last, you need to clean the dryer vent.
Every time you run your dryer, lint, dust and dirt are squeezed out and collected; most of it ends up in the lint filter, but some of it goes into the dryer vent. It builds up here, which will inevitably lead to a blockage. This slows down the air flow extracted from your dryer, which affects its performance.
Not only does this mean you’ll waste energy and money, it can also damage your dryer, leading to expensive repairs. Worse yet: the combination of lint and heat can cause fires, so it’s essential that you stay in control of this chore.
The good news is, it’s easy to do it yourself. We’ll show you how to clean your dryer vent and how often you need to do it.
How often should you clean the dryer vent?
What you will need
Dedicated cleaning kit
Dustpan and brush (optional)
Mask and gloves (optional)
If you notice any of the above symptoms, it should be cleaned up immediately. If your dryer is working properly, twice a year should be sufficient with regular use.
It shouldn’t take too long to clean it – maybe half an hour, ups – but you might need someone’s help to move the dryer. You can also choose a day when it is not raining, as cleaning from the outside vent may be preferable.
Can I clean the dryer vent without professional help?
You can, but keep in mind that you will need to remove your dryer from the wall and put it back in at the end. Also, if you have a gas dryer you will need to be much more careful when it comes to unplugging and moving it, due to the gas line. If you’re not comfortable doing it, call a professional and don’t try it yourself.
How to clean a dryer vent
1. Prepare yourself – Chances are you have a lot of lint, so wear a mask if you have allergies. Gloves are also a good idea to protect yourself. Cleaning the vent will likely do some damage, so have your vacuum or a dustpan and brush handy.
2. Familiarize yourself with your machine – Move the dryer away from the wall and locate the vent. Be very careful if you have a gas dryer, as moving it could damage the gas line. On the back of your dryer, the vent will look like a short 4-inch diameter exhaust pipe that connects from the dryer to your wall. From there, the vent will likely continue to the outside of your property.
3. Disconnect your dryer – Unplug your dryer from the wall outlet. Next, remove the clamps or the metal tape that connects the exhaust pipe to the vent on the back of the dryer. You must be gentle when removing the hose, otherwise you may damage it. If it’s easier, you can also remove the exhaust pipe from the duct in the wall. If you have a gas dryer, you will need to shut off the gas supply and follow the same steps above. However, if you are unsure of what to do, call a gas professional.
4. Use the lint brush – if your cleaning kit includes a lint brush, insert it into the lint tray. You may need to move it up and down and side to side a few times to loosen or remove lint.
5. Vacuum the excess – Using your vacuum cleaner crevice tool or a flexible hose if provided, immediately pick up any dust and lint you see in the dryer vent or exhaust pipe – that’s just for the lint that you can see, don’t start reaching into the duct as you will get there in a moment. If you have a cordless or handheld vacuum, it’s also worth going out to remove the vent cover and pick up the immediate lint on that side as well.
6. Brush the lint – Using your dryer vent cleaning kit, insert the brush into the vent and rotate it as you sweep back and forth – be ready for a mess! You can also do this from the outside vent if the brush is not deep enough to fit through. We recommend that you clean from the highest access point, so that gravity is on your side. You may also need to brush the inside of the exhaust pipe and the back of your dryer vent.
If the vent cleaning brush is not long enough to pass through the entire vent tube, securely attach the brush to a piece of stiff wire; a wire hanger should work in a pinch. Just make sure there are no sharp edges or ends as this may damage the pipe from the inside.
Some people use leaf blowers to blow the lint from inside the vent, but this tends not to be as efficient as our recommended method and can cause a lot of damage.
6. Wash the ventilation cover – When you have removed the external ventilation cover, wash it in hot soapy water and allow it to dry before replacing it.
7. Clean and reassemble – Using your vacuum cleaner or dustpan and brush, pick up any excess lint from your floors. If your exhaust pipe is a soft sheet design, be sure to replace it with a 90 degree aluminum elbow pipe, such as the Deflecto aluminum dryer vent elbow. These are fire resistant and more durable. Reconnect your exhaust pipe.
8. Test your dryer – Try it before putting it back to make sure everything is installed correctly. This is especially important for gas dryers, as a leaking ventilation system can lead to carbon monoxide build-up.
Your dryer should be working properly again! If you cannot dislodge the excess lint using the above method, you will need to call a professional instead.
How to prevent future lint buildup
You can’t stop lint from building up, but you can slow it down:
- Continue to remove and empty the lint filter between cycles
- Remove the lint filter and vacuum around its housing
- Dust and vacuum around your dryer
- Make sure that no large shrub is blocking the vent outlet
- Limit the number of dryer sheets you use. These can block the lint filter