How to Clean Your Dryer Vent

Are your clothes taking longer to dry than usual? Does it smell like something’s burning in the laundry room? Is the top of your dryer too hot to touch after you put in a load of laundry? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it’s time for a routine maintenance on your dryer vent. Warning signs like these are common indications of a dirty or clogged dryer vent that can potentially put your home at risk of a fire.

Local fire departments across the United States responded to nearly 14,000 fires involving dryers per year from 2014-2018. And about one-third of the fires were caused by clogged dryer vents — full of lint, dust and fiber. Combine those clogged vents with hot air and it’s easy to see how fires get started.

Advertisement

That’s why Russ Dimmitt, director of education at the Chimney Safety Institute of America, a nonprofit educational institute that trains and certifies chimney and dryer exhaust technicians, recommends dryer vent cleaning annually.

“If your clothes start taking longer to dry than they have been and progressively get longer and longer, that’s indicative that the vent is beginning to plug and you’re losing airflow,” Dimmitt says. “Airflow is an important part of the clothes drying properly.”

When was the last time you cleaned your dryer? If the answer is “a while” or “never,” here’s how to clean a dryer vent, according to Home Depot and Family Handyman.

Advertisement

Tools and Supplies You’ll Need

Safety gloves

Screwdriver

Dryer vent cleaning kit (This contains brushes and flexible rods to help you clean the dryer. It is available at most hardware stores.)

Vacuum with a hose attachment

Advertisement

Step 1. Disconnect Your Dryer

Before you start cleaning your dryer vent, unplug the power cord attached to your dryer from the outlet or turn off the gas/propane valve if you have a gas dryer. You might need to pull the dryer about a foot away from the wall to reach the cord. 

Detach the dryer vent duct or dryer vent pipe (the thick silver or white hose) from the wall and the dryer. You might need to use a screwdriver to remove the duct. Be sure to remove any metal tape or clamps that attach the vent pipe to its exhaust.

Locate the exterior vent outside your home and remove the cover of the vent from the exit point. This will make it easier to clean with a brush. If you’re not sure where the exterior vent is, turn your dryer on and go outside your home and walk around, listening for the sound of the dryer.

Advertisement

Step 2. Clean the Vent With a Brush Kit

Assemble the cleaning kit. Attach the brush to one of the flexible rods.

Insert the brush into the vent and slowly spin the brush while moving it in a back-and-forth motion to remove all of the lint. If the brush is long enough, it could reach all the way to the exit point outside.

Continue to clean until the vent is lint free.

Once you’ve cleaned the vent, clean the duct and inside the dryer.

Advertisement

Step 3. Vacuum the Vent

Attach a hose to your vacuum so that it can reach any lint that the brush didn’t get.

Insert the vacuum into the vent and remove any leftover lint or dust.

Vacuum up the lint from the duct and inside the dryer as well.

Go to the exterior vent outside your home and vacuum it. (If your vacuum is for in-home use only, skip this step and just clean with the brush.)

Replace the exterior cover on the vent.

Advertisement

Step 4. Reconnect Your Dryer

Once you’ve finished cleaning the vent, it’s time to put the dryer back together.

Make sure the dryer ducts are undamaged before you reconnect everything. Replace the duct if it’s bent or has holes in it.

Re-attach ductwork to the vent and dryer. Use the screwdriver from before.

Move the dryer back into place.

Plug the dryer into the outlet or turn the gas/propane valve back on.

Test the dryer by running it for a couple of minutes to make sure it’s properly connected and to remove any remaining dust.

Note: Although you can clean your dryer vent yourself, Dimmitt always recommends hiring a professional. “They know other things to look for, like proper installation,” he says. Also, if the dryer vents outside through your roof, you may not want to scale a ladder to clean it.

Advertisement

For visual learners, here’s an informative step by step video on how to clean the vent.

Advertisement

Tips on Keeping a Clean Dryer Vent

Now that your dryer vent is clean, it’s time to keep it that way. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends you do the following to reduce the amount of lint in your vent.

Clean the lint trap filter in your dryer after every load of laundry. Not only is it easy, but it’s one of the best ways to prevent dryer fires.

Vacuum in and around where the lint filter goes to get all the extra debris.

Sweep the area around and behind the dryer.

Regularly clean inside the dryer, especially if you use dryer sheets, with a scrub brush and warm, soapy water. You can dry it off with a towel after it’s been rinsed.

Replace plastic or foil ducting material with rigid or corrugated semi-rigid metal duct. This material provides maximum airflow, while the other materials don’t.

Wash clothes that have been stained with gasoline, cooking oils, cleaning agents or other volatile chemicals more than once. You should, preferably, hang dry these clothes rather than putting them in a dryer.

HowStuffWorks earns a small affiliate commission when you purchase through links on our site.

Advertisement

How often should you clean your dryer vent? That depends on how much you use your dryer plus the type of venting system you have. Experts normally recommend cleaning your dryer vent every one to three years.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top