A clothes dryer may not look scary or dangerous on the outside, but what happens on the inside is the cause of more house fires every year. A dryer vent duct can have massive and seriously dangerous build-up without you even realizing it. Regular dryer vent duct cleaning and maintenance can protect your family and your home investment.

Why You Should Clean Your Dryer Vent

removing dryer duct to clean vents

Lint. The small particles of cloth and fiber that separate from your clothing are more troublesome than you'd think. In fact, according to the U.S. Fire Administration, more than 2,900 home fires are started every year by clothes dryers. Weird, right? These house fires happen because of a lint buildup and the lack of maintenance from home owners.

Each load of laundry that goes through your washing and drying machines contains lint. Even though there are removable lint filters in dryers, they don't catch everything. Lint can make its way past the filter and traps itself in crevices inside the filter and along they dryer vent hose or even the dryer vent duct. As the collections build up, they can cause overheating by restricting airflow and causing the lint to ignite. It's crazy to think about how this could be going on in your own home, but by cleaning out your dryer vent, you can easily avoid this fate.

Warning Signs

Lint build up can happen when you least expect it, however, there are several warning signs that can give you a heads up:

  • There is an evident burnt smell in the laundry room
  • The laundry room feels humid
  • Outside exhaust vent flapper is not opening very much
  • The outside of your dryer gets very hot
  • Clothes feel hotter in temperature than normal at the end of the drying cycle
  • Clothes take longer to dry or don't dry fully when in the machine
outside exhaust vent flapper

How To Clean Your Dryer Vent

If you've witnessed any of the warning signs, it's time to get to work on cleaning your dryer vent and duct. Before we dive into how to clean your dryer vent, you will need the following supplies:

  • Vacuum with a long hose attachment
  • Screwdrivers
  • Dryer vent brush kit
  • UL-listed metal foil duct tape

Now, let's get down to business - to defeat the lint build up, which can be just as invasive as the Huns.

Remove the Lint Trap Filter: The first step to cleaning your dryer vent is to remove and clean the lint trap filter. This is actually something you should do before or after each dryer load to regularly keep lint out of the venting system. Some people forget about this or don't do it before each load (I was unfortunately guilty of this, but not anymore). By cleaning the lint trap before each load, you can prevent lint buildup on a regular basis.

lint filter in dryer

Vacuum the Lint Trap Housing: So, you've cleaned out the filter, but what about where the filter is housed? Lint can get trapped there as well, so after removing the filter, take a skinny hose attachment to your vacuum and remove the remaining lint from the area.

Disconnect the Dryer Duct: Here comes the fun part (please sense my sarcasm) of cleaning out the actual dryer duct. Unplug your dryer's power cord. If you have a gas dryer, turn off the gas valve. Then, disconnect the duct joint closest to the dryer, gently pull the dryer away from the wall, and stare into the lint abyss. Remove each section carefully. It's pretty crazy to think that all this lint made it past the filter, right? Nasty.

vacuuming lint out of dryer vent duct

Vacuum the Ductwork: Now it's the satisfying part (no sarcasm) of vacuuming that lint build up right out of the dryer's ductwork. This is where having a dryer brush (see below) can come in handy. Insert the brush into each section of the vent to sweep away the lint build up. Excess lint can be removed through the skinny hose attachment on a vacuum as well.

Reattach (or Replace) the Ductwork: It's best to use an adjustable 90-degree elbow at the exhaust end of your dryer. Absolutely do NOT use unlisted metal transition duct or any foil or vinyl flexible duct. Use a screwdriver to tighten a 4-inch worm-drive stainless steal clamp when attaching metal and ductwork sections. Any concealed ducting (hidden inside walls, floors, etc.) must be round, rigid metal duct. Replace any flexible duct that isn't exposed with rigid metal duct and use UL-listed metal foil duct tape to seal.

Alternative Brush Methods

To thoroughly clean out your dryer vent, it may require special brushes. Vacuum attachments do not work as well alone because they do not agitate the lint to remove it from the walls of the duct. They also can't always reach deep enough inside the dryer's lint filter housing. Luckily, there are brush kits available with detailed instructions on how to accurately use them to clean your dryer ducts.

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