Hand disconnecting dryer duct

Preventing House Fires: How to Clean Your Dryer Vent

When was the last time you cleaned out your dryer vent? Not just the lint trap, but the vent and the ductwork behind the dryer that direct hot air out of your home. Over time, dust and dryer lint can build up. This is especially true if the lint trap isn’t cleaned after every load or if the lint trap is faulty somehow.

Thousands of structure fires a year in the United States are caused by dirty dryer vents. The combination of high heat and flammable materials poses a serious fire hazard.  Even if it doesn’t start a fire, a dirty dryer vent can lower your dryer’s efficiency and cost you money on utilities. Without proper airflow, your clothes dryer is going to run at less than peak efficiency meaning you have to run loads through the dryer multiple times.

Save yourself time, money, and stress by tackling this simple DIY cleaning task. Restoration Partners offers professional smoke and fire damage restoration services, but we’d much rather help prevent house fires than just restore homes to normal after one. Below, we’ve included a list of 4 simple steps on how to clean your dryer vents at home — for best results, this should be done at least once per year.

 

Here are the tools you’ll need:

  • Safety gloves
  • A vacuum cleaner with a hose attachment
  • A dryer vent cleaning kit (optional, but recommended)

 

1. Fully Disconnect Your Clothes Dryer

The first thing you need to do is unplug your dryer. Do this before you start disconnecting ductwork to make sure that your workspace is safe.
If you have a gas dryer, turn off the gas supply valve.
Once everything is disconnected, pull the clothes dryer out away from the wall. About a foot of space is all you’ll need, but you can give yourself more space is needed.
Disconnect the dryer duct from the back of the dryer — and from the wall if possible! Most buildup is typically located where the dryer’s exhaust meets the start of the ductwork. Exposing this space will allow you to clean it well.

2. Vacuum Your Dryer Vent

Before you start, wear a pair of safety gloves as a precaution. While it SHOULD be safe to clean this area of your dryer, there may be sharp edges or corners that could cause injury.
Next, remove any loose lint from the exhaust port on the back of your dryer.
Carefully use your vacuum’s hose attachment to clean out the exhaust port and the ductwork. Be careful not to poke, prod, or scrape too hard. You don’t want to turn your DIY dryer cleaning job into a costly repair!
Once the interior vent has been cleaned, locate your home’s exterior dryer exhaust and vacuum it out as well.

 

3. Brush Out Dryer Vent and Ductwork

If you notice during your vacuuming that there is stuck or stubborn lint in your vent or ducts, a dryer vent cleaning kit can be helpful.
These kits contain vent-safe flexible brushes that can be used to clean your ductwork more thoroughly.
Just feed the brush into the ductwork and rotate it slightly. Most kits contain extendable brushes that will allow you to clean deep into the ducts. Continue moving the brush back and forth until the ductwork is free of dust and lint.
Finally, give the vent and ducts one final pass with the vacuum. This will remove any dryer lint or dust that got knocked loose during the brushing process.

 

4. Reconnect Your Clothes Dryer

When you’re done vacuuming and brushing, take a moment and inspect your handiwork. Make sure that everything looks clean and that nothing was damaged in the process.
If everything looks good, you can reconnect your clothes dryer.
Start by reconnecting your ductwork to your dryer and to the wall.
Push the dryer back into place, taking care to make sure that the duct work doesn’t get bent or folded out of shape. Sharp turns or bends can cause lint to build up, fast! Keep the duct as straight as possible to prevent future build up.
Plug the dryer back in. If you have a gas dryer, re-open the supply valve.
Finally, run the dryer empty for 15-20 minutes to make sure all of the connections are good. This will also help knock any remaining debris loose.