How to Clean a Dryer Vent [Step-by-Step Guide]

The United States Fire Administration reported that almost 3,000 house fires occurred each year due to clothes dryers. That includes over 100 injuries and approximately $35 million in damages.

Even with the best filter and lint catcher, dust and debris get filtered out through the ductwork and can lead to clogging and problems. A habitual dryer cleaning is crucial to the wellbeing of your dryer and your home.

Here’s a step-by-step guide for how to clean a dryer vent.

Signs Your Dryer Vent Is in Need of Cleaning

On average, you should clean your dryer vent every six to 12 months. This is relative to how often you use your dryer; more uses means clean more often, less naturally means less. These annual cleanings are important in preventing dryer fires.

Regardless, before going into the cleaning guide, there are some key signs that indicate your dryer vent needs cleaning.

Your clothes are not fully drying. If your dryer is relatively new but doesn’t seem to work as well as it once did, check the dryer vent. Less air filtering out means that moisture can’t escape either.

Your clothes and/or the dryer are overheating. If you pull a shirt out of the dryer and it’s hot like a fire-poker, you’ve got a problem. The same goes for the dryer. Check to vent ASAP.

Is your laundry room humid? If so, this could indicate that moisture isn’t escaping through the vent.

Another issue is if the outside exhaust vent flap isn’t opening. Check to confirm this isn’t the case.

Finally, if you smell something burning, shut off the dryer immediately and check the ventilation as it likely needs to be cleaned.

How to Clean a Dryer Vent

Dryer vent hose cleaning isn’t all that complex. Instructions largely stay the same regardless of your unit, or if it is electric or gas-fueled. No matter what, check the instructions for your particular model in case there are specifics not mentioned below.

Shut Off and Unplug the Dryer

Simple and straight forward, ensure the unit is off and unplugged. Gas units need to have the gas shut off as well, which usually comes through a lever near the unit. Don’t be afraid to call a professional if you’re uncomfortable with this step.

Move the Dryer and Undo the Vent Clamp

It’s likely your dryer is back against a wall. Pull it out just far enough that you have access to the ductwork behind it. This should look like a flexible metal tube.

Follow the duct to the wall it connects with. Unscrew the clamp that holds this pipe to the wall opening and, depending on the clamp type, you’ll need to unscrew it or press down on the clamp to release it.

While performing this step, check for piping cracks or any signs of wear or degradation. If these are present, you’ll need to repair or replace the vent piping.

Inspect the Piping, Remove Clogs

The vent, ideally, should be clear throughout, with minimal obstructions or lint. If you can’t see through to the other side, that means there’s a lot of blockages.

Wear gloves to prevent yourself and keep your hands clean. Manually reach inside the tube and remove any blockages. Depending on the length of the vent, and the extent of the clog, you may require a plumber’s snake or a special dryer vent cleaning tool.

A dryer vent cleaning kit is also recommended for those with, particularly nasty clogs. These tools are designed to weave through vents and remove large clogs without damaging the piping around them.

Vacuum Remaining Lint

Once you’ve removed the large clogs, you should be able to go in with a vacuum or shop vac and suck out any remaining lint. The dryer vent cleaning tool can also help if your piping is particularly fragile.

Head Outside and Inspect the Exterior Vent

This is best done on a warm day, and not a rainy or snowy one. Ideally, your vent should be elevated far enough off the ground that rain and snow won’t be a factor in clearing the vent.

Regardless, ensure there are no other objects outside your vent that are obstructing it. These could be planters, children’s toys, or lawn care equipment that got put in a bad spot.

As well, if you’ve found critters making a home near your vent (it is a warm spot in the winter) you’ll need to hire a pest removal service.

Once you’ve cleared the exterior vent, it’s time to look inside. You’ll likely need to remove a flap or cover to get a good look. Ensure the flaps are working correctly and that they aren’t the reason your dryer isn’t functioning properly.

Inside, check for any remaining lint and debris and remove it using your dryer cleaning tool or by hand. Afterwords, a quick vacuuming can help.

Once you’ve done this, reattach the flap and head back inside.

Reconnect and Restart Your Dryer

Reattach the dryer vent to the dryer via the fastening clamp. Ensure the connection with the wall is secure and that everything is tight and secure.

Clean up and lint that may have fallen onto the floor before you push the dryer back into place.

Reconnect the gas, power, and slide the unit back into place. Ensure you’ve done everything properly and reread the manual if you’re unsure.

Once you’re done, put in a small load of clothes and start the dryer. Inspect the outside vent to see if everything is working properly while the dryer is running.

Once the clothes come out, you should hopefully notice a difference in drying quality. Congrats!

Clean Out the Dryer Vents Like a Pro

Now you know how to clean a dryer vent. It’s not so difficult, and likely will take under one hour to complete. Getting a specific tool can help speed up the process, but a vacuum and some gloves are all that’s required to get you into working order.

Keep yourself safe by limiting fire-risks in your home. If you like this content and want more, check out some of our articles on housing and other cleaning tips.

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