Dryer Vent Cleaning: How to Do It Yourself
Cleaning your dryer vent at least once a year is one of the most critical home maintenance tasks. No, cleaning it annually is not overkill, and we’ve three reasons why:
- Dirty dryer vents are the leading cause of house fires in the US.
- Clogged ducts prevent the dryer from venting the steam from drying clothes, leaving you with still-damp clothes when the cycle finishes.
- By making your dryer work longer and harder to dry clothes, the issue will lead to higher electrical bills, mechanical issues and expensive breakdowns.
Any of the above is reason enough to perform the recommended annual dryer vent cleaning, so we’ll take it for granted that you’re now convinced. While you can call a dryer vent cleaning company (a service we provide for the Omaha, Des Moines, and Lincoln metro areas), it is possible to accomplish yourself with the right tools.
Signs It’s Time to Clean Your Dryer Vent
- Dryer taking longer than usual to complete a cycle
- Clothes are too hot to handle afterward
- A burning smell in or around your laundry area
- The top of the dryer is hot to the touch
- Clothes shrinking more than usual
- It’s been a year since it was last cleaned
Unfortunately, the LintAlert safety alarm has been discontinued, so you will have to rely on these signs to determine when it’s time to clean.
The Tools You’ll Need
To clean a dryer vent, you’ll need a dryer vent cleaning kit, which won’t set you back much. Don’t sweat the differences between kits, they all work the same way: a brush with flexible extension rods, which can either be used by hand or attached to a drill for a more thorough cleaning.
Other tools you’ll need include:
- Shop Vacuum
- Safety Gloves
- Dust Mask
- Drill (optional)
For folks in Omaha, we sell dryer vent cleaning kits through our online parts store or at our physical parts counter, located at 830 S 75th St, Omaha, NE 68114 (hours: Monday – Friday, 8:00 am – 5:00 pm).
The Steps to Cleaning a Dryer Vent
First determine if you will be cleaning the vent from outside or inside your house. If the vent is hard to access outside (say, it’s high up), we recommend you clean from inside your house.
Getting Set Up
- Unplug your dryer. If you have a gas dryer, also turn the gas supply valve to the off position.
- Move the dryer away from the wall. You’ll need about one foot of room.
- Put on your safety gloves and dust mask.
- Disconnect the vent from the back of the dryer (you may need to loosen a screw or two first).
- Remove lint from the back of the dryer (here’s where the safety gloves will come in handy to protect you from sharp edges).
- If possible, remove the exterior vent cover as well.
Cleaning the Dryer Vent
- Attach the brush from your dryer kit to the end of one to the flexible rods, then insert the brush into the dryer vent duct.
- Attach the other end of the flexible rod to your power drill.
- Turn on your shop vac and keep the hose near the entrance of the duct, then turn on your drill in the forward position (to keep the rods from unscrewing).
- Move the drill in and out of the vent, but do not fully remove the brush from the vent while the drill is on. Do this a few times. Make sure to only run the drill in the indicated direction, and do not reverse the drill as this may cause the vent cleaning rods to separate inside your venting, which can be costly and difficult to remove.
- With the rod fully inserted into the dryer duct, turn off the drill and vacuum, remove the drill and connect another rod. If you want, you can use electrical tape to secure the connection point between the two rods.
- Attach the drill and repeat steps 4 and 5 until the dryer vent is fully clean.
The Final Steps
- Connect the dryer vent back to the clothes dryer and secure it in place.
- Turn the dryer on and run for a few minutes. This will help push loose dust and lint out of the duct. Then turn off the dryer.
And that’s it! You’re done.
Ways to Slow Down Lint Buildup
Lint buildup is inevitable, but there are steps you can take to ensure you really only have to clean the dryer vent once a year (and not more often).
- Flexible vent materials made of plastic and aluminum can still start fires, but they also feature ridges that easily catch lint. Upgrade to hard or semi–rigid piping to reduce the speed of buildup (and reduce the likelihood of a fire).
- Throw away your dryer sheets and switch to a liquid fabric softener. Dryer sheets create a lot of lint and are not good longterm for your dryer.
Live in Omaha, Lincoln or Des Moines? Want more help getting your dryer vent cleaned? Contact us today to schedule your annual dryer vent cleaning.