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How to Clean a Dryer Vent

How to clean dryer vent

Dirty or clogged dryer vents and the corresponding ductwork can reduce the performance of your dryer. Loads take longer and things just don’t work as they should.  Even worse, clogged and dirty vents can be a fire hazard in your home. Learning how to clean a dryer vent isn’t difficult though, and we’ll show you the basics of dryer vent cleaning in this guide.

Skill Level: Beginner
Time:
  1. Step 1 Identify the Signs of Lint Build-up

    A load of laundry is being put into a dryer.

    A small amount of lint build-up in your dryer vent might not be immediately noticeable. Over time though, there are a few signs you should be able to spot easily.

    • Your clothes take longer to dry than usual. This may be particularly obvious with large, bulky items like towels and bedding.
    • You notice a burning smell when operating your dryer.
    • Your clothes are hot to the touch when you take them out. Clothes should be warm, but if you have to wait for your laundry to cool down before unloading it you may have a lint build-up issue.
    • You see lint around the dryer hose or around the visible part of the outside dryer flap.
  2. Step 2 Disconnect the Dryer

    A dryer vent hose behind the dryer.

    Before cleaning you’ll need to disconnect your dryer properly. Unplug the dryer from the wall and turn the gas supply valve off if you have a gas dryer.

    Pull the dryer away from the wall. Give yourself enough room to access the back of the dryer easily -- about 18 inches should be enough space to work with.

    Disconnect the dryer duct from the back side of your dryer. You may need a screwdriver to disconnect the vent clamp that holds it in place.

    As a tip, be sure to replace plastic, vinyl or foil dryer hoses with up-to-date metal hoses. These are less likely to become clogged and cause fires compared to more flexible hose designs.

  3. Step 3 Clean the Lint Trap Filter and Housing

    A person pulls the lint trap out of the dryer.

    Your lint trap filter and housing are other spots where lint and debris can build up. To clean them, remove the lint trap just like you would between loads of laundry. Remove lint by hand before using a vacuum to remove stuck-on lint and debris embedded in your lint screen. Wash the lint trap with mild soap and warm water.

    Use a vacuum to suck up lint at the bottom of the lint trap housing. Small wet/dry vacuums with multiple nozzle types are great for this task. Remove the screws that hold your lint trap housing in place if you can’t access it with a vacuum. Most lint trap housings will be held in place by two to four screws located on the inside of the washing machine. Removing these will allow you to fully remove the housing so you can brush away lint and debris.

  4. Step 4 Vacuum the Dryer Duct

    A person vacuums the lint out of the dryer hose.

    Use a vacuum to remove lint from the hole in the wall where your dryer vent hose connects. Wet/dry vacuums are ideal for this purpose since they’re powerful and made for messy work.

  5. Step 5 Deep Clean the Vent with a Brush

    A person uses a brush to deep clean the inside of a dryer hose.

    Deep cleaning the vent with a brush will help remove excess lint and debris that may be stuck on. Insert a brush with a long handle into the vent. Move it back and forth while rotating it in a circular motion to loosen and pick up more debris. Extend the brush up into the duct and use the same circular motion for a proper cleaning.

  6. Step 6 Clean the Exterior Vent

    The outside vent of a dryer hose.

    Dryer systems have a secondary exterior vent located outside your home that will need to be cleaned as well. Go outside, locate your exterior vent and remove the cover so you have access. Use a vacuum or a dryer vent kit to remove lint and debris. Replace and secure the cover that goes over your exterior vent opening.

  7. Step 7 Reconnect and Test the Dryer

    A person connects a dryer hose to the dryer.

    With your dryer vent and dryer duct cleaning done, you can now reconnect and test your dryer. Reattach ductwork and make sure it’s secure. Secure the dryer vent in place with a vent clamp or use high-quality foil tape to keep it in place. Push your dryer back into place, leaving a little room so you can make any connections required for proper function. Plug your dryer in or turn the gas valve back on. You can now push the dryer back a little more if needed.

    Run your dryer for about 20 minutes using an air dry or fluff setting. This can help dislodge any excess debris as well.

  8. Step 8 Tips to Prevent Future Lint Build-up

    A person places the lint trap back into the dryer.

    Cleaning your dryer vent once a year should help you avoid serious issues and costly maintenance calls. However, there are a few things you can do to prevent lint build-up in the future.

    • Clean your lint trap regularly. Cleaning your lint trap thoroughly between each load will help keep your vents much cleaner.
    • Wash clothes that produce lint inside-out. This can keep lint on your clothes instead of in your washer and dryer.
    • Choose a gentle cycle when washing high-lint clothes. Gentle cycles agitate your clothes less, producing less lint that will end up in your dryer.
    • Deep clean your washing machine with vinegar or a specialty cleaning product. Doing this can help you transfer less lint from your washing machine to your dryer.

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