If you’ve recently noticed that your clothes are taking longer to dry than they used to, you may need to look no further than your dryer vent for the cause. A vent that’s clogged with lint can make for a longer drying cycle, but it can also trigger a much more serious problem—a dryer fire. In fact, clogged dryer vents are one of the top causes of dryer fires. And, although this is a much less dramatic concern, an inefficient dryer can also cost you both time and money, tacking on as much as $20 a month to your utility bill. Sure, you could hire a professional to clear out the vent for you, but this is a job that you can do yourself. Read on to learn how to get your dryer vent clean—and keep it that way.
MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Vacuum cleaner
- Wire hanger
- Work gloves
The first and most important step is to unplug the dryer. You don’t want to do any work on the vent while the appliance is plugged into the wall.
Pull the dryer out from the wall as far as your vent hose will allow (typically, about one to two feet), then use a screwdriver to loosen and unscrew the clamps that keep the dryer vent hose attached to the wall.
Remove the vent hose and use the crevice attachment of your vacuum cleaner to reach into the hole on the back of the dryer and suction out the lint. Proceed to vacuum out the hose as well, working from both ends of the hose until all the lint and debris have been suctioned out. Be gentle—you don’t want to damage the hose. If you encounter serious buildup in the middle of the hose, you may need to snake it out. A wire hanger works fine for this, but be careful not to scratch the sides with the wire, which could cause a leak in the hose.
Reinsert the vent hose and reattach it with the clamps, then slide the dryer back into position against the wall. Once the dryer’s in place, head outside to clean the exterior vent. Start by removing the cover, then put on some work gloves and clear out any accumulated lint. When the vent looks clear, go back inside the house, plug the dryer back in, and run the empty machine on the air-dry setting for about 20 minutes. Check outside to make sure that both air and any remaining lint are blowing out of the vent before turning off the dryer and replacing the outside vent cover.
It’s important to clean your dryer vent at least once a year. If the buildup is so great that you can’t break through the lint, hire a professional or invest in a dryer vent cleaning kit. A thorough yearly cleaning isn’t quite enough, however. It takes regular maintenance to help keep your dryer vent clear and safe.
• Limit the number of dryer sheets you use. Fabric softeners and dryer sheets can clog your dryer’s lint filter and leave behind small amounts of potentially flammable chemicals that can accumulate over time.
• Hang heavy bedding outside to dry. Duvets, bedspreads, and other heavy linens require much more heat and drying time than the average load, and this translates into more lint.
• Clean the lint trap after every use. You can usually remove the lint with your hands, but from time to time you should rinse off the screen and vacuum out the compartment that holds it. Remember: If the lint trap is full, the lint has nowhere to go but onto your clothes or out into the vent!