How to Clean a Dryer Vent

An outside dryer vent.

There is no good time to clean a dryer vent. It’s hidden away. If you’re going waste your time cleaning, you’d rather focus on those blood stains on the living room floor. Those you get complaints about. Prudish guests. No one will ever complain about or compliment your clean dryer vent. But I’m here to tell you that dryer vent cleaning takes precedence over the gore on the floor.

First of all, when dryer vents become clogged with lint, dust, and debris, they become a serious fire hazard. There are 15,600 dryer vent fires resulting in 15 deaths and 400 injuries each year in the United States. So, if you fail to clean the dryer vent, you could be part of that lucky 2.7% that gets killed or maimed…by a dryer. With a clean dryer vent, not only will you avoid winning a Darwin Award, you’ll also save on electric (or gas) bills. Save money. Avoid shaming family. Clean the dryer vent.

Steps to Clean a Dryer Vent

  1. Dryer outdoor ventPull the dryer out, unplug the electricity and shut off the gas. Don’t get rough with the dryer, especially if it’s a gas-powered machine. Open the dryer door, grip the inside with both hands and gently bring it back 2-3 feet. My dryer is a gas machine (just like me) but it didn’t have a shut-off valve. If you know how to cap gas lines, go ahead. You’re better off calling your gas company and having them bring your home back up to code. Also, when older gas lines get jostled around, they should be replaced anyway. The newer lines are better: far more leak proof.
  2. Inside a dryer ventDetach and clean all dryer vent hose behind the machine. You’ll usually need a screwdriver for this, but mine was so loose (reckless) that I just pulled it off. To clean dryer vent hose, use a vacuum or, better yet, an industrial vacuum. I used a vacuum and dryer vent cleaning brushes, which you can find at any hardware store.
  3. Dirty Lint TrapClean the dryer vent hole behind your machine as well as the lint trap. Grab your flashlight and make sure everything is clear. You may find a goblin-sized wad of lint, parts of socks, and other hazards. Your dryer may feel a bit awkward as you insert the vacuum hose, as you might at the proctologist. Be sensitive and reassuring. Next clean your lint trap (in the door or on top of machine). It should be cleared before every drying, but lint also gets trapped in the crevices. Your vacuum will work, but a dryer vent cleaning brush is better for this job.
  4. Clean area behind the dryerVacuum and wash the area behind the dryer. Keeping this area clean is paramount to fire prevention. You probably have worked up a pretty good mess by now. Again, an industrial vacuum works best. When washing the floor and wall near your dryer vent, only use a very small amount of soap. Soap residue is a magnet for lint. It makes for a sloppy, disgusting mess like the one I found behind my dryer.
  5. brushing out the dryer vent tubingClean the dryer vent tubing leading outside. My dryer ducts travel a whopping two feet before reaching the outdoors. Yours may go into your basement and across the entire span of your home. Rigid vents can simply be pulled apart. Clamps with semi-rigid vents are easily unscrewed. It’s just a hassle. Dryers really should be next to walls. Shorter dryer vents are more efficient and, to a smaller degree, safer.
  6. exterior dryer ventClean the exterior vent. A dryer vent cleaning brush works best for this, but you can use a duster or even your hands. Just make sure the vent is in no way obstructed by lint or debris. Make sure the vent shades (if you have that style) swing freely.
  7. reattach vent tubingReattach and tighten all vents. Make certain that all parts of the dryer vent, from the machine to outside your home, are air tight. This will make your dryer safe and efficient. Plug in your dryer and turn on the gas. Run your dryer for a few minutes to expel loose lint in your dryer vents. Carefully move your dryer back into place without crushing the dryer vent or molesting the gas line. You have now learned how to clean a dryer vent properly. Bow to your sensei!

Never Clean a Dryer Vent Again!

Machinery can be a burden. Fire hazards, repair bills, revolting artificial intelligence – sometimes life is easier without our supposed conveniences. There are many ways not to own a dryer. First of all, you could use a clothes line during the warmer months. Clothes just smell better when Ra, the blessed Sun God, reigns fire upon them. That you choose to conserve gas and electricity also pleases Gaia, Goddess of the Earth. Jesus would nod his head in approval – it is, after all, harder for careless consumers to get into heaven than a hummer to pass through the eye of a needle. If you hate that idea, laundromats are a great place to get things done. I’ve often thought that larger machines should be communally owned. These places are also a great place to meet people from the neighborhood, even if they are begging for quarters, warning of the coming invasion while munching on ketchup packets. Hate that option too? Buy the washer/dryer combo from LG. It uses condensation to dry clothes, so it doesn’t require a heat exhaust vent.

Dryer Vent Cleaning Supplies

Dryer Vent Cleaning Kit8Dryer vent cleaning kits. Any hardware store is going to have some version of the one featured above, which is what I purchased. Was it necessary? Many sites suggest using your hand or even a coat hanger to get inside vents. If they are plastic (replace them) or even semi-rigid metal, a coat hanger may cause leaks. I found the kit useful, and I can also use it to clean heating vents and basement ductwork. So while not necessary in the strictest sense, it is quite useful. You can find a dryer vent cleaning kit on Amazon.

Dryer Vent HoodLouvered dryer vent hood. Many people put screens on their dryer vent hoods to prevent critters from entering the dryer and creating a grizzly horror show. Don’t do it. Dryer vent screens often get clogged with lint, creating inefficiency and a fire hazard. Instead, install a louvered dryer vent hood. The vent is only open when blowing out hot, stinky, rodent-repelling air.

Metallic Rigid Dryer VentRigid dryer vents. If you live in an older home like I do, chances are your clothes dryer is not up to code. Either your gas line is old or your vents are outdated. For liability reasons, it’s best to have your gas company replace your gas line, unless, of course, you’re a pro. The vents without ridges are safest but sometimes awkward to install. The plastic accordion style dryer vents and hoses tend to accumulate lint much faster and run the risk of getting clogged.