Should I Clean or Replace My Dryer Vent?

Experts recommend cleaning the dryer ducts twice a year to ensure safety and efficiency. Doing it on your own may seem like an intimidating prospect, but there are ways to do it easily, affordably, and relatively quickly. For families and for intensive use, cleaning the dryer vent should be done every six months. You should also clean it twice a year if you have pets.

The lint that accumulates in the ventilation grille not only makes clothes take longer to dry, but it can also be a fire hazard, so make sure you do this job. Most homeowners will diligently clean their dryer's lint filter before putting in a new load of laundry. But lint can still pass through the screen and accumulate in the hoses or ducts that vent the outside. Dryer fires are one of the leading causes of home fires in the United States.

Too much lint can prevent air flow in the vent and cause the appliance to overheat. Excess lint can also be ignited by the heating elements of the dryer. There are several warning signs that your vents are becoming unsafe. Bob Formisano, who writes for the home design site The Spruce, says these include garments that take longer to dry, that don't dry completely, or that get noticeably hot to the touch after a cycle.

You may also notice that the dryer is hotter than usual after it is put into operation or that the air around the appliance is humid. Not cleaning the ventilation grilles will not only increase the risk of fire, but it can also cost you a significant amount of money. Shannon Antinori, who writes for Angie's List, states that dryers with clogged vents won't work as efficiently, leading to an increase in the electricity bill. The lifespan of the dryer can also be shortened if the ventilation grille is not cleaned.

How often you clean the dryer vent depends on your washing habits. Lucy Congress, who writes for home improvement professional Bob Vila, says this cleaning should be done at least once a year. If you are constantly washing a lot of clothes, the lint will accumulate more quickly. The Fire Administration recommends cleaning the ventilation grille every three months.

If you want to clean the dryer on your own, it's important that you unplug it first. Daniel DeClerico, who writes for Consumer Reports, says you'll also need to be able to separate the dryer from the wall. Specialized brushes are available to help you clean the vents and ducts on your own. Formisano says that the brushes should also be used to clean the cavity where the lint filter is held, since a considerable amount of lint can accumulate in this space.

The ventilation hose or ducts can be disconnected from the dryer and then each section can be disconnected individually. You can then use the brush to carefully sweep each section, removing any lumps of lint that may have accumulated. Keep a workshop vacuum handy to vacuum up dust or hidden areas where lint has accumulated. Congress says the crevice attachment is useful for cleaning the hole in the back of the dryer where the hose or duct connects, and it also works well to remove lint from the hoses or ducts themselves.

The dryer will often have an outside vent in an easily accessible area downstairs. By removing the vent cap, you can brush the hose or duct from this end or even remove the fluff lumps with your hand. After cleaning the ventilation grille from the outside, you may want to run an empty dryer in the air-drying configuration. By leaving the cover, you can expel any loose pieces of fluff that you haven't been able to remove.

Once you have finished cleaning, replace the vent cap and reassemble the hose or ducts. Formisano says you might consider replacing semi-rigid flexible ducts with adjustable rigid elbows. Semi-rigid hoses can build up when the dryer is put back in place, inhibiting air flow. Consider replacing flexible hoses with metal ducts.

DeClerico says that lint is less likely to accumulate in this type of ventilation, which is also more likely to contain any fire caused by the dryer. Many dryers have only a small number of ducts to vent to the outside; however others will be ventilated through the roof or spread out for dozens of feet before reaching outside. Antinori says an HVAC professional will be able to save you time and better clean longer vents using specialized tools such as compressed air systems that snake through ducts to push or pull clogged lint to outside vents where it can be expelled. A professional can also diagnose ventilation systems for leaks or any other problem and schedule regular checkups with an HVAC specialist who visits you to clean the dryer vent.

Cleaning your dryer vents regularly is essential for safety and efficiency reasons - not only does it reduce fire risk but it also helps keep energy costs down and extends your appliance's lifespan too! As an expert in home safety and energy efficiency I recommend cleaning your dryer vent at least once a year - more often if you have pets or do a lot of laundry - using specialized brushes and vacuums designed specifically for this purpose. If your vents are particularly long or difficult to access then consider hiring an HVAC professional who has access to specialized tools such as compressed air systems which can help remove clogged lint from hard-to-reach areas.