Cleaning Dryer Ducts

Why Should I Clean My Dryer Duct?

Now, some of you might even be asking, “Wait! What is a dryer duct? Where is my dryer duct! What are you talking about!” and that’s fair enough. Everyone kind of knows that they need to empty their lint trap if they want to avoid a house fire. But for some reason, we hear a lot less about dryer ducts and the importance of cleaning those. This is weird because out of the thousands of dryer fires that occur every year in the U.S., a large portion of them are caused by clogged dryer ducts–not dryer filters. Dryer ducts get clogged with lint just like your lint trap does, and cleaning it out is a part of basic dryer maintenance.

Your dryer duct is the vent pipe or metal tube behind your dryer that leads to the exterior of the house. When your dryer is on, it pushes hot air out of the dryer, and sometimes lint gets pushed out right along with it. This leads to clogs and can be a real issue if you don’t keep on top of it.

So how often do you have to clean it? This is one of those tasks that really only has to be done when needed, and there are three easy ways to check if it’s needed:

  1. Open the duct and take a look to see if there is lint buildup
  2. Next time your dryer is running, go outside and look for the dryer vent. It looks like a plastic hose sticking out of the wall of your house, and it should have a plastic cover on it. If the dryer is running, the cover should be pushed open by the steady stream of air coming out of the vent. If the air stream is too weak to push the cover open, you need to clean your duct.
  3. Put in a load of wet clothes and see if they take longer than one cycle to dry.

To be safe, you should give your duct thorough cleanings every 6 months.

What Happens If I Don’t Clean My Dryer Duct?

Well as we mentioned above, your dryer could set on fire and potentially burn your house down. It happens almost 3,000 times a year to Americans just like yourselves, so don’t overlook that. In addition to the fire hazard, not cleaning your dryer duct will allow it to be clogged with lint and this will make your dryer way less efficient. We’re talking taking 3 cycles to dry clothes that used to require 1 cycle. It’s bad stuff for your clothes and electric bill, and don’t forget the effect that inefficient appliances have on the environment. Keep your carbon emissions out of my breathing air whenever possible, please.

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Step-By-Step

  • 1. Get Out the Dryer Brush Kit
    • Dryer duct cleaning kits can be found at your local hardware store. It’s basically just a flexible rod with a scrub brush on the end– like a teeny tiny chimney sweep.

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  • 2. Turn off the Power to your Dryer
    • Unplug it, or turn off the fuse that is connected to the dryer. In addition to this, turn the control knob (the thing you use to turn the dryer on and off) to off.

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  • 3. Turn off the Gas (If it’s a Gas Dryer)
    • Turn the gas valve that is connected to the dryer so that it is perpendicular to the gas line.

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  • 4. Remove the Dryer from the Duct
    • This is a bit of a laborious task. The duct might be connected with a clamp, or it might be connected with a plastic tube. Either way, you’re going to need a screwdriver to take it off. Pull the dryer out a little bit from the wall first to make it easier. Be careful not to break the clamp or tear the piping.

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  • 5. Set a Towel Down at the Base of the Duct
    • Once the dryer is disconnected, lay the duct on the ground and put a towel beneath it. You’re going to be pushing lint through the duct and out to the ground, so you’ll want a towel to catch it. You could also put the dryer duct directly in an empty garbage can to collect the lint if you have enough piping to make it work.

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  • 6. Locate the Dryer Vent Outside
    • As mentioned above, your dryer vent is a plastic hole sticking out of the exterior of your house. It will probably have a vent hood or vent cover on it. Wherever it is, find it, and use this as your access point for the duct

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  • 7. Clean out Exterior Lint
    • If you can see any lint and it’s easily accessible, go ahead and just pull it out with your hand, but be careful not to push any lint further into the duct when you do this.

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  • 8. Push Brush Carefully Through the Vent
    • Watch for any elbows- No, not your elbows! We’re talking about the curvy duct pieces that sometimes connect pieces of ductwork together–yep, the ones that look like metal robot elbows. They are curved and therefore are hard to clean with the brush, and if your ductwork has a lot of them, it may even be best to call a professional to clean it. They will probably use a high-pressure air stream to push the lint out instead of trying to maneuver a brush through the maze of piping.

      Other than the risk of elbows or extra-long ductwork, cleaning the duct with a brush should be pretty straight forward. Just slowly push it through, twisting it in the right direction to make sure you don’t unscrew the brush from the rod accidentally. Any lint stuck in the duct should fall to the floor in your laundry room.

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  • 9. Remove Debris and Reconnect Dryer
    • Once all the debris has been pushed out of the duct, you can use a dustbin to sweep it up and throw it in the garbage. Now it’s time to reconnect the duct to the dryer using your screwdriver. Note: If you have disposable or flimsy aluminum ductwork, this would be a good time to think about replacing it, but this is a more complex task and you might want to hire a professional to help you.

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  • 10. Do a final Vent Cover Check
    • The last step is to run a load of clothes and go outside to check your vent cover again. After cleaning your duct, the airflow should be strong enough to push the vent cover-up. Your clothes should also dry much faster than before. If either of these things doesn’t happen, call a professional.

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