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How Do I Clean My Dryer Vent Correctly?

Dryer fires cause 15,000 fires a year in homes across the country, and homeowners don’t always pay attention to this important task. If your dryer vent hasn’t been cleaned from the inside of the dryer all the way through the outside vent in more than a year, it’s important to tackle this job right away.


If you’re not sure when it was last cleaned, start by checking the lint box. Remove the lint screen from your dryer, as you do after every load. Use a flashlight to look through the opening of the box that surrounds the lint screen. (If your lint screen is at the top of the machine, look through the holes inside the back of the dryer). If you can’t see the surface of the box, it’s time for a cleaning!


Another test is to tap the outside of the vent pipe behind the dryer. If it doesn’t sound hollow, chances are it’s coated with lint and it’s time for a cleaning!


If it’s taking longer to dry a load of clothes - you guessed it – it’s time for a cleaning! A clean dryer will dry clothes faster and use less energy. (Incidentally, it will be far less likely to need repairs in the future.)


Here’s how to tackle a dryer cleaning by yourself; it’s not difficult if you’re handy. You’ll need to disassemble the dryer, clean inside the box surrounding the lint screen, and reassemble the dryer. If you have a very long, very narrow crevice tool for your vacuum cleaner that can reach the bottom of the box, you might not need to disassemble the dryer. Whatever you do, don’t simply use a brush! Clumps of lint will get stuck on your fan blade, which can clog the fan, cause the fan to break, or prematurely wear out the bearings on your motor.


After the dryer is cleaned and reassembled, it’s on to the vent pipe. Remember the vent pipe needs to be thoroughly cleaned from the inside of your dryer through the outside vent. If your vent pipe is vinyl or plastic, get rid of it! These are dangerous and not approved for venting dryers. If you have the springy aluminum foil type of vent pipe, we strongly suggest replacing it. The thin foil is unlikely to stop the spread of a fire should one occur. Our favorite vent pipe is the semi-rigid aluminum style. It’s inexpensive and easy to use. Aluminum straight pipes are also inexpensive, but they break easily if they need to be moved or disconnected. The best vent pipe is, of course, the galvanized steel straight pipe. For any setup you choose, always use galvanized 4-inch elbows behind the dryer and where the pipe goes through the wall to the outside. Foil tape – not duct tape – on the joints looks great and ensures everything stays firmly connected.


Condo owners: The dryer may be yours, but the vent pipe is a permanent part of the building. Many condos vent the dryer 2-6 stories off the ground, or even to the roof. This requires special tools such as cherry-pickers or long ladders, and it sometimes requires special permission. Check with your owners’ association; they should have a schedule for this planned maintenance.


Overall, if you don’t mind a trip or two to the hardware store, some time on YouTube for dryer disassembly instructions, and an hour or more of dusty work when you could be out enjoying the sunshine, we encourage you to take advantage of the warm weather for this necessary home maintenance task. But if that doesn’t sound appealing, please call All City Appliance to schedule a dryer vent cleaning. We have the tools and the experience to take care of it quickly, efficiently and correctly!


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