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Through regular use, lint and other debris will eventually restrict airflow to and from your clothes dryer. This can impede the dryer's performance and post a serious fire hazard. Simple cleaning of the dryer's vent hose is all that's needed.

Summer equals laundry, and lots of it. So it's the perfect time to clean your dryer vent of any lint and other debris that accumulates year-round. Plus, during chilly weather – which often coincides with mating seasons – birds are attracted to a dryer vent's warmth and safety (nests in upper-floor vents are more common than on ground-levels). By summer, most of our feathered friends will have stopped breeding, and flown the coop.

If your dryer fails to heat up, leaves brown or orange marks on clothing, or takes longer than normal (over 45 minutes) to dry clothes, this means it's not running at maximum efficiency (the motor is working much too hard) and that It's posing a very serious fire hazard. (When the motor works overtime, it can overheat and ignite wads of trapped lint.)

But even if your dryer is operating smoothly, you'll still need to clear blockage once or twice a year – or more, if something seems amiss.

Follow these steps to properly clean your dryer vent and have it running safely and smoothly:

1. Unplug the dryer. To locate the outlet, pull the unit about two feet away from the wall.

2. Disconnect the hose. Unscrew and loosen the clamp that connects the flexible pipe to the elbow-shaped joint (usually made of aluminum). Slide off the pipe and detach the elbow. Clear out any lint with a vacuum cleaner's crevice tool.

3. Shine a light inside the internal dryer vent; This is the opening that's attached to the dryer itself). See a sock? Eighty-six it – and anything else that's stuck in there.

4. Vacuum out the dryer vent, the flexible hose, the back of the dryer, the floor and the surrounding areas
with the crevice tool.

5. Scrub the back of the dryer, the floor and the wall with a mild soap-and-water solution and let dry. Detergents and fabric softeners can form a layer of buildup that attracts lint.

6. Reattach the hose and elbow to the dryer vent. Slide the hose over the elbow, tighten the clamp with your screwdriver and fit the elbow back onto the dryer vent.

7. Remove the vent leading outside. One person's venting system is likely different from the next, so whether yours goes under a floor and/or through walls, you'll need to (again) unscrew clamps, remove the hose from the exterior vent and detach sections of duct. If your vent is really long, with several bends, invest in a brush that's specifically designed to snake through long tubing. Once you've pulled everything apart to remove the lint, try vacuuming the individual sections, too.

8. Disconnect the exterior vent. It's attached to the house in a variety of ways: It could be nailed in, screwed in, caulked or all of the above. Use a razor knife to remove caulk and either a hammer or screwdriver to finish the job. Gently pull it away from the house.

9. Vacuum inside the exterior vent and under the vent hood. Then, reattach the vent to the house.

10. Go indoors and fit the flexible hose back onto the exterior vent pipe.
Then retighten the clamp.

Reattach all sections of duct and re-tighten all other clamps. Be sure everything is tightly fastened and that the duct isn't kinked.

Plug in the dryer. Push it back against the wall.

Your clothes dryer should now be in the clear!

  • rugbymom

    I moved into a house where the washer and dryer are on the second floor. The guy that installed my dryer said builders are nuts for putting them upstairs because the dryer hose is too far away from the outside of the house and the dryer doesn't have enough power to move the lint outside. It always takes a long time to dry a meduim sized load. Then I got a bird's nest in the vent because it wasn't capped right. When they tried removing the nest, they found that the builder did not build the line to code and it was a severe fire hazard. I had to have the whole line redone at the tune of 550 bucks. Last week the heating element went in it and it is probably caused by the fact that he had to be on forever to work. It is six years old so I don't know whether to repair it or get a new one.

  • Jerry

    Rugbymom: By code the distance from the dryer to the outside is limited to 25 feet. Deduct 5 feet for every elbow. That's the IRC requirement. Ther can be no screws attaching the sections of duct. On;y tape. The duct has to be galvanized steel with the exception of the attachment from the dryer to the duct at the wall. The washer, if in a location above a floor, must be set on a drain pan that is piped adequately, to the exterior of the house. Anything less are code violations and subject to possible damages to your home.

  • G E Lentz

    Sometimes you have to get a brush and a drill to get the lint out of a vent that is very long. I have had some under ground vents that took quite a while to get cleaned out.

  • Rhett

    I have an exterior vent and find that using a "pipe cleaner" device (same kind used to clean refrigerator coils) allows me to reach in the vent from outside and get most of the lint that has built up - do it once a year. Takes 5 minutes.

  • joan simon

    I live in an apartment complex and recently had trouble drying my clothes, sometimes, it would take over an hour. Had the maintenance guys check the outside vent and cleaned it out. Dryer now functioning perfectly and drying quickly. I recently had the switch on the dryer dial replaced, and I do believe I was taken, as I was charged almost $300. For $100 more, I could have gotten a new dryer, bur since my dryer is only 2 years old, decided to keep it.

  • George

    This article missed the most important step. Take off the back panel. On the left side is the metal tunnel that the lint screen goes into. Pull out the lint filter and take out the 2 screws on top. Take out the screws holding the lint tunnel. you can now pull out this unit. It will be loaded with lint. Be carefull because the edges are sharp. Also at the bottom of the dryer is plastic fan blades that need to be cleaned out. I just did mine yesterday and it was loaded with lint even though we clean the sreeen with evey use.

  • kimberly

    Have to do this every 6 months or so. I have to completely remove the back of my dryer, take the part off that the screen goes into and vacuum the crud thats built up in it. My dryer happens to have a safety thing on it, where the dryer will not run if the trap is clogged. I think every dryer should have this.

  • Lisa

    Good point!!! AND always remember to WASH the lint filter occasionally! Dryer sheets form a coating on the lint filter that can actually make it able to hold water. Try it. Hold you lint filter unter the tap and see if it holds water. If it does, your dryer may be taking too long to dry the laundry. Soap and water and an old toothbrush will clean away the coating and the filter won't be able to hold water anymore. Your dryer will work much more efficiently when the lint filter is clean and clear.

  • smudgepot

    Silly me, I just stick my garden blower in to the filter opening, remove the outside vent cover and blow the lint outside. Some will get inside the dryer but just run it for a few minutes and clean the filter. Have encountered no problems over several years of this type of cleaning.

  • business2319

    Summer chore?? I have a better idea: DON"T USE the dryer in the summer! Hang up the clothes outdoors and let them air dry. Many yards have a location that is more private than the rest, and clothes hung there will not "annoy" the neighbors.

    In fact, those of us lucky enough to live here in central Florida can get by without EVER using a clothes dryer - it has been almost a year since we last used ours. True, one must keep an eye on the weather, so this may work only if someone is home much of the time.

  • Susan D

    I think it would be excellent to add vent-cleaning to the time change chore of changing our smoke alarm batteries!

  • Marney

    My dryer's on top of washing machine in side of a small closet on a step. No room to move it, can't remove or clean back. And other suggestions appreciated.

  • rugbymom

    When the dryer repairman went to clean out the duct, he found that it was not gavalinzed steel like the code requires but flexible piping all the way up to where the duct met the wall. He rerouted it through the attic and vented it under the eave of the house. When it was working, it only took a half an hour compared to the one to two hours before.

  • Jim McPherson

    I've done this work for many years. An electric yard blower stuck into the wall vent will often clean out the vent pipe quite nicely. The first thing to do, though, is to turn the dryer on while it is still connected to the vent pipe and then go outside to see how much air is coming out. If the little flap cover opens up all the way then at least some air is getting through. With the blower you should get a good amount of lint to blow out. One other thing to try is to feed a plumber's snake into the vent pipe and see if it will go all the way through. This will loosen up some of the dried on lint. Personally, I believe that fabric softener sheets make the lint more sticky and cause it to bunch up more. Also. outside vent covers that have multiple louver covers rather than one single flap that opens are more prone to get blocked up. Any kind of screening over the vent cover will also likely get blocked. Sometimes if the vent pipe goes out through the roof you can disconnect it in the attic to clear out the cover rather than going up on the roof.

  • rugbymom

    I would never try and replace a heating element myself. However repairmen are so expensive. The ones that I called wanted 75 bucks to walk through my front door for the first half hour plus parts and an additional 20 bucks for every 15 mintues thereafter. Sometimes it doesnt pay to have it fixed.

  • brian

    most of the time unless its something simple that doesnt cost and arm and leg to fix your better off just going and getting a new one at least youd have a warranty on it and it would probably be cheaper than repairing the old depending on the problem

  • susi539

    want to save money? don't call a repairman, do it yourself... take you leaf blower and blow through the pipes, you may have to repeat from inside the house and alternate to the outside vent. It works guaranteed.


    go post your baloney somewhere else stick to posting on the topic at hand

  • Lisa

    AND always remember to WASH the lint filter occasionally! Dryer sheets form a coating on the lint filter that can actually make it able to hold water. Try it. Hold you lint filter unter the tap and see if it holds water. If it does, your dryer may be taking too long to dry the laundry. Soap and water and an old toothbrush will clean away the coating and the filter won't be able to hold water anymore. Your dryer will work much more efficiently when the lint filter is clean and clear.



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