Expert-Approved Tips for Cleaning Dryer Vents and Maintaining Your Machine
A clean dryer vent can do everything from increase your machine's efficiency to prevent dangerous house fires. The key to getting your dryer vent clean—and keeping it clean—is routine maintenance. From how often your vents need cleaning to the best method for ensuring it's safe for use, experts share their advice on all-things dryer vents.
How Often Should You Clean Your Dryer Vent?
All dryer vents need to be cleaned annually, says Scott Thomas, director of systems for Dryer Vent Wizard, a Neighborly company. "There is a dryer fire in the United States approximately every 34 minutes," he explains. "In addition to regular cleaning, people should consider having a professional inspect your dryer vent to make sure it is safe and up to code." If you're not regularly cleaning your dryer vents, you can begin to experience air quality issues in your home due to the growth of mold and mildew. "A dryer puts out two to three gallons of water per load, and if the vent is not operating properly, that moisture will go back into your home." Improper installation, debris, and clogs can all exacerbate problems over time.
How to Clean Your Dryer Vent
"For the most part, homeowners can use various brushes and vacuum attachments for dryer vent cleaning," Thomas says. "The techniques and cleaning methods will vary greatly depending on the length of the line, height off of the ground, and where the vent terminates, such as your roof or sidewall." But don't use much more than that. "You should never use any chemicals when cleaning your dryer—especially flammable ones," Thomas adds. "The only thing you need is good old-fashioned elbow grease."
Keeping Your Unit Clean
Lint buildup can wreak havoc on your dryer, which is why you should clean your trap regularly. "You should clean your lint trap after every load as a clogged lint trap could increase drying times by decreasing ventilation, causing your dryer to work less efficiently," says Mary Johnson, Tide & Downy principal scientist. "Don't let lint accumulate in your dryer or your laundry room as it may cause a fire hazard."
To get your lint trap extra clean, Thomas suggests washing your lint screen with hot soapy water and an old toothbrush every few months, especially if you are using dryer sheets. "Dryer sheets leave a waxy buildup on the screen and if not maintained, can lead to issues and possibly fires," Thomas says. "Dryers also work on makeup air, so it's critical to keep the area around your dryer free of dust and debris." This will allow the dryer to work more efficiently and lower the risk of a fire.
Don't Forget the Vent Cover
"A homeowner should also make sure they are regularly checking the dryer vent cover to make sure it is operating properly and to remove any lint buildup that may cause the cover to not operate correctly," Thomas says. If your dryer vent cover is compromised, it can allow birds or rodents to nest inside, creating even more potential for trouble.