Why You Need to Clean Out the Dryer Vent

Using a dryer is quite easy, but if you skip the routine vent cleaning, the drying process can become difficult and potentially dangerous.

Cleaning the vent regularly prolongs the life of a dryer, and the clothes too. Clogged vents may partially block the moist air and keep it inside the dryer. Proper cleaning minimizes the chance of failures, reduces future maintenance costs, prevents fires, and lowers utility bills.

I will be honest and admit that we never cleaned our dryer vent in the Pasadena house, but thankfully we were there for only two years.

It is not the first time I forget to do something in the house I needed to do. You may want to see how my 9-month old furnace filter looked because I forgot to replace it.

With our new house in Lewes, I’d like to understand what we should do and why.

What Happens if You Don’t Clean the Dryer Vent Regularly?

Skipping this simple process can cause many problems. Lint build-up can occur very fast, even after just a few drying cycles.

Shorter Lifespan of Your Dryer

A dryer that is struggling to dry clothes has to work harder, resulting in a shorter lifespan of a perfectly good appliance.

Damaged Clothes

Your favorite, and sometimes costly clothes, can be damaged in an extended drying process. Other garments will also have a shorter lifespan as they will be exposed to excessive heat.

Increased Electricity Bills

A dryer that works too long uses much more electricity than it should, so you may notice increased electricity bills, especially if you use it often.

Potential Mold Issue

Moist trapped inside the hose may cause mold to appear, and that is probably the last thing you want near your clothes. Regular cleaning also means lower maintenance costs and fewer repairs.

Potential Carbon Monoxide Issue

Another bad scenario is carbon monoxide poisoning. This does not happen very often with dryers, but it doesn’t mean it is impossible. Blocked vents keep carbon monoxide inside, and it can fill the laundry room. It is almost impossible to recognize it, and those conditions are hazardous for your health and safety.

Fire Hazard

And finally, but most importantly, lint is highly flammable and in combination with high temperatures and electricity present a huge fire hazard.

According to FEMAfailure to clean the dryer is the leading cause of home clothes dryer fires.”

2,900 home clothes dryer fires are reported each year and cause an estimated 5 deaths, 100 injuries, and $35 million in property loss.

Below is FEMA’s clothes dryer fire safety flyer.

FEMA Clothes Dryer Fire Safety
Source: https://www.usfa.fema.gov/prevention/outreach/clothes_dryers.html

How to Recognize a Blocked Dryer Vent?

Below are a few main signs indicating that your dryer vent may be obstructed and needs to be clean or requires additional service.

It Takes Longer to Dry Your Clothes

You may notice that the drying process lasts longer than usual. The reason behind this problem is that the dryer is struggling to blow out the moisture through a clogged went. The moisture remains inside, and the clothes don’t dry as fast as they would in a completely functional dryer.

The Dryer is Too Hot

Another clue is the high temperature. A dryer operating with a blocked vent works under harder pressure, and it can become hot from the outside. If you sense that heat, it is one of the signs that you should clean the vent. Except for a warm exterior, your clothes can be hot when you take it out.

Your Dryer Vent Hood is Hard to Open

If you are trying to open a vent hood and you have difficulties doing it, it means that your vent, and probably the dryer hose too, are blocked with lint. It is essential to maintain clean vents, but hoses should be kept clean also.

Burning Smell

The last, but the most important clue, is a burning smell. Lint is flammable, and if you sense any unusual odor, turn the drier off immediately and clean it. In this case, it would be best to call a professional to see if there is any other damage.

How to Clean Your Dryer Lint Trap

Before we go over the dryer vent, we need to talk about cleaning your dryer lint trap. This is a critical preventive task every homeowner should know how to do.

Ideally, you should clean the lint filter after each cycle and wash it at least once a year or more often if you use dryer softener sheets. These tasks are very easy to do but are often overlooked because homeowners don’t know they should be done.

The video below shows how to wash your dryer lint trap.

Some homeowners think that cleaning the filter fully prevents lint build-up in the vent, but that is not true. It slows down the process, but small particles can still go through. This is why you have to also periodically clean your dryer vent.

How to Clean Your Dryer Vent

If you are confident to clean your dryer vent yourself, try taking the following steps: 

  1. Start by unplugging the dryer, for safety reasons. 
  2. Locate the duct, which is usually on the backside of a dryer. Those vents are about 4 inches wide. These exhaust systems are connected to a metal pipe that goes through the wall and ends somewhere outside the house wall.
  3. Disconnect the dryer from the vent pipe. The duct opening is wide enough for you to clean it, but you will have to use special brushes for this purpose. Those can reach even the most inaccessible parts of the pipe and remove lint or other residues.
  4. You can start cleaning from the highest point, usually outside the house. Push the brush in, move in back and forward, and spin it. Your moves should be coordinated and hard enough to scrape any lint. Starting outside will cause the linen to drop to the lower point until you reach it and take it out.
  5. Contrary to popular belief, the dryer drum does not require a lot of cleaning. If you often dry pet blankets or any makeup accidentally ends up inside, you should clean it. Put a few old towels inside and turn on the dryer. Towels will collect part of the residue, and the warmth will make it easy for you to finish the process. After you remove the towels, wipe the drum with clean cloths.

The following video does a good job at demonstrating how to clean your dryer vent.

How Often Should You Clean a Dryer Vent?

For an average homeowner, dryer vent won’t get clogged in less than a year. So if you want your dryer to operate safely, clean the went once a year.

Large families that use a dryer daily should clean it every three to four months.

If you feel like it is too much hassle, you can always call a professional to do it for you. It is going to be more expensive than just buying a cleaning brush, but at least you will know that the job has been done properly.

How Much Does It Cost to Clean Your Dryer Vent?

Cleaning your dryer vent is not necessarily an easy DIY procedure; so, consider getting it done by a professional if you can afford it.

The United States is big and coming out with the average cost of cleaning your dryer vent is not easy, but the table below shows recent estimates I have found. These prices assume there were no major problems during cleaning.

SourcePrice RangeAverage Price
Homeadvisor.com$99-$169$131
Costimates.com$140-$225$179
Thumbtack.com$190-$260$225

Closing Thoughts

Proper maintenance of all household appliances, including dryers, is necessary to ensure safety and efficiency. I’m not excited to do these tasks and I would forget to do them, which is why I am keeping a house calendar to manage repetitive maintenance tasks.

I have added the following item to my house calendar:

  • Wash dryer lint trap and clean dryer vent: once a year

Video Summary

I have created a quick video to highlight some of the issues that could happen if you don’t clean the dryer vent regularly. If you like this video, consider subscribing to the House Notebook Youtube Channel.

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