Clean Your Dryer Vent to Save Money and Prevent Fires

A pair of washer and dryer in a sunny laundry room
Artzazum / Shutterstock

Cleaning the ventilation of your dryer is not a glamorous task, it is a necessary task that reduces the risk of fire in your home and also saves you money. Here's how to do it.

The vast majority of problems you will encounter with your dryer result directly from the failure of its usual cleaning. It's easy not to think about it and if you've never cleaned your dryer, we will not blame you. This is important both for extending the life of your device and for security. Here's why and how to do it.

Why clean your vent?

When it comes to cleaning domestic tasks, some elements are of low priority and pose little risk. There are also things you should not put in the "one day, never" category.

Dusting the trim over a door is one of those low priority tasks. Yes, it's good to have dusted all the lining of your house, but if you neglect it (for years, even), it will not come out horrible. The vents of the dryer, on the other hand, are another story. Nearly 3,000 dryer fires are reported each year in the United States, resulting in about five deaths, 100 injuries and $ 35 million in property damage. according to the US Fire Administration. One third of these fires are directly attributable to a lack of cleaning of the dryer.

FEMA's PSA on Fire Prevention, encouraging people to clean the vent of their dryer once a year.
US Fire Administration

Even if you are lucky enough to avoid a fire as serious as that caused by a poorly maintained tumble dryer, not cleaning the air duct reduces the efficiency of your tumble dryer (which both 'energy and money), reduces its life (do not clean it as if you do not change the oil in your car), drying clothes is incorrect (which can lead to odors and can cause mold and mildew in the dryer vent (which also causes odors).

Powerful indicators that your dryer needs to be cleaned

Cleaning the ventilation of your dryer at least once a year is an absolutely essential home maintenance task. If you meet all of these indicators or not, you should still take the time to do so.

However, if you encounter any of the following problems, you have a significant delay in a cleanup and you must take care of it as soon as possible.

Your dryer is with air currents

If you smell air in your dryer when you empty it, it means that the flapper on the outside of your home or apartment is locked in the open position. Lint and generally compacted dryer debris are at the root of this situation as they accumulate enough to prevent the lid from closing at the end of the vent.

Your clothes are not completely dry

If your clothes are going through a complete cycle and they are not completely dry, this is a good indicator that the dryer's moist air is not draining efficiently. If they are still very wet, it is likely that the dryer's heating element is malfunctioning (and you should call a service technician to look at it), but if they are hot but always a little wet (when this trick drying cycle), it's probably a ventilation problem.

Your clothes smell weird

Recently, we talked about what to do if you are dealing with funky smell napkins. If you are sure that the washer is not the source of the bad smells of your clothes, it is quite possible that the dryer is involved.

While the warm, dry air that the dryer is blowing through the dryer creates an environment that is hostile to mold and mildew, if you have a large accumulation of fluff (which in most households is mainly composed of organic like cotton). In addition, if you live in a humid climate and the flap of your tumble dryer does not close properly, as we have already discussed, the humid air of the dryer will not be the same. The outside of your house goes back into the vent of the dryer and mingles with all the lint glued on top. sides of the vent.

In addition to the odd odors coming from the funky buildup in the dryer vent, if you use a gas dryer, inadequate ventilation will sometimes leave a lingering smell of burning on your clothes.

Your clothes and dryer are hot

This is where we approach the danger zone indicators. Do not dry well is one thing. Clothes that look too hot and an unusually hot dryer body are much more dangerous. If you take out a load of towels and you are surprised at how hot they feel or heat the metal body of the dryer, you should stop using it until you clean ventilation and deepen the research on the origin of the problem. .

Clothes should be warm and the dryer body will warm up while the dryer is running, but every time you feel astonishingly warm to the touch, you slip into the fire hazard area.

Your laundry looks hotter or wetter than usual

If the laundry room seems warmer than usual, and especially if it seems wetter than usual, it is highly likely that hot, moist air will be forced to pass through a weak spot somewhere in the system. Dryer ventilation, as poorly sealed pipes are combined with the strength of the tube. the dryer fan pushing against lint accumulation forces air into the room.

If you have a gas dryer, the expelled air is not only bad for the room (because of the humidity) but bad for you (because of the gases present in the exhaust gases such as carbon monoxide ). As in the case of the overly hot dryer above, it is a dangerous situation and you have to stop using the dryer until you clean the duct of the dryer and that you close it.

How to clean your dryer duct

Now that we have enough terror in your hearts, the good news! Cleaning and maintaining the ventilation system of your dryer is a very simple task and a task that no matter who, even people whose chops have not been improved, can engage. (But, as always, if you're worried about your job, it's best to call a practical friend or a professional.)

The tools you will need

To clean the ventilation ducts, you will need the following tools:

  • A dryer air brush: I have owned this model for years and recommend it to all my friends. It is a circular brush that you attach to a series of fiberglass screw poles to power the conduit.
  • A small vent brush: A small airbrush, like this one, is perfect for cleaning the lint screen on the dryer itself. Look for a long flexible wire brush that you can really move in the air, try to detach and remove the objects.
  • A vacuum: You will make a lot of mess, so it will be advantageous to have a vacuum cleaner on hand not only to clean the lint from the ground, but also to suck the lint filter and ducts.
  • Screwdriver: You may need a screwdriver to loosen the duct and you will definitely need a screwdriver if you open the dryer to thoroughly clean the fan.
  • Tape: For your dryer ventilation you need appropriate tape, do not duct tape. Only the aluminum tape is designed to be used on the hot vent of the dryer.

Armed with the right tools, the task will be easy.

Clean the lint filter and its housing

First, the easy step. Remove the lint screen from the dryer and remove any lint that may have accumulated. Use the small airbrush to reach the lint filter housing and release accumulated lint. Keep the vacuum cleaner handy to suck and break it for free.

If you want to make extra effort here (especially if, after inserting a flashlight into the trap housing, it seems like you are not making progress with the small airbrush), you can clean the case from the trap and the fan from the back. To do this, you will need to refer to a service manual for your dryer model, remove a panel (or possibly the entire cabinet) from the dryer and access the siphon housing. On my Whirlpool dryer, this is as simple as unscrewing a few sheet metal screws at the front of the appliance and then some screws on the siphon case, but your experience can vary considerably here, and you can ignore this. step if you use the smell the air brush seems to have sufficiently cleaned the trap housing.

Clean the vent itself

Person vacuuming a dryer vent with a vacuum cleaner
Benjamin Clapp / Shutterstock

After cleaning the dryer body, unplug the dryer and gently move it away from the wall to gain access to the rear of the dryer. Move the dryer just far enough for you to go to the back of it to unplug the power cord and unplug the vent. If you move the dryer too far without unplugging the vent, you will bend the hose. Do not have a rigid tube behind your dryer? Nowadays, this is not the law in most places and presents a significant risk of fire (all dryers must have rigid metal vents and not flexible vinyl tubes): replace immediately flexible tube by a rigid tube.

With the dryer unplugged from the vent, take your vent brush and begin to slowly insert it into the tube so that the large head of the brush moves from the inside of the house towards the outside vent. Turn the brush only clockwise (in the opposite direction, the threads of the rod segments will be loosened and the brush will remain stuck in the vent). Slowly pass it through the vent to eliminate lint buildup, clean the vent walls, and flush the fluff.

Use your vacuum cleaner to clean the expelled lint and vacuum the vent fitting located at the back of the dryer and the portion of the dryer vent pipe that you can read with the vacuum cleaner.

Reconnect the dryer to the vent tube and seal off any parts of the tube that have been disconnected with tape. Run the dryer for a few minutes to remove lint. This is the perfect time to check for leaks in the vent of the dryer. While you can hold your hand near the joints glued into the dryer vent to check for air leaks, it's much quicker to blow baby powder or chalk dust near the joints to see if air escapes. Recollect leaking joints to ensure the dryer vents come out of your home completely


That's all you need. It's dusty, you'll be choked by the amount of stuffed it contains (every year, I know I am), and it'll kill an hour or two of your weekend … but you'll have a Happy dryer and a radically reduced fire hazard in your laundry.

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