First Home Facts

Don't Get Caught With A Clogged Dryer Vent

It's one of those things you rarely think about until it begins to cause problems -- your dryer vent. However, blockages of these vents can have dire consequences, and may even lead to a fire. In fact, nearly 5 percent of home fires are caused by a problem or malfunction in the dryer system, and another 32 percent of these dryer fires are the result of a buildup of lint or other debris in the duct system. Read on to learn more about your dryer vent and how you can prevent such problems in your own home. 

How can you tell you need to clean your dryer vent?

In some cases, you may begin to notice that your dryer is taking much longer than normal to dry a load of clothes, or that the lint trap inside the dryer door is collecting what seems like a large amount of lint. You could also notice a musty, wet smell coming from inside your dryer, even when empty. This is caused by a moisture buildup on the lint and debris blocking the vent.

In other cases, you can have a clogged vent that causes no major problems. Still, if you've never invested in dryer vent cleaning, there's no better time to start.

What is the best way to clean your dryer vent?

Your best bet is to call a professional, who can ensure that your vent is fully cleaned and ready for safe operation. However, if you'd rather try to fix the problem yourself or if your vent is so clogged your dryer won't function, there are a few ways you can help improve air flow through your vent.

First, remove the exterior vent cap outside your home. You may be able to reach inside and pull out any lint -- if your vent is too small for your hand to fit inside, you can use a long lint brush or "snake" to reach back into the vent. You can also use a vacuum cleaner's hose attachment to get inside the vent and vacuum out any debris.

Next, you'll want to go back inside and remove the panel that contains your dryer's lint trap. Reach inside with the lint brush or snake to remove any pieces of lint that have not yet made their way into the vent.

Is there anything you can do to reduce lint buildup in your dryer vent?

In some older homes, the dryer vent is not designed to handle the volume of air and lint produced by modern, high-efficiency dryers. And in other homes, slipshod construction or last-minute additions can cause your dryer vent to be awkwardly located.  

If you don't want to go to the trouble of re-routing your dryer vent or if your dryer is located in your basement (requiring it to vent upward) you might want to invest in a stronger blower motor. This motor can increase the speed with which your dryer vents to the outside and should be sufficient to force even large pieces of lint up and out of the vent. This can allow you to easily clean your vent from the outside cap, rather than requiring you (or a professional) to use a lengthy snake.

If you'd like to instead move your dryer to an exterior wall, you should be able to install a new dryer vent fairly easily. First, determine the placement of your dryer and ensure that the vent on the back of your dryer can fit into a hole between the studs. Next, drill a small hole through the wall to check your location and ensure that you aren't cutting into any wires or load-bearing materials. Once you've found the perfect location, cut a hole to fit your vent and place the vent carefully. If you need to cut through your vinyl siding to install the exterior vent cap, do so carefully to prevent the need for later patching. 

You're then ready to run the ductwork from your vent to the outside. Finally, you'll need to patch the hole where your previous vent was located. You can use a block of wood or plaster putty to create a seamless appearance, then paint.