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Cleaning a Dryer Vent: Everything You Need To Know

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Keeping your dryer clean is an important part of keeping it running correctly and keeping your home safe. According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), failure to clean the dryer is one of the leading causes of fires in the home.

There are several signs that your dryer vent needs to be cleaned, such as lint buildup or reduced exhaust airflow. Cleaning your dryer vent is a straightforward process that involves checking the lint trap, vent hose, and vent exhaust. 

With the right tools, a dryer vent can be cleaned in under an hour. Dryer vents should be cleaned at least every six months or once per year, depending on how often you use the dryer.

During the cleaning, it’s possible that you may need to reconnect or replace the vent hose. Alternatively, you may need to check and clean the air intake. Thankfully, all of these processes are easy and can be completed by residents or homeowners.

Dryer Vent Cleaning Kit Step-By-Step Guide

Cleaning your dryer vent is a straightforward process that can take under an hour, provided you correctly follow the steps and have the correct tools.

Here’s a step-by-step guide for how to clean your dryer vent: 

  • Unplug the dryer (or disconnect the gas) and pull it out away from the wall. Make sure it’s far enough out that you can easily maneuver around it.
  • Disconnect the vent from the dryer.
  • Pull any visible lint out; use a vacuum cleaner or other suction tool to remove excess lint.
  • Reconnect the vent to the dryer (or turn the gas back on) and push your dryer back in place.
  • Go outside and check the vent. If there’s a vent cap/cover, unscrew it.
  • Pull any visible lint out.
  • Go back inside and run the dryer for 10 – 15 minutes. This will push any remaining lint outside.
  • Go back outside and check for visible lint; if present, remove it.
  • Reattach the vent cap/cover.

Before you get started, make sure to gather all the tools you’ll need. For easy reference, here’s a checklist: 

  • Trash bag (for cleanup)
  • Screwdriver (for disconnecting the vent from the dryer and unscrewing vent cap/covers)
  • Vacuum cleaner or suction tool (for removing lint from the vent)
  • Optional: Dryer vent brush (for removing lint from the vent)

Cleaning the dryer vent is not only easier than you’d think, but is also essential to keeping your home safe and your dryer working correctly.

How To Tell If A Dryer Vent Is Clogged

There are several signs that point to a clogged dryer vent, including clothes that are still damp, a burning smell during the cycle, your dryer becoming hot to the touch, and a buildup of lint.

Below, we’ll go over these and other signs of a clogged dryer vent.

  • Damp Clothes – Normally, clothes take anywhere from 30 – 40 minutes to dry, maybe 50 if you ran a large load. But if your clothes are consistently damp, it may mean that your vent is clogged, trapping moist air and keeping your clothes from drying. 
  • Burning Smell – When your dryer can’t function properly, it responds by essentially kicking into overdrive. This creates a burning smell that you may notice during the cycle. Alternatively, if there’s a lint buildup, this may also be catching fire. 
  • Hot Dryer – When your dryer is working correctly, the heat that builds up to dry your clothes is shuttled out via the vent. But when the vent is clogged, that heat becomes trapped inside, causing the dryer itself to become hot, as well. 
  • Lint Buildup – You should notice a small amount of lint in the lint filter/ trap after each load. But if you’re noticing a large amount of lint buildup, and especially if the lint is even piling up on the outside of the filter/ trap, then you have a clogged dryer vent.

If you’re noticing any of these signs during your dry cycles, then it’s time to clean out your dryer vent.

How Do I Know If My Dryer Vent Needs Cleaning?

There are several signs that indicate your dryer vent needs cleaning, including your dryer or clothing being hot to the touch, damp clothing, a burning or musty smell, and lint buildup.

Besides the four signs of a clogged vent we’ve already discussed, other signs include overheated clothes and a musty smell. It’s normal for clothes to be warm when they come from the dryer, but they shouldn’t be hot to the touch. They also shouldn’t be coming out smelling musty instead of fresh.

Think about the last time you had your dryer vent cleaned. If it’s been more than six months and you notice at least one of the signs above, it’s time to start cleaning.

How Often Should You Have A Dryer Vent Cleaned?

Dryer vents should be cleaned at least once per year. For households that use the dryer often, such as those with several children, the dryer vent should be cleaned at least every six months.

On average, people run the dryer anywhere from five to eight times per week. At that rate, once every twelve months is fine, provided you clean the lint trap between cycles. But if you run the dryer more than this, you’ll need to clean the vent more often.

Dryer Vent Troubleshooting

When your dryer isn’t working as intended, troubleshooting is an effective way to pinpoint the problem. To begin troubleshooting your dryer issues, the first step is to identify whether the problem is with the dryer itself or the vent.

To check this, go outside when the dryer is running. Put your hand close to the external vent to feel if hot air is coming out. If there is no air or the airflow is weak, the problem is likely with the vent. If the airflow is normal or the air is not warm, then the problem is likely with the dryer.

For issues related to the vent, try the following steps to correct the issue: 

  • Check and clean the lint filter inside the dryer
  • Check and clean the dryer lint filter housing; use a vacuum hose or other suction tool to clean it, if necessary
  • Check and clean the hole in your wall where the vent connects; use a lint brush kit or suction tool to clean it, if necessary
  • Check where the vent hose attaches to your wall; look for damage and correct it, if necessary
  • Check that the vent hose or tubing is not pushed up too against the wall, which could crush it and restrict airflow; pull the dryer farther away, if necessary
  • Check that the dryer vent hose is still attached and intact; reattach the hose or replace it, if necessary
  • Check the dryer vent hose connectors are correctly placed and intact; correct them or replace them, if necessary

It’s possible that your dryer vent may be clogged, punctured or otherwise damaged, or disconnected. Another scenario is that vermin, such as mice, may have crawled in through the exhaust and taken up residence in your vent.

If the issue persists even after you’ve tried these steps, try disconnecting power for at least ten minutes. Reconnect the dryer and see if the issues are still present. If so, contact a professional to service your dryer.

How Do You Reconnect A Dryer Vent?

When tubing from a dryer vent becomes disconnected or damaged, it’s essential to reconnect it or replace it as soon as possible. Dryer vents prevent a buildup of heat, moist air, lint, and other debris.

There are several ways that dryer vent hosing can become disconnected. Moving the dryer, pushing it up against the wall, or similar actions can dislodge tubing.

To reconnect your dryer vent, follow the steps below:

  • Unplug the dryer or turn the gas off 
  • Move the dryer away from the wall; make sure you have enough room to maneuver around the dryer and vent
  • At this point, the disconnected vent hosing should be visible; the hose clamp may still be attached
  • Disconnect the vent hosing and attachments or unplug the power cord from the outlet; you may need to use an adjustable wrench or screwdriver

At this point, you can either reattach the hosing or attach new hosing.

  • Remove the clamp on the end of the dryer vent tube by loosening the bolts on the clamp; you may need a nut driver or a screwdriver
  • Reposition the existing clamp (if it’s undamaged) or place a new clamp onto the end of the dryer vent tube, roughly ¾ inches from the open end
  • Place the open end of the tube into the exhaust pipe it disconnected from, either on the dryer or the wall; tighten the bolts on the clamp to secure the tube to the dryer
  • Reposition your dryer, making sure not to push the tubing up too tightly against the wall
  • Plug the dryer back in or turn the gas back on

With the right tools and know-how, reconnecting dryer vent hosing can be done in under an hour. 

What Happens When A Dryer Vent Is Blocked?

A blocked dryer vent can cause a variety of issues, ranging from subpar performance to the dryer catching fire. 

Here’s a quick rundown of what can happen when your dryer vent becomes clogged: 

  • It takes your clothes longer to dry
  • Your clothes come out hot to the touch, damp, or musty
  • The dryer produces a musty or burning smell
  • Excess lint builds up in your trap after each load
  • The dryer feels hot to the touch during cycles
  • Heat in the dryer causes the lint to catch fire

To prevent your dryer vent from beginning blocked, it’s important to clean it regularly and watch out for the signs covered earlier.

Do Clothes Shrink in the Washer or Dryer? Here’s The Truth!

What Happens If A Dryer Vent Is Not Connected Properly?

Dryer vent hosing plays an important role by moving the hot exhaust air from your dryer to the outside of your home. Without this hosing, the exhaust will be vented into your home. Additionally, lint and other debris may collect inside your laundry room or inside the dryer, which is a potential fire hazard.

Here are some tips to make sure your dryer vent stays connected and working as much as possible:

  • The best type of dryer vent hosing is rigid metal, such as aluminum. Semi-rigid flexible metals will also work, but are more likely to become disconnected. Foil and vinyl hosing should be avoided.
  • Prior to reusing a dryer vent hose after it has become disconnected, examine it for rips, tears, or other damage. Additionally, check the hose clamps to make sure they’re still intact.
  • Make sure your hose is as straight as possible; avoid using long hoses that have multiple twists, bends, elbows, etc.

If your dryer vent hose is not connected properly, it may cause issues with your dryer’s performance.

Does A Dryer Vent Have To Go Outside?

There are two types of dryer vents: indoor vents and outdoor vents. Indoor vents can be used with electric dryers, but not with gas dryers. Gas dryer vents must go outside because the exhaust contains carbon monoxide.

However, while it’s not necessary for electric dryers to vent outdoors, it is highly recommended. There are several benefits to venting exhaust outside:

  • Mold and Moisture – When your dryer vents indoors, all the hot and moist air gets pushed into your laundry room. This can lead to mold and potential structural issues, such as rotting wood or drywall.
  • Fire Hazard – When your exhaust doesn’t vent outside, lint and other debris accumulates in your home. This is a potential fire hazard due to the flammable nature of these materials.
  •  Air Quality – These same materials, lint and other debris that come out of your dryer exhaust, can reduce the air quality in your home. Every particle that isn’t being vented outside is inside your home, in the air you and your family breathe.
  • Temperature Control – If you’re continually venting hot air into your laundry room every time you run a load, it will make maintaining the temperature in your home difficult. It may also cause your A/C to run more often, raising your bills. 

Depending on the International Residential Code and applicable laws and housing regulations where you live, it may also be illegal for dryers not to vent outside.

Where Is The Air Intake On A Dryer?

The air intake on a dryer is usually located on the back of the dryer. There should be a series of vents or openings that pull air into the dryer, which is then heated and pushed throughout the drum.

The air intake is just as essential as the dryer vents, since both contribute to the process of drying the clothes. Air intakes bring new air, which is then heated to draw out moisture in the clothes, while exhaust vents get rid of the old air that contains too much heat and moisture.

Just as blocked dryer vents can cause issues, blocked air intakes can cause similar issues. It means that new air won’t be circulating in your dryer, leading to longer loads and damp or musty clothing.

This means that you should perform similar maintenance on your dryer air intakes, such as:

  • Checking it for lint or other debris buildup
  • Cleaning it periodically, at least once per year
  • Clearing any blockages from around the air intake

Pushing the dryer flush with the wall can negatively impact your air intake, similar to how it can damage your vent hoses and cause lint buildups.

How Do I Check The Airflow On My Dryer?

While your dryer is running, there should be a strong and warm airflow coming from the exhaust vent outside your home. If the vent has a flap, the airflow should be strong enough to keep the flap at a 45-degree angle. If the vent has no flap, put your hand underneath the vent; you should feel a steady airflow pushing against your hand.

If you feel an uninterrupted flow of air that is warm (but not hot enough to hurt), then the airflow on your dryer is fine. But if the airflow is weak or nonexistent, there may be a problem with your dryer vents. 

For those who need more exact calculations regarding their dryer’s airflow, there’s a simple process to follow:

  • Buy an anemometer online. These measure how much air your vent is pushing out over a certain period of time, such as over the span of an hour.
  • Measure your vent hose. For rectangular ducts, you’ll need the height and width. For circular hoses, you’ll need the radius (the diameter divided by two). So a circular hose with a four-inch diameter would have a two-inch radius.
  • Use an online calculator to get the volumetric flow rate, measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM). Just search ‘airflow conversion calculator’ and type in the airflow and hose measurements.
  • Your dryer’s manual will list the minimum CFM of air flow necessary to push lint out and keep the dryer working its best. In case you no longer have the manual, a good rule of thumb is at least 105 CPM.

We’ve already provided ways to check your dryer vents and troubleshoot common issues. If none of these resolve the issue, make sure to check your air intake, as well. Both dryer vents and air intakes can restrict the dryer’s airflow.

What Air Comes Out Of A Dryer?

Air that has already circulated in your dryer is pushed out through the exhaust vents that should be on the outside of your home. This air is hot and moist from the inside of the dryer and may contain lint and other debris particles.

After the air comes into your dryer via the air intake and is distributed, it is then pulled through a slot in the bottom of the door. Then, the air is pushed through the lint screen, through the vent hose, and out through the exhaust vent.

Disconnected hoses, blocked vents, and incorrect setups will restrict the airflow. This could cause the heated air to build up in your dryer, overheating the clothes and machine. It can also cause a number of other issues, as discussed in this article.

If you have a ventless clothes dryer, the air will not be vented to the outside of your home. Instead, a heat exchanger will cool the air and cause the moisture to condense, which in turn will drip down into a drainpipe or other chamber underneath the dryer. If you have one of these types of dryers, no air will come out.

How Much Air Comes Out Of A Dryer Vent?

A dryer vent with unobstructed airflow should put out at least 105 CPM or roughly 1,500 feet per minute (FPM). CPM measures a dryer’s airflow (how much air is moving), while FPM measures a dryer’s air speed (how fast air is moving).

If you’re checking to see how much air is coming out of your vents, usually because you suspect your vents is clogged or your dryer is not working properly, then the easiest measurement is using CPM.

Once you confirm that a reduced amount of air is coming out of our dryer vent, you can begin troubleshooting issues and taking steps to resolve them.

Can You Clean A Dryer Vent Yourself?

It’s possible to clean a dryer vent yourself, in addition to being relatively simple. However, your dryer vents will benefit from being professionally cleaned.

Dryer vents should be cleaned at least once per year under regular use or at least every six months under heavy use. This can be done by yourself or professionals.

However often you clean the dryer vent yourself, it should be serviced by a professional at least every other year. Though this can be frustrating since homeowners can also perform the job, your vents will benefit.

This is because professionals bring specific tools that are designed to clean the entirely of the vents and hoses. When you clean the dryer vent yourself, you’re limited by commercial tools such as a vacuum cleaner or lint brush kit. These can clean the first few inches of hose and around the vent, but are unlikely to reach through all of the hose.

Can I Use Duct Tape To Connect A Dryer Vent?

Duct tape is not safe for use on or around dryer vents and should not be used to connect vent materials. The adhesive on the duct tape will dry out over time due to the heat from the dryer, causing issues with your hose and potentially disconnecting it from the vent.

Duct tape will inevitably fail and cause issues with your vents and hoses, either related to airflow, lint buildup, or other problems. It’s a short-term solution that can cause long-term problems.

Electrical tape is similarly not advisable, since it does not hold up well to extreme temperatures and can even catch fire.

Instead, if you have to use an adhesive, consider using aluminum foil tape or another type of foil-backed tape. These types of tape are long-lasting and heat-resistant, designed to be used with machines such as dryers.

Next, you can learn about doing laundry at night here, or about average drying times for all clothes here.

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