Spring Cleaning Tips: Dryer Vents and Lint Traps

greyscale photo of washer and dryer laundry machines

Even if you clean the lint trap regularly, your dryer vents can still cost you time, energy, and money if they aren’t maintained. If you find yourself having to run clothes through the dryer multiple times to get things dry, you may need to check the duct.

Start by finding the beginning and the end of your duct. One end is in your laundry area, where your dryer’s exhaust connects to the duct in the wall. The other end of the duct will be on the outside of your home, usually covered with a metal or plastic cover. 

Inside, unplug the dryer and pull it away from the wall. Disconnect the dryer duct from the back of the dryer (you may need a screwdriver for this). Now you’re ready to clean things up.

If you’ve got clouds and wads of lint stuck in the hole in the back of your dryer, now is the time to remove it. You may want to use safety gloves for this - better safe than sorry. Grab your vacuum (or a shop vac, if you have access to one) and clean in and around the back of your dryer. When it comes to the duct, remove as much lint as you can by hand and then vacuum the inside of the duct itself. You may find your vacuum’s hose extensions helpful for this. Then go outside and remove the exterior vent cover before vacuuming the vent from the outside as well.

If you have a long dryer vent, or you feel like your vacuum just didn’t cut it, you can buy dryer vent cleaning kits at the local home improvement store. These kits look a little bit like the tools Bert used in Mary Poppins, so you’ll be unleashing your inner chimney sweep. (Just not in the chimney. Let’s stick to dryer vents.) Using the brushes in the kit, you gently rotate and remove lint in those hard to reach places. As always, follow the directions that come with your vent cleaning kits.

Once the vent itself has been vacuumed and/or brushed clean, you can reconnect your dryer. Check the ducts to make sure that everything is undamaged, reattach the ductwork and vent cover, and push your dryer back into place before plugging it back in. You can test the dryer by running it for about 15 minutes on the air dry setting to make sure everything is up and running smoothly again.

Now that the vents are clear, make sure that you engage in preventative measures to keep things running smoothly. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, approximately 2,900 fires each year are attributed to clothes dryers, and failure to clean the dryer is the leading cause of home clothes dryer fires. Remember to clean the lint trap on the regular, before and after every use. You can also eliminate hard-to-reach lint with the crevice tool on your vacuum. Vacuum under, around, and behind the dryer every so often as well, to make sure that the fuzzies are safely eliminated.

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