20 October 2008

Cleaning the Dryer Vent

This weekend I took it upon myself to do something that I had been putting off for quite some time: Cleaning the dryer vent. We have been living in our house for a little over 9 years and during that time, I have never once cleaned the vent. I had been hearing advertisements from companies offering to perform this very necessary service for $50.00 but, since I am thrifty (cheap), I decided to do it myself. What prompted this move to clean my dryer vent? In one word...Safety. I understand, but usually never think about, the fact that a clogged dryer vent can lead to a house fire. For example, "a January 2007 report by the U.S. Fire Administration indicates that dryer fires account for an average of 15,000 fires with an approximate $88 Million in property damage, 15 deaths and 400 injuries annually. “Failure to clean” was cited as the leading factor contributing to clothes dryer fires in residential buildings."1

The three telltale signs of a clogged dryer vent are:

  • Clothing is still damp at the end of normal cycle or requires longer dryer times (especially heavy items like jeans or towels).

  • Clothes are hotter than usual at the end of the cycle.

  • The flapper on the vent hood doesn't open when dryer is on.
  • 2

The first step is to pull the dryer from the wall and detach the hose from the dryer. As I detached the hose from the vent pipe, I noticed that it was never fully attached, which could explain why we had lint behind the dryer. In our house the 4-inch vent pipe goes up through the wall and exits out the roof. Now, instead of climbing on the roof, taking off the cap and peering down through the pipe, I took a flashlight and a mirror and put the mirror at the base of the pipe and shined the flashlight on the mirror. I then angled the mirror so I could see the interior of the pipe, all the way to the top of the pipe. Luckily, the vent pipe was nice and clean, so I did not need to go on the roof and push my vent cleaner (stiff wire brush attached to 10 feet of flexible cable)photo of a dryer vent cleaner
down through the pipe and into the laundry room below, thus clearing out all the lint.

Now, to re-attach the hose. Firstly, I need to say that our old hose was one of those really cheap models, kind of like aluminum foil. These types of hoses are not only cheap, but they are not UL approved. So, I went and purchased a semi-rigid hose, which I could cut to fit. I then began to fit the hose onto the vent, but noticed that it still would not fit. Then it dawned on me, the hose was never meant to fit directly onto the vent pipe. I needed a coupler.photo of a pipe coupler
After purchasing the coupler and some duct tape, I attached the coupler to the vent pipe and taped the seam (not necessary, but still sound practice). I then attached the hose to the coupler and taped the seam with duct tape. I then attached the hose to the dryer and again taped the seam. Mission accomplished.

I highly recommend that you check this often overlooked, but very important item in your house. A few minutes spent ensuring that your vent is clear can save you thousands of dollars or even your life. If you do not feel comfortable checking the dryer vent yourself, then please have someone do it for you. The companies that clean vents, only charge about $50.00 to provide this service.

Another note: When you finish using your washing machine, do you turn-off the water? It would be a good habit to get into, because the hoses that you use for your washing machine are not designed to handle the continuous, 24 hour a day, 7 day a week pressure of your home water supply. Sooner or later the hose will wear and break, thus causing a serious flood. So, unless you go the Hardware Store and purchase Washing Machine hoses that are specifically designed to handle that type of pressure, you should make it a habit to turn-off the water to your washing machine once you are finished using it.




  1. Kokoooooooooooooooooooo


  2. Thanks for the tip about the washing machine. And I'm so impressed with your dryer vent cleaning. That's a job well done :-)

  3. Thanks for the reminder. I really need to do this. With 4 cats and 2 dogs there has to be a ton of lint (hair) in the vent.

  4. Life just keeps getting more and more complicated all the time! Now you give me another thing to do yet!

  5. It's funny but I guess people just don't realize how flammable lint is. I remember wayyy back when I was in boy scouts, that one of our quick tips for starting a fire outside in damp whether was by using dryer lint. Sure enough, it lights up super quick and works like a charm... although not so good for a house.

  6. Gaolga: Yes, he had to supervise the writing of the article :)

    Dori: You're welcome. I'm glad it was useful for you :-)

    Furkidsmom: You're welcome and good luck:)

    Karen &Gerard Zemek: I know what you mean. Next time, it's furnace filters:-)

    PlentyofFish Dating Guy: It's not something we tend to think about much. Thanks for the camping tip :)


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