How to Clean a Dryer Vent

Dryer maintenance is no joke.

Home appliances cause a whopping 700 residential fires each year, and dryers lead the way. The thing is, many people don’t know there’s a dryer vent that needs to be cleaned. The lint trap tends to be a no-brainer, but that four-inch vent at the back always seems to get forgotten.

If you don’t clean your dryer vent, your dryer isn’t able to get rid of that hot air. This can cause the dryer to overheat, which can not only break your dryer (both the element and thermostat can become unwilling victims) but it can also cause a house fire.

There are signs that it’s time to clean your dryer vent. When it takes longer than normal to dry out those clothes or when your dryer (or clothes) seems to be getting wildly hot after a cycle has finished it’s probably time to clean the vent. Likewise, if your laundry room gets noticeably hotter once the dryer is done it could also mean that it’s time to clean your dryer. 

How to Clean a Dryer Vent

Cleaning your dryer vent is relatively easy and can be done in roughly an hour. But it’s important to note that your dryer might look or need to be cleaned differently. If you are unsure of what you’re doing, there are dryer vent cleaning services out there who can do it for you and be sure not to break anything.

1. Cut the power

Performing maintenance on a device or appliance that’s hooked up to power can be dangerous. So, it’s a good idea to start with locating the power cord and disconnecting it completely. If your dryer works on gas, you will probably want to shut off the gas that feeds into it.

2. Find the vent

Finding the vent should be relatively easy with a regular dryer. You want to locate the thick silver or white hose that’s coming from the back of the dryer and follow it to wherever it exits the house. It will most likely be held in place by a circular bracket.

If you live in an apartment building, it’s possible you’ll find the dryer vent accessible via a metal box on the roof or the wall. It might not have an external hose leading to it, which means it might be helpful to talk to your building management about where to locate it so you can get rid of lint buildup.

3. Take the hose off

To actually clean the hose you’ll need to take it off the wall, but to do this you’ll probably need to pull the dryer away from the wall. Once you have the space to work, a screwdriver will probably do the trick to loosen the clamps. It’s a good idea to put something like a garbage bag down on the ground before you remove the hose from the dryer duct.

4. Remove lint from the hose

You want to carefully remove the lint from the clogged dryer vents by using a hose attachment or blowing the debris out with your leaf blower. If there are pesky pieces that won’t come out, try using a flexible rod to break them up first — then vacuum it up.

5. Brush out the dryer duct

To do a thorough cleaning, you’ll want to get a dryer vent cleaning kit with a proper vent brush. You want to carefully insert the brush and spin it clockwise to get any leftover lint that’s been caught along the dryer duct.

6. Wash the vent cover

Debris left over on the vent cover can start piling up and render your cleaning work moot. You just need to give it a quick clean. You want to remove the cover and clean it with hot soapy water and a microfibre cloth, then fully dry it (air dry or with a separate microfibre cloth) before you reattach it.

7. Put everything back together

Once you’re confident you’ve done a good job with your dryer vent cleaning, it’s time to reassemble it. Reinsert the hose and attach it to the dryer, then put the dryer back in place. You can then plug electric dryers back in or, for gas dryers, turn the gas back on.

You might want to consider cleaning exterior vents before you connect your dryer back up to power. If you can access these from the outside of the house, clean out any lint with the vacuum, then wipe away anything left over with a microfibre cloth.

Preventing future dryer fires

Scheduling a dryer cleaning at least twice a year isn’t the only thing you can do to properly maintain your dryer. There are a few things you can do to prevent fires:

  • Clean your lint trap before or after every use
  • Only run the dryer when you’re home
  • Install a smoke alarm somewhere close to your dryer

For more home tips and tricks, download the free GarbageDay App. We even send you seasonal reminders so you can keep up to date on home maintenance all year!

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There’s more to caring for your home than taking out the trash. We give you seasonal reminders about things like when to change your air filter, check and seal your driveway, turn off your hoses, and anything else that needs adjusting through the seasons. We even give you step-by-step instructions on how to get these things done.

This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by RBC Ventures Inc. or its affiliates.

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