How to properly clean your dryer vent to keep your home safe

Split image of clothes being removed from dryer on left and cleaning dryer vent duct on the right

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Each year, fire departments respond to nearly 14,000 home structure fires involving clothes dryers, according to the National Fire Protection Association. These fires cause approximately $238 million in property damage, an average of 444 injuries and 13 deaths annually.

Of those fires, about one-third of them were caused by a failure to properly clean the dryer and vents. The dust and lint from drying clothes builds up. This material is flammable and when left too long, can ignite and cause a devastating fire.

Dust and hairs in reservoir , fluffy trap of the drying machine or tumble dryer

The lint not only collects in the dryer’s removable trap, but also in the dryer vent hose connecting the machine to the outside. Since owners often don’t see the lint collecting outside the dryer, the risk for build up in these areas is much higher and can cause fires.

Fortunately, the majority of these fires can be prevented with proper dryer vent cleaning. Homeowners can reduce their fire risk by regularly cleaning their dryer vents. If you notice a lot of lint buildup in and around your dryer vent hose, consider hiring a professional to do the job the first time. Then, once you have it serviced, you can follow these steps on how to clean your dryer vent on a regular basis.

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According to Home Depot, dryer vent cleaning takes less than two hours and requires only a few basic tools to get the job done:

  • Safety gloves
  • Vacuum or Shop-Vac
  • A dryer vent cleaning kit
  • A screwdriver and/or drill

Dryer vent cleaning kits include brushes that help to get to hard-to-reach areas inside the dryer and into the dryer vent hose.

To clean the dryer vent trap, you’ll want a special vacuum attachment and brush that will get into the crevices of the place that holds your lint trap. The Holikme 2-Piece Dryer Vent Cleaning Kit is one of our highest rated dryer vent cleaner kits that we’ve reviewed.

Holikme 2 piece dryer vent cleaner from Amazon

$16.99 at Amazon

Once you’ve cleaned the inside of the dryer, it’s time to tackle the exterior and vent hose. Here’s how to clean a dryer vent:

  • Unplug the dryer to maintain your safety from electrical shock
  • If you have a gas dryer, turn off the supply gas valve during cleaning
  • Carefully pull the dryer about 12 inches away from the wall
  • Disconnect the dryer duct from the back of the dryer. This is where the screwdriver may come in handy if it’s screwed into the vent clamp. If you can remove the duct work where the dryer meets the wall, this makes the job easier.
  • Put on your safety gloves and empty the lint from the hole at the rear of the dryer
  • Next, use the hose attachment of your vacuum to clean in and around the dryer vent hole.
  • To clean the duct inside, use hose extensions to reach as far as you can into the duct. You can also use dryer vent cleaner kits, like this one with a flexible lint brush and 30-feet of cable that attaches to a drill to get the lint.

Professional Dryer Vent Cleaner Kit with flexible brush and 30-feet cord and drill attachment

$29.95 at Amazon

  • Go outside the house and remove vent cover to clean the dryer vent using a vacuum
  • Reconnect your dryer, ensuring all connections are secure, ducts are intact and covers replaced
  • Push the dryer back into place, turn gas back on and plug back in
  • Run a test cycle on the air dry/fluff setting to check for secure connections

How often should you clean your dryer vent

Most experts we researched recommend cleaning the dryer vent at least once per year. However, if you have a large family and/or use your laundry on heavy rotation, consider cleaning it more often.

MORE: Laundry ‘stripping’ is a gross—but effective—method for getting your laundry extra clean

Tim Smith, an Angi-recommended dryer cleaner who spoke with NBC’s “Today” said he cleans his three times a year because his family of six (two adults, four children) has a lot of laundry.

Keep your dryer clean longer with prevention

You can keep your dryer vent cleaner longer by following a few simple steps.

First, make sure you’re cleaning your lint trap every time you use the dryer. Even if it looks clean, small particles of dust or lint remain and quickly build up.

Also, sweep or vacuum the area around your dryer regularly. This helps minimize dust and lint collection that can contribute to vent clogging.

Typical home mainenance task of cleaning out plugged and dirty vent lines

Consumer Reports recommends replacing the accordian-style ducts commonly found in homes. These flexible ducts can trap extra dust and lint because they get weighed down and create low spots where the debris can’t move.

Richard Handel, Consumer Reports’ test engineer for the organization’s laundry appliance lab, recommends a rigid metal duct.

“The smooth walls allow the air to flow, and also reduce the buildup of lint,” he said.

With regular maintenance during routine laundry use and at least a once-annual duct cleaning, your will keep your home and family safe from potential dryer fires.

MORE: Dryer sheet alternatives: Why you may not want to toss in a dryer sheet with your next load of laundry

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About the Author
Marie Rossiter
Marie is a freelance writer and content creator with more than 20 years of experience in journalism. She lives in southwest Ohio with her husband and is almost a full-fledged empty nest mom of two daughters. She loves music, reading, word games, and Walt Disney World.

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