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How to Clean Your Dryer Vents and Keep Your Family Safe

dryer vent

Andrew Balcombe/Bigstock.com

We all read the headlines in the news about house fires caused by clogged dryer vents, but how often do we do something about it? According to National Fire Protection Agency, the vast majority of house fires (92%) involved clothes dryers from 2010-2014. “These fires caused annual averages of 13 deaths, 444 injuries, and $238 million in direct property damage.”

The main culprit? Dust, fiber, and lint. Clearly, removing debris from your dryer vent can prevent devastation, yet so few of us take the time to actually do it. While you’re finishing up your spring cleaning and heading into summer, take a look at our suggestions on how to clean your dryer vents and keep your family safe.

Dryer Vent Warning Signs

When buildup is preventing your ventilation system from operating optimally, it can create problems. First, your energy costs will rise because your HVAC unit will have to work harder to compensate for added dust, lint, and debris in your ventilation system. Second, it puts your family and home at risk of a fire. Here are some signs that your dryer vent needs to be cleaned:

  • It’s taking longer to dry clothes, especially towels and jeans
  • Nothing is accumulating in the lint screen
  • Your clothes are very hot but still damp when the cycle ends
  • Airflow seems low or restricted

If you notice any of these things, don’t ignore it. Most of the time, it won’t be a big deal and you’ll be able to easily resolve the problem. However, addressing any issues immediately can also prevent disastrous consequences. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

Higher Risk Homes

dog made a mess

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While dust and contaminants will accumulate in every home, there are certain factors that can put your family at greater risk. You’ll want to pay particular attention to ventilation maintenance if you can identify with any of the following:

  • Your family is large
  • You own pets
  • You, or someone in the home, is a smoker
  • Your work clothes are dusty/heavily soiled (construction workers, for example)
  • You live in a rural area or on a road with heavy traffic
  • You’ve recently renovated, including installing or removing carpet
  • You live near ongoing construction

Looking to take care of cleaning your dryer vents yourself? Follow the steps in these next paragraphs to make sure you do it properly, and safely.

Cut Power to the Dryer

Before you do anything, make sure you’ve cut the power to your dryer. While you can certainly find the circuit and shut down electricity from your panel, the easiest way to stay safe is to simply unplug the unit from the wall.

Locate the Duct

The next step is to locate your dryer’s ventilation system. You’ll need to pull your dryer away from the wall to find the exhaust. This 4-inch, circular hole connects to your home’s dedicated ductwork which includes pipes that direct the hot air outside.

Then, you’ll also want to determine the location of the opening of the exit vent. This will normally be on an outside wall of your home, but can also be located on the roof. If it looks packed with lint, you’ll definitely want to give it some extra attention.

Clean the Vent Hose

Once the power is off and you’ve found your vents, carefully remove the vent hose that connects your dryer to the duct. You’ll probably need a screwdriver to loosen the clamps, so be sure to have one nearby.

Using the crevice attachment on your vacuum, suction lint from behind the dryer and from both ends of the hose. Be very careful because the vent hose is relatively delicate. Move slowly and deliberately until the debris is cleared away. Reattach the hose and slide your dryer back into place.

Clean the Exterior Vent

Exterior vent cleaning

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Return to the area outside of your home where you found the exterior vent. Gently remove the cover and, wearing work or gardening gloves, clear away any accumulated lint and dirt. Using a damp cloth, wipe down the surfaces and look for any signs of wear and tear.

Before reattaching the cover, go inside and plug your dryer into the electrical outlet. Without adding clothes, run the appliance on the air-dry setting to help push out any remaining lint from the ductwork. When it looks like everything has been cleared out, replace the outside vent cover. You’re all set!

 

 

 

Schedule Regular Maintenance

You can certainly clean your dryer vents yourself, but you may also opt to include it in your regular HVAC maintenance. A qualified technician will come clean, inspect, and repair your heating and cooling system during scheduled visits. Not only will you save time, but a professional is trained to identify potential concerns before they become a problem!

The team at W.G. Speeks has been proudly serving the Greater Richmond Area for more than 75 years. Let us take care of your home so that you can focus on more important things. We offer a free consultation and excellent customer service. Contact us today and we’ll do the rest!

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