Have You Cleaned Your Dryer Vent Lately?

lintSince ProfHackers and their gentle readers do not live solely in the world of apps and virtual communication, their bodies are clothed and cleaned. When those clothes and towels get washed, they also get dried, which creates lint.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that 15,000 fires occur each year due to obstructed airflow due to lint buildup in consumer clothes dryers. Textile lint is an incredibly flammable substance — so much so that some people collect it for use as a firestarter.

You probably already know to clean the lint from the lint trap each time you use it. (And it’s a good idea to wash that lint screen with soap and warm water once a month to remove residue created by laundry soaps or softeners.) But lint builds up in the vent between your dryer and the outdoors, which is how fires can start. You can hire professionals to clean it out for you, but it’s also an easy task to do yourself. It takes about half an hour and is surprisingly satisfying, since you can see all the lint you’re removing from the vent. Not only will cleaning your vent keep your home safe, but you’ll be improving the energy efficiency of your dryer too.

How to Clean Your Dryer Vent

Simply pull your dryer out away from the wall and unfasten the metal tubing (many home dryers use a kind of crinkly aluminum vent tube fastened with a metal band). Poke a bristly dryer vent brush on a long handle into the vent and rotate it around to pull out accumulated lint. You’ll want to repeat this process several times.

Check the dryer vent opening on the outside of your house and clear any blockages. Depending on the distance between your dryer and the outside vent, you may want to use the vent brush from the outside too.

When should you clean your dryer vent?

  • when it takes longer to dry a load of towels than it used to
  • when the top surface of the dryer is very hot when it is in use
  • if you can’t remember ever having cleaned your dryer vents before

Most households should clean the dryer vent duct at least twice a year — more often if you dry a lot of fuzzy blankets or have multiple animal companions. I use the dryer cleaner kit from the FlyLady website; Amazon sells this lint removal kit that looks very similar. Or you can purchase a duct cleaning brush by itself, which is the primary tool I usually use.

An App For That?

There’s no app that will clean your dryer vent for you — but it’s a good idea to schedule a recurring event or reminder on your digital calendar or phone to make sure the task gets done. Lifehacker even offers a home maintenance schedule you can copy to Google Calendar that includes dryer vent cleaning and many other routine tasks.

[Photo: What I cleaned out of my dryer vent recently.]

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