If your clothes aren’t drying properly or it takes longer than usual for a load of laundry to dry, it may be time to clean your dryer vent and lint screen. It’s easy to do this yourself, and you’ll be rewarded with a well-running appliance that dries clothes faster and more safely. Here's how.
Quick Pre-Cleaning Tips
Read the instructions. Read the manufacturer's instructions that came with your dryer to see if there are any specific instructions for your particular model.
Make sure you know the difference between dryer vent cleaning and dryer lint screen and trap cleaning. Both are important, but separate, tasks. Usually, your dryer lint screen and trap are located on the top of your dryer or just inside the door. The vent is usually connected to your dryer in the back of the machine. You should clean your dryer lint screen after each load. To clean the screen, just lift up and wipe out the lint with your fingers, discarding the debris. The lint trap below can be vacuumed or cleaned out with a long brush. It’s important to note that keeping your lint screen and trap clear can help prevent clogs from building up in your dryer vent.
- It’s recommended to clean your dryer vent at least every six to 12 months. However, if your dryer gets a lot of use or if you have an older machine, you may need to clean it more often. There are some other signals that your vent may be clogged or need cleaning besides clothes not drying thoroughly or longer drying cycles. If you notice that your dryer is hot to the touch or that there is a musty or unusual smell when you open the door, investigating the vent is a good place to start for diagnosing the problem. You may also notice a large amount of lint accumulating on the lint screen or in the trap, despite regular cleaning. If any of these signs occur, it’s best to act immediately.
Related: How to Clean Your Washer and Dryer
How to Clean Your Dryer
If you don’t know how to clean a dryer vent or lint screen and trap, here's how in eight quick steps:
1. Turn off and unplug dryer. To clean the dryer vent, first unplug your dryer from the wall socket. If you have a gas dryer, it will also be necessary to turn off the gas before you go any further. If you don’t know how to shut off the gas, call a qualified professional or contact your local gas company.
2. Pull out dryer and remove vent clamp. Pull out the dryer far enough to get access to the vent duct. You’ll have to unscrew the clamp that holds the vent pipe to the wall opening. Depending on the type of clamp, you can either squeeze to release it, or you may have to use a screwdriver to detach the clamp. Now is a good time to inspect the vent piping for cracks or other signs of deterioration and replace it if needed.
3. Check for clogs in vent and remove. Look into the vent to inspect it for any clogs or debris that you can remove with your hands. (Reach in slowly and carefully in case you come in contact with anything sharp. Consider wearing gloves to protect your hands.) To clean further into the vent, you’ll need either a special dryer vent cleaning tool that you can purchase at hardware and home stores, a long-handled cleaning tool that won’t puncture the vent, a plumber’s snake, or a vacuum. Be sure to clean the vent tube and components that you disconnected from the wall, too.
4. Use a vacuum to remove debris from lent. Using the cleaning tool or a vacuum, remove as much lint and debris as you can from as deep into the opening as you can reach.
5. Remove clogs from exterior vent. Now, it’s time to go outside your home to inspect the exterior vent opening, which is usually located outside the wall closest to your dryer or on your home’s roof. If your exterior vent has a covering or flap, remove or raise it so you can look inside. With gloves on, cautiously remove any clogs or debris that you can reach with your hands or use the same tools that you used to clean the opposite side of the vent.
6. Check for objects obstructing exterior vent. Now is also a good time to inspect area around the exterior opening to see if any plants have grown around the vent, or if anything else is interfering or obstructing the airflow around it. If you have problems with birds nesting inside your exterior vent or with insects or rodents entering, consider installing a special ventilation cover that’s designed to prevent these problems.
7. Reattach vent to dryer. Go back inside and reattach the vent to the dryer by fastening the clamp. Sweep or vacuum any lint or debris that fell out while you were cleaning.
8. Turn power and dryer on. Turn the power back on and start the dryer. Let it run for a few minutes to see if any other debris is loosened. Check the exterior side of the vent one more time to see if any new debris appears after air has gone through.
Related: Dryer Won't Spin. What's Next?
Dryer Maintenance Between Cleanings
There are some steps you can take to minimize the amount of lint that your dryer collects.
If you’ve washed pet bedding or lint-prone fabrics (like terry cloth and flannel), consider hanging the pieces outside to dry instead of putting them into the dryer. Keep the tub of your washing machine clean. Don’t overload your washer or your dryer.
If you have any doubts about whether you were able to clean the entire length of the vent, if you noticed any cracks or deterioration or if you have questions about whether your vent components are safe and operable, contact a qualified professional for an inspection and cleaning.
In addition to keeping your dryer operating safely, a thorough dryer vent cleaning can help your equipment perform more efficiently and effectively.