How Often Should I Clean A Dryer Vent?

Jessica Stone
by Jessica Stone

We often don’t notice how essential our household appliances are to our daily life until they aren’t functioning properly anymore. The same goes for your clothes dryer. Unfortunately, it’s ubiquitous for dryers to break down because they haven’t been properly maintained.

Clean your dryer vent at least 1 time each year or more frequently if your clothes take a long time to dry. Keep your dryer vent clean to save up to 30% in energy costs. Clean your dryer vent 2-3 times per year if you have a large family and dry many loads of laundry.

We’ll dive into the details on how often you should be cleaning your dryer vent, some warning signs that it’s due to be cleaned, and why it needs such frequent maintenance.

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How Often To Clean Your Dryer Vent

To enhance your dryer’s efficiency and prevent fire, carbon monoxide poisoning, or other potential hazards, experts say that your dryer vent should be cleaned at least once a year.

Frequent dryer maintenance helps to remove lint and other dirt and debris that are impeding the dryer performance. Below are some factors to consider when figuring out how often you should clean your dryer vent.

Family size

A larger family means more loads of clothes that need to be washed on a daily basis. The more often the dryer is used, the more lint that is accumulated in the dryer vent. Therefore, you’ll likely need to clean out your dryer vent several times throughout the year.

You Have Pets

If you have pets in your household, your vents will become clogged more quickly than those in pet-free homes. Clean your dryer vent more often to remove pet hair and fur from potentially clogging the system.

Buying New Clothing

Research suggests that new items of clothing generate more lint than old clothes. If you find yourself buying new clothes rather frequently, you may need to clean your dryer vent more than once a year.

Types Of laundry

How often you should clean your dryer vent is influenced by the type of laundry that you do. Blankets, towels, and other bulky items produce more lint and cause the vent to become clogged more easily. If this applies to you, it is advised to clean your dryer vent several times throughout the year.

Warning Signs That Your Dryer Vent Needs Cleaning

According to the National Fire Protection Association, clothes dryers were the cause of more than 15,500 U.S. household fires in 2010. The lint and debris that builds up in the dryer vent over time will reduce airflow, backup exhaust gases, and potentially lead to fires.

You can prevent these hazards by inspecting and thoroughly cleaning your dryer vent yearly. As previously mentioned, there are some cases where your vent needs to be cleaned out more frequently. However, how do you know that this is the case? Let’s examine the following warning signs indicating that it’s time to clean your dryer vent.

Keep An Eye Out For These Signs

  • Clothes take longer to dry. If your dryer vent is clogged, it will be indicative of a longer drying cycle. In some cases, it can double or even triple in time.
  • The outside of your dryer and your clothing are very hot. If you notice that your dryer and clothing are hot to the touch at the end of a cycle, this means that your vent is not exhausting correctly.
  • Burning smell. If you smell a burning odor when your clothes dryer is running, this likely indicates too much lint in the vent. Lint is highly flammable, and it can build up in multiple places throughout your dryer. If it gets too hot, it’ll catch fire and cause a burning smell.
  • Your vent hood flap doesn’t open like it’s supposed to. A very common visual red flag that it’s time to clean the dryer vent is when you can visibly see lint or debris outside the vent opening. Also, if the duct hood flap does not open properly when the dryer is running, this signifies that lint buildup is restricting airflow.
  • It’s been over a year. As previously mentioned, it’s imperative that you clean your dryer vent at least once a year. If it’s been longer than a year since your last inspection, your dryer vent is well overdue for a cleaning.

Why You Should Clean Your Dryer Vent

Aside from reducing your fire risk due to lint buildup, regular dryer maintenance will help save energy. Cleaning the dryer vent improves efficiency, reducing the amount of power that the unit consumes. According to experts, homeowners that perform frequent cleanings of their dryer vents can save up to 30% on energy costs.

Also, when your dryer vent is often cleaned, it is less likely to overheat or become clogged, effectively reducing maintenance costs for a broken-down dryer. When your dryer vent isn’t cleaned regularly, you force the dryer to work harder in order to dry your clothes. The unnecessary strain can create wear on crucial pieces of the dryer.

Clean your dryer vent regularly to improve efficiency and prevent excessive wear and tear.

How To Clean Your Dryer Vent

Inspecting and properly cleaning your dryer vent is broken down into three separate sections. Adhere to the following steps at least once a year:

Cleaning The Lint Trap

  • Remove the lint. Take out the lint trap screen and scrape off the thick layer of lint. (This essential step should be done after each load of the dryer)
  • Clean the lining. Using a vacuum hose, remove any remaining lint that may be stuck to the mesh lining.
  • Scrub the mesh. If needed, take a dryer brush to scrub the mesh and remove the lint gently.

Cleaning The Lint Trap Vent

  • Remove the lint trap completely.
  • Take a dryer brush with a long handle to sweep lint out from the inside of the trap vent.
  • Use a vacuum to remove any lint from the exterior of the vent.

Cleaning The Dryer Vent Duct

  • Inspect the duct. First, pull the dryer vent away from the wall and visually inspect for any obstructions. It’s very common to have rodent nests at vent openings. These will need to be removed.
  • Turn off the power supply. Head to your circuit board to turn off the power supply to the dryer. This is always an important step when doing maintenance on any appliance!
  • Remove the duct. Remove the large flexible duct located on the back of the dryer.
  • Remove the lint. Vacuum any visible lint from the back of the appliance. Make sure that you have a vacuum attachment that is long enough to clean the inside of the vent duct. Use a spinning motion to remove all of the lint effectively.
  • Clean the ground. Use the vacuum to remove any lint that may have fallen onto the ground and then reconnect the duct.
  • Check the area. Once you’ve removed all the lint from the vent, completely check the area behind the dryer. Look on the floor, near the back of the cabinet, and under the dryer for any additional lint. This can potentially be drawn back into the dryer and cause further lint buildup in the dryer vent.

Should You Clean The Dryer Vent Yourself?

Cleaning the lint from your dryer is an effortless project and DIY-friendly. In fact, if you’re a beginner in the DIY world, then this would be the perfect project to get your foot into the door.

If you’re unsure about how to execute it, you can always ask a friend or a neighbor for help. Or, standby and watch as a friend or neighbor clean theirs so that you can see what the process looks like.

Choosing To Hire A Professional

If you still want to hire a professional, that’s okay too! You can have someone come out and clean your dryer vent once a year, but it will cost you between $89 and $179. You can call around to at least three different companies to see what their rates are. Even though $89 to $179 isn’t much, it’s still a lot to pay for such a small amount of work.

The fee that you are paying is a labor fee. When it comes to cleaning the lint out of your dryer, there aren’t many tools or materials needed aside from a screwdriver, a ShopVac, and a garbage can. So keep that in mind before you fully decide whether you want to hire a professional or do it alone.

What Happens If You Don’t Clean Your Dryer Vent?

Cleaning out your dryer vent is crucial because if you don’t clean it out, the dryer won’t be able to expel hot air, causing it to overheat. The most common cause of home clothes dryer fires is failure to clear the lint trap.

Do You Need Dryer Vent Cleaning?

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Wrapping It Up

The vent to your dryer should be cleaned at least once a year. However, this depends on how much laundry you’re doing. If you have a home full of people and the dryer is constantly running, you will want to provide more frequent maintenance.

For more common dryer related questions check out, “ What Size Gas Line Do I Need For My Dryer?” and “ Dryer Making Loud Noise? We Have a Fix (Ultimate Guide).”

Jessica Stone
Jessica Stone

Jessica considers herself a home improvement and design enthusiast. She grew up surrounded by constant home improvement projects and owes most of what she knows to helping her dad renovate her childhood home. Being a Los Angeles resident, Jessica spends a lot of her time looking for her next DIY project and sharing her love for home design.

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