We vowed to clean our house from top to bottom this year, and we’ve been spending a lot of time at the bottom. We’ve cleaned the basement floor, washed down the washing machine, and now it’s on to the dryer–and not a minute too soon! Would it surprise you to learn that every year, on average, 15,000 house fires start because of dirty clothes dryers and vents? What makes it even worse is how simple a problem this is to avoid. Here is a handy plan for spotting and removing dangerous lint from your dryer and vent that can save you a world of grief, and may even save your life.
Signs of Lint Buildup
Are you noticing that your clothes are taking longer to dry or not fully drying? Are they coming out of the dryer exceptionally hot? Is your outside exhaust vent flapper not opening much? Worst of all, are you smelling a burnt smell in your laundry room but your clothes seem to be fine? If you can answer yes to any of these questions, you need to clean your dryer and vents as soon as possible.
Cleaning the Lint Trap and Cavity
For starters, unplug the dryer and close the gas valve (if applicable). You will need to get a dryer cleaning kit from your local hardware retailer if you don’t have one. These vary in price but a $10-15 investment should get the job done. The ideal kit will have separate brushes for the lint trap cavity and the vent. Some will say that all you have to do is vacuum these things, but a vacuum cleaner alone will not get the job done so don’t skip this step. It is a small investment that will make a big difference.
Insert the brush into the the cavity with a slight twisting motion. Do not scour the cavity. That will only move the lint around. A gentle twist will help you scoop out several times more. Where you will use the vacuum is on the brush itself and inside the lint trap cavity. Vacuum the lint off the brush repeatedly until it comes out clean, then finish with a vacuum of the inside of the cavity.
If you are really strapped and need an alternative to the lint brush kit, a long-handled bottle brush will work for the lint cavity and a long-handled gong brush or scrubbing brush will take care of the vents.
Cleaning the Vent
Starting with the duct joint closest to the dryer and disconnect it. Next, carefully pull the dryer away from the wall. Then, disconnect each subsequent section. Insert the dryer duct brush and rotate the bristles as you pull it back out. This should grab the majority of lint with one grab, but repeat this action several times to be sure.
Once the brush come out consistently clean, scour the inside of the vent to break up any stubborn debris. A good shake should finish the job for each section, but you may also vacuum them out if need be. Reassemble the vent sections after cleaning and you are done. If you do this right, you will be amazed at how much lint comes out and it is sure to make you put dryer cleaning on your list of occasional household chores.