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How to Clean Out a Dryer Vent in Simple Steps

It may be time to clear up your dryer vent ducts if you're having trouble drying clothing in a dryer or if the outside of the dryer becomes too hot while operating. Dryer duct fires cost $35 million annually and are responsible for hundreds of injuries and even fatalities. As lint accumulates in the ducts over months or even years, it may become combustible if it comes into contact with heated air. Whenever you smell anything burning in your laundry room, it's time to clean up the mess.

The good news is that accidents like these may be avoided with little care and knowledge of how to clean a dryer vent. The dryer vent should be cleaned every three to six months using the method outlined below, depending on how frequently you use your dryer. It's also important to remember to clean the lint filter after each usage. You can put away your lint roller because not only will your clothes dry more quickly, but they will also remain lint-free.

1. Finding the duct is the first step.

Most dryers have a small, 4-inch-diameter exhaust pipe located at the rear. An aluminum elbow or similar pipe is typically used to connect this vent to the specialized ductwork within the wall. These metal ducts are what carry heated air from within a building to a vent on the outside wall.

2. Safely disconnect the dryer.

This is a quick and easy chore if you have an electric dryer. To begin, remove the power cable from the wall socket. Next, free the dryer vent pipe from its exhaust by releasing any metal tape or clamps holding it in place. If you have an electric dryer, moving it out of the way should be as simple as pushing it.

3. Clean thoroughly.

The 12-foot rod is made from a lint brush and six 2-foot-long flexible parts. The end of the handy device may be inserted into most power drill chucks.

4. Re-establish all connections and clean up.

My upright vacuum broke under all the debris on the laundry room floor. Thinking back on it, I should have just used a broom and dustpan. After you've cleaned up, put everything back the way they were, with one exception. Get rid of the dryer if it has a flexible foil vent that connects to the wall duct.

The U.S. Fire Administration recommends annual dryer cleanings. Safety comes first when it comes to dryer vent maintenance: Unfortunately, clogged dryer vents are a common contributor to house fires. Kits for this task often include flexible rods that may be inserted up to 12 feet into the duct for a more thorough cleaning. Vacuum out as much debris as you can from inside your dryer's exhaust vent. Pick up and discard the debris that your cleaning process produced.