How do I know if my dryer vent is clogged?

dryer and washer

Clogs within your dryer vent

The clothes dryer is one appliance that we rely on more than we realize. It is also a number one fire hazard, which is why dryer vent cleaning is important. Yes, you read that right. Clothes dryers have been the cause for over 15,000 structure fires per year, every year, and it was a clogged dryer vent that caused 80% of those fires. 

What’s more about why you need to add dryer vent cleaning to your household maintenance chores is the poisonous gas fumes that come from them. Yes, your dryer vent could poison your household. When the dryer vent is left unattended, that poisonous gas has made 1000s of people ill in their own home. 

Yes, after a load of laundry has finished in the dryer, or maybe you wait until you’re putting the next load in, you empty the lint trap. However, there is a lot of lint getting past that lint trap. If you have ever wondered “Is dryer vent cleaning necessary?”, the answer is yes.   

So, if you are now wondering about your dryer’s vent and how clogged it is and other questions about this topic, keep reading as we answer common questions about dryer vent cleaning. 

How often should a dryer vent be cleaned?

At the very minimum, you need to add dryer vent cleaning to your list of homeowner duties, along with checking the gutters, rooftop, electrical and plumbing connections, and water treatment system. With dryer vent cleaning though, you may need to increase the frequency, depending on these points:

  • The number of people in your household. It only makes sense that the more people in the household, the more laundry is done and the more the dryer is used.
  • Number of pets in your household. Pet fur and pet can clog dryer vents quickly. Why? Because their fur and hair get on your bedding and clothing.
  • What stuff you dry can determine how much lint builds up in the dry vent, like blankets, towels, and fleece clothing. Think about how full the lint trap is after a load of white clothes like socks and t-shirts.
  • The amount of new clothing comes into your home and is laundered. New clothes have more lint coming off.

However, regular dryer vent cleaning isn’t just something to add to your list of house maintenance projects. There are some serious issues that can develop by not practicing dryer vent cleaning at least once a year:

Fire Danger

As we mentioned earlier in this article, the number one fire hazard in homes are clothes dryers, over 15,000 each year. Lack of dryer vent cleaning is 80% of those fires. Those fires result in death, injury, and property loss. Frightening isn’t it?  So, how does a dryer vent cause a fire, anyway?

The lint that you clean from the trap isn’t all the lint generated from a load of laundry. Some of it goes past the trap and collects in the vents, and that restricts the airflow. Exhaust gases get backed up and the perfect environment is created for a fire to begin.

Pest Invasion

If you were a bird or mouse and the weather was getting cold and wet, wouldn’t you be looking for a dry, warm place to get? This is exactly what the lint buildup in your clothes dryer provides birds, insects, mice, even rats. If the flap to the outside portion of your dryer vent doesn’t close, and you haven’t done a regular dryer vent cleaning, that dryer vent is the Motel 6 and maybe you didn’t leave the light on, but you left the heater on for them.

The next time you perform a dryer vent cleaning or have a dryer vent cleaning company do it for you. Hiring a professional, you can have dryer vent cleaning and repairs and have a pest guard installed. Yes, you still must do a regular dryer vent cleaning, but you can rest a little easier knowing that your dryer vent isn’t a Motel 6 for these critters.

Your Money

Okay, this isn’t really a danger, but who wants to be throwing money out, and that is exactly what you’re doing by doing or having a dryer vent cleaning done. The more your dryer vent is clogged, the longer it must run to dry the next load, and this uses more electricity and/or gas. You’re your dryer vent clean and you could notice around $25 or more each month increase in your bank account.

How do I clean my dryer vent?

Calling a professional dryer vent cleaning service is the easiest thing to do, but you can do it yourself. There are several videos, in fact, there are probably 1000s of them on the Internet that provide instructions visually, but here are the basic steps: 

  • Locate the dryer vent duct: On the backside of your dryer is a very short vent (this will be an annoying fact later in this article), a 4-inch diameter exhaust tube that connects the clothes dryer to dedicated ductwork that runs inside the wall by an aluminum elbow or pipe. It is typically just above the baseboard behind your dryer. On the outside of your house, there is a plastic cap where the dryer exhaust exits.
  • Disconnect the dryer: If you have an electric dryer, unplug it from the wall and remove any clamps or metal tape where the dryer vent attaches to the wall and gently pull the vent away from the wall. If you have a gas dryer, be careful not to disconnect the gas line. If you smell gas, stop and call a plumber immediately.
  • Time to Clean: Now that you have easier access to the duct opening, using a specialized tool for dryer enter it into the duct from the inside or outside and turn it counterclockwise while pushing the brush down the duct. Repeat this process several times.
  • Clean Up and Reconnect: You can expect that lint you just brushed out to be all over the floor. This can be vacuumed up and emptied into the trash. You may need to empty your vacuum cleaner and repeat several times if you haven’t performed a dryer vent cleaning before.

Once you have the lint cleaned up, reconnect the dryer vent to that very short vent (now you’ll see why we said it would annoy you), and plug the dryer in. It won’t hurt to replace that aluminum flex tube now either since they collect a lot of lint as well and cleaning them doesn’t do much good because of the flexibility.

Now that you have done your own dryer vent cleaning, you may see why it is worth the money to have a professional service next time.

Can you vacuum dryer vent?

You can, and it is better than not doing a dryer vent cleaning at all, but the attachments to your vacuum cleaner can’t do as thorough of a job as the kit you can purchase, and definitely not and a professional dryer vent cleaning service. Your vacuum cleaner attachments won’t agitate the lint that is stuck inside the vent and remove the lint that is deep inside the filter housing.

Can a dryer catch fire when off?

Lint builds up on the heating element inside the vent and the lint trap. If left alone, it will become heated as the dryer runs, overheat, and could catch fire from improper dryer vent cleaning.

dryer working in laundry room

What happens if you use your dryer without a vent?

If you have an electric dryer, ventilation isn’t necessary for operation, but it won’t perform and won’t be as energy-efficient. It will also lessen the lifespan of your dryer and could cause it to overheat. If you have a gas dryer, a lack of ventilation can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.

While dryer vent cleaning isn’t necessarily easy or fun, it is necessary for the safety of your home and family.  If your schedule doesn’t allow time for this task, it is worth the money to have it done professionally. Call (636) 238-4702 today for quality dryer vent cleaning from Amazing Restorations in St. Peters, MO.