Your dryer is supposed to dry. It’s in the name! But, despite that, sometimes a dryer doesn’t dry your clothes as promised. If you’ve been noticing your clothes aren’t coming out as warm and crisp as you have come to expect, the likely culprit is your dryer vents.

Cleaning your dryer vents isn’t just an important part of making sure your clothes aren’t coming out damp. It’s also necessary to prevent a much more serious problem: a dryer fire. This happens when hot air mixes with accumulated lint in your ducts.

Sounds like a stretch, but a clogged dryer vent is actually one of the top causes of dryer fires. These fires can cause serious injuries or death and cause roughly $35 million in damages a year.

Speaking of money, an inefficient dryer can also cost you an extra $20 a month in utilities. Not to mention the time you will spend checking clothes and throwing them back in for another cycle. 

Cleaning these ducts is crucial for your safety and sanity. You should do so at least twice a year. You can always hire a pro, but if you want to save your dough, read on and see how to take care of this potential hazard easily and relatively quickly.

Sometimes, You Just Need To Vent!

It is easy to take for granted, but dryers are a fairly new invention. Even as recently as 1955, only ten percent of households in the U.S had one. Back then, an in-home unit would set you back around $1,600 (adjusted for inflation) on average. Today, the average price you can expect to pay is about $340. 

The first dryers date back to 18th century England and France. They used open fires and large ventilated metal drums powered by hand cranks. Innovative, but the clothes smelled of smoke and were often covered with soot. Not to mention how easily they caught fire. 

1892 saw the first patent for an American clothes dryer. George T. Sampson came up with the idea of using a rack and heat from a stove rather than an open flame. 

It was a while before electricity was introduced into dryer technology. J. Ross Moore of North Dakota was tired of having wet clothes outside in winter, so he built a shed with a stove and hung his clothes there to dry. 

Not satisfied with this solution, Moore developed his idea for an automatic dryer over the next 30 years. Finally, he built two drum-type models that used electricity and gas. He started selling a new automatic clothes dryer named “June Day” in 1938. 

Popularity grew for the automatic dryer, and following WWII, manufacturers were selling over 60,000 electronic dryers per year. In 1955, Whirlpool entered a gas dryer into the market, claiming it took half the time to dry clothes.

Changes and improvements continued on dryers as the years rolled on. Of note, 1958 saw the first 30-inch wide dryer that used a negative pressure system. This system is still in use today. 

Since then, dryers have added features such as dryness-sensors and permanent-press cycles. Electric starters were put on gas dryers, microelectronic controls, timed cycles, and delayed starts. 

Whatever neat, high-tech features your dryer has, you still need to give it a good cleaning to keep it running smoothly and to protect your house from dryer fires.

So, let’s get to it!

A Dry Wit

First things first, figure out what kind of dryer it is that you have. Not the brand, but the power source. If your unit runs on electricity, it will have a grounded 240-volt electrical outlet with a larger three or four-pronged plug. If it is a gas-powered dryer, it will plug into a standard 110-volt three-prong outlet and then be connected to a gas valve.

If it runs on gas, turn off the supply valve before starting to clean and be mindful of the gas line when you move the unit. If it runs on gas and you are uncomfortable moving it, don’t hesitate to call a pro. It might be worth the peace of mind!

You may need a few things from this point on; a vacuum, screwdriver (or power drill), wire hanger, and/or a dryer cleaning kit.

VENTi Latte

(Find Your Vent)

If you don’t already know where your dryer vent is, now is the time to figure it out. Usually, dryers are connected to a four-inch diameter exhaust pipe behind it that connects to ductwork inside the wall. From there, the duct feeds to the outside, where hot air from your dryer escapes.

Once you locate the vent, use a screwdriver or drill to unscrew the clamps that keep the vent attached to the wall and the dryer. Take a look in the vent and identify any dust, lint, or other buildups. If there are any screens, wash them of noticeable obstructions. 

Make sure to only apply gentle pressure when working with the vent pipe. It can break easily and be hard to fix since it is mostly behind the wall. 

VaCuum Laude

(Vacuum Your Vent)

Now that you have located and detached the vent, you can carefully detach it from the dryer. Again, be gentle! Once you have it separated, use a crevice attachment or special dryer attachment to suction the lint, dust, and debris from the hose.

Clean both ends of the hose and the part that connects to the wall. Be sure to get as much lint as possible with the vacuum. If you encounter a real serious buildup, use a wire hanger to snake it out like you would a drain.

Remember, the dryer hose can be broken or punctured, so be very careful if you use a hanger to free up a blockage.

Try to get as deep as possible with the vacuum, though, as that is the safest method for protecting the dryer hose. 

Now Or LederHOSEn

(Attach the Hose)

Time to reconnect the hose to the vent and attach any clamps. Before you do so, it might be a good time to clean up the mess you made cleaning the vents, so vacuum up any lint that may have been scattered around your feet. 

Now, reconnect and slide that bad boy back into position. Plug it back in, and you are almost good to go! 

This should be good enough for more modern dryers. However, if you have a slightly older model, you can get a little more in-depth by removing panels from the dryer to get access to lint build-up.

Find the lint filter opening and begin removing the panel around it. Move down to the front panel and remove that as well.

Removing the panels is as easy as finding the screws and then sliding the panel off of the catch. Once you have exposed the inner workings of the dryer, vacuum and clean to your satisfaction and reattach everything.

The Outsiders (1983)

Don’t celebrate just yet; there’s still a little more cleaning to be done! That dryer vent you just cleaned feeds to the outside, and you should clean your outside dryer vent quarterly to increase airflow.

You will need some WD-40, a bucket, dishwashing liquid, a scrub, and a wire vent brush or vacuum.

Before you begin, check the exterior vent while the dryer is running. You want to make sure that the dryer vent slats (if any) are opening when your dryer is running. If they are not, turn off the dryer and open them manually. Check the hinges and hit them with lubricant. If that doesn’t work, you may be missing a part that needs replacing.

If that’s all set, you can move on to removing the vent and cleaning the lint. Use the vacuum or brush to clear out as much as you can reach. Reconnect the cover and scrub it with the soap to remove built-up lint.

Once this is complete, go back inside and run the dryer on the air-dry setting for 20 minutes. Check back outside that the remaining lint blows out of the vent.

Now you are all good to go!

Maintain Your Maintenance

As mentioned already, clean your dryer twice a year and your outside vent quarterly. But you should also perform regular maintenance to keep your dryer clean and safe. 

Make sure to limit the number of dryer sheets you use and go easy on fabric softener. Hang heavy bedding outside if possible since they require more heat and time to dry, which in turn causes more lint.

And always remember to clean the lint trap after every single use. You can get most of the lint with your hands, but you should rinse it or hit it with the vacuum every few times to really keep it clean and prevent buildup.

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