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How to Clean a Dryer Vent

Excessive dryer lint buildup can pose a fire hazard, so it’s important to clean it at least once a year. Read this guide to learn how to clean your dryer vent in five easy steps.

Vacuuming the dryer vent duct. iStock

Your laundry room might be one of the busiest in your house, but it may not be top of your list when it comes to your regular cleaning regimen. Many of us neglect to clean our washer and dryer regularly, and that’s a problem.

How Often Should You Clean Your Dryer Vent?

You should clean your dryer vent at least once a year—make it a part of your annual deep clean. But also watch to see if your dryer seems to be taking longer to dry clothing, since that might signal there’s a buildup of dust and lint in your dryer vent.

Excessive dryer lint buildup can also pose a fire hazard, since lint is extremely combustible. A significant number of fires are caused by an accumulation of dryer lint—a critical reason to exercise vigilance and clean your dryer vent regularly.

5 Easy Steps to Clean Your Dryer Vent

Dryer dust filled with lint. Colleen McQuaid

Step 1: Disconnect Dryer from Power Source

This may mean just unplugging your electric dryer from the outlet. If you have a gas-powered dryer, take care to not to disconnect the gas from the supply valve; simply turn off the gas valve so it’s not flowing to the dryer while you work on it. (If you are uncomfortable working with your gas-powered dryer, have a professional maintain your machine.)

Step 2: Disconnect the Duct from the Dryer

While working with your dryer vent, wear a protective dust mask. Carefully and gently move the dryer away from the wall so you have access to the rear dryer vent on the back of the machine. You can now disconnect the exhaust duct from the machine (typically connections are simply clamped in place, but in other circumstances, you may need to use a screwdriver). Inspect the dryer vent—usually a tube made of flexible plastic or rigid or semi-rigid metal—for any breaks or damage.

Repair any small tears with non-paper tape, like duct tape or metal duct repair tape. If the duct is very damaged, replace it.

Note: Experts, like the International Association of Home Inspectors, recommend replacing any flexible vent tubing with a rigid type if at all possible. This is because lint can build up in the ribbed curves of the flexible style tubing, which causes it to build up faster, increasing the risk of fire. Here are our step-by-step instructions on how to upgrade your dryer vent for enhanced safety and efficiency.

Step 3: Use Vacuum Hose and Brushes to Clean the Lint Catcher and Vent

Your vacuum’s crevice tool should be effective in cleaning out much of the lint from your dryer’s lint trap, but you can also use a soft rag.

If available, use a flexible long brush (such as one for cleaning refrigerator coils or one designed for ducts) to get into otherwise inaccessible nooks and crannies in your lint trap. (Make sure you clean the lint from the trap after every load of laundry.)

Around the back of the dryer, use the vacuum to clean lint from the machine end of the exhaust duct. Then vacuum debris, lint, and dust from the duct itself. You may want to purchase a simple duct brush kit with an extendable pole to stir up stuck-on dust you can’t reach in the duct.

Finally, while the machine is pulled out, vacuum any dust from the floor around it.

Step 4: Clean the Dryer Vent from the Outside

As long as you have access, you should be able to easily get to the outside port for your dryer vent. This is typically located on an exterior wall (often with a screen or cover to keep animals out).

Unscrew any cover and check for signs of damage that need repair. Use your vacuum to once again suck out any lint and debris, or use your vent brush attachment to gently release lint and then remove it with the vacuum.

Depending on the amount of buildup, you may need to empty your vacuum bag or bin several times during this cleaning cycle.

Step 5: Reattach the Vent and do a Test Run

When you’re satisfied you’ve cleaned your dryer vent completely, reattach the outer vent cover. Then reattach the interior vent to the dryer itself, careful that it is secured.

Slide your dryer back into place and plug it back into the electrical outlet or turn the gas valve on.

Check your handiwork with a quick “air” cycle to test flow from outside or run a small load of laundry and make sure the vent stays in place and is working efficiently. You can also test airflow from the outside by holding your hand outside the dryer vent to test the strength of the dryer exhaust.

Make sure to clean out your dryer vent at least once a year, or more often if buildup accumulates quickly.

Supplies Needed: