Most appliances just keep working until they break. Other than handling with care, there really isn't much you can do to prevent it. Your dryer is an exception because annual maintenance will keep it tumbling longer.
When to Clean Dryer Vents
The design of a dryer is pretty straightforward. The clothes get tumbled in hot air, and the wet air is vented outside. The lint trap does most of the heavy lifting by catching all the fibers (and pet hair) that come off your clothes, but the stuff that gets past the lint trap lands in the dryer vent. So even if you clean the lint filter after each load -- and if you don't, tsk tsk -- you'll need to give your vent a thorough cleaning every year or so. Why is this so crucial? For one, lint buildup can create a fire hazard. It also forces your dryer to work longer to do its job -- time that you’ll be waiting. And finally, inefficient drying equals more money out of your pocket.
Preparing for Dryer Vent Cleaning
Before you get started, you'll want to gather a few basic tools -- a flashlight, a screwdriver and your vacuum cleaner or a Shop-Vac. It's also helpful to have a coat hanger or dowel rod handy. The first step is to pull out your dryer so you can get behind it, and then unplug it. This is very important -- you never want to work on an appliance while it's plugged in. And if it's a gas dryer, you should turn off the gas where it connects to the unit.
Dryer Vent Cleaning Steps
Loosen the clamp that attaches the vent to the dryer and slide the vent off.
Grab your flashlight, and take a look at the vent pipe inside the dryer. Make sure there isn't anything stuck in it, like clothes or a washrag.
Using a Shop-Vac or vacuum with a small attachment, clean out the lint from the internal dryer vent and all throughout the pipe that attaches to it. Most lint collects at the ends, but you may want to use the coat hanger to reach the middle and dislodge any remaining lint.
Disassemble all of the pieces of pipe that lead to the outside and give them a good vacuuming. And finally, take off the external dryer vent -- the one attached to the outside of your house -- and clean it out thoroughly. Ideally, your vent system is a straight shot from your dryer to the outside, but some setups call for vents to have bends, kind of like plumbing, so this will require a little extra elbow grease.
Dryer Vent Cleaning Kits
You can pick up a dryer vent cleaning kit for about 20 bucks that includes the basic brushes and extension tools. Some kits even come complete with augers or “finger” attachments that can grab stubborn blockages deep within a long dryer vent hose. If your dryer vent hose is short, you probably won’t find any use for such add-ons. Once you're done de-linting, just piece your dryer vent back together and plug the dryer back in. And while you have the dryer out from the wall, you may want to give the floor behind it a little scrub.
Dryer Vent Cleaning Services
You can pay a professional anywhere from $75 to $200 to give your dryer vent a complete cleaning. If you have an unusual dryer setup that requires a lengthy hose to reach from the dryer to outdoors, you might want to consider paying for the service. If, however, you have a typical dryer, the right tools, and an hour or so to spare, you should be able to do it yourself with no problem.
- "Dryer Repair Help." Repair2000, 2010. http://repair2000.com/dryer.html
- "Dryer Vent Cleaning - How to Get Lint Out of Your Dryer Vents." Galttech.com, 2010. http://www.galttech.com/research/household-DIY-tools/dryer-vent-cleaner-cleaning.php
- "How to Clean A Dryer Vent." Bobvila.com, 2010. http://video.bobvila.com/m/21291626/how-to-clean-a-dryer-vent.htm
- “Prevent a Clothes Dryer Fire in Your Home.” Wbztv.com. 9/15/2008. 7/9/2010. http://wbztv.com/consumer/Prevent.dryer.fires.2.818053.html