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How to clean a dryer vent

How to clean a dryer vent
(Image credit: Getty)

Find out exactly how to clean a dryer vent and keep your machine in top condition with these easy-to-follow steps. 

Laundry is one of our least favorite chores and thankfully dryers make the whole process quicker and easier, but even the best dryers can be affected by lint build-up in the vent. If your dryer isn’t working like it used to, and there’s a pile of wet laundry mounting up beside it, you probably need to clean the vent. Here we’ll give you our best advice on how to clean a dryer vent and how often you need to do this to avoid potential fire risks and to keep your dryer functioning normally.

How to clean a dryer vent 

Whether you’ve got a gas or electric dryer, the process for cleaning and removing lint from the vents is the same, just follow the steps below...

1. Disconnect 

First, disconnect the power, and for gas dryers, begin by shutting off the gas valve and pulling the dryer out so that you can access the vent duct at the rear. Be careful when moving a gas dryer - you’ll need to avoid disturbing the gas connection too much and causing a gas leak. This is crucial if your dryer is old with old connectors.

Next, you’ll need to disconnect the duct (usually a flexible foil pipe) from the wall vent and the dryer vent, you might need a screwdriver to unscrew a metal clamp that’s holding it in place. 

2. Clean the indoor vents and duct 

Once the duct is free, the best way to loosen lint from the inside is with a dryer vent cleaning kit  - rotate the brush up and down the length of the pipe to loosen the lint, taking care not to damage the pipe, and then vacuum up the debris.

Now turn your attention to the exhaust vent on the dryer, this is the part of the dryer that was connected to the duct. Vacuum or brush out any lint deposits from this part of the dryer.

Lastly, don’t forget the vent in the wall that the other end of your duct was attached to. Use the brush to dislodge as much lint as possible and go in as far as you can. Then use your vacuum hose attachment to collect everything you’ve managed to dislodge.

3. Head outside 

If you can find the vent on the outside of your house and it is easily accessible, check this for lint, leaves, debris, and pests. Take time to clear out anything you find,  and you may have to unclip or unscrew a vent hood to access the pipe. If there’s no vent hood, be sure to install one to stop debris and pests from entering the pipe from outside.

4. Reconnect 

Once you’ve cleared and dislodged as much lint as you can find or reach, it’s time to put everything back together. Reattach the duct to the dryer as well as the wall, before pushing the dryer back into place.

You can now switch the power and gas back on. It’s also a good idea to run a drying cycle for 10 to 15 minutes to check that everything is working properly and the air is venting out of your exterior vent.

How to clean a dryer vent

(Image credit: Getty)

How often should you clean a dryer vent? 

If you don’t use the dryer too much, this is a job you should schedule for once a year. But larger households who use the dryer frequently should look at cleaning the vent twice a year. In all cases, clean out the vent if you notice a change in the performance of your dryer. Changes in performance can include things like taking longer to dry a load, items still coming out wet after a full dry cycle, or if the dryer itself gets hot.

If you’re wondering whether dryers kill germs? It’s also worth remembering that germs and bacteria from your clothes don't always get killed by the dryer, so these may also build up on the lint that’s clogging the ductwork and vents, giving you another reason for regular cleaning.

How to clean a dryer lint trap  

Lint is made of clothes fibers that come off during the washing and drying process. The lint trap or filter collects this lint with the aim of preventing it from getting into the vent.

The location of your lint trap will vary depending on the dryer manufacturer, but they’re usually in an accessible spot, like just inside the door or on top of the dryer. Check your manual for specific location and cleaning instructions for your model.

The lint trap is a mesh filter screen that usually pulls easily out of a slot in the dryer. Any lint collected on the screen can be removed by hand. Best practice is to do this after every load. But for a more thorough clean, you can gently vacuum it using a brush attachment on your vacuum. 

Before putting the screen back into the slot, periodically check if any lint has accumulated inside, and if necessary use a long attachment on your vacuum to remove it.

Helen McCue

Helen is a freelance writer who specializes in kitchen appliances and has written for some of the biggest home-related titles around. Helen also upholsters furniture and always makes sure she's got something interesting to work on.