How to clean a dryer vent

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

- Screwdriver

- Dustpan and brush

- Dryer vent cleaner kit 
[prices from $7.95 on Amazon]

- Washing up liquid and sponge

- Mask, gloves, and old clothes

- Vacuum cleaner with a crevice attachment

- Power drill (optional)

- An extra pair of hands to lift the dryer

Learning how to clean a dryer vent is well worth the effort to speed up the laundry process. Let’s face it - the laundry can be a chore, but a little routine maintenance helps you fast-track your way to perfectly dry clothes. If that’s not motivation enough, this simple task can save you money on your energy bills. On the other hand, neglecting your dryer vent can lead to clogs, increasing the risk of overheating and even fire.

If you’ve invested in one of the best dryers, you’ll want to keep it in top condition so it performs at its best. Vented dryers work by extracting moisture and allowing it to exit the house through a vent or tube. When you dry clothes, lint naturally accumulates. While the lint trap inside the door catches most of it, inevitably, some lint sneaks past, leading to clogs in the vent. These blockages restrict airflow and pose a fire hazard, as lint is highly flammable. 

Thankfully, learning how to clean a dryer vent is pretty straightforward. It’s totally possible to tackle it yourself and save yourself the cash of hiring a contractor. We’ll guide you through step by step to give you the confidence to DIY the job. It’s worth digging out your manual for specific instructions for your model. One of the best vacuum cleaners will make light work of clearing the debris.

It’s wise to make cleaning the dryer vent part of your routine home maintenance. Once a year should be sufficient for most households, akeeping on top of it can save you the hassle of dealing with an urgent repair job at an inconvenient time. 

Quick steps for how to clean a drying vent

  1. Prepare for a messy job
  2. Unplug the dryer and move it out from the wall
  3. Disconnect the vent
  4. Remove and clean the outside vent cover
  5. Brush and vacuum the vent from the outside
  6. Brush and vacuum the vent from the inside
  7. Vacuum the surrounding area
  8. Reconnect the vent
  9. Plug in and test

Kitchen with matching washer dryer set

(Image credit: Samsung)

Step by step guide: How to clean a dryer vent

1. Prepare for a messy job

(Image: © Getty)

Before you begin, be warned you’ll probably uncover a lot of dust. We recommend wearing old clothes, a mask and gloves. Gather your tools so they’re within easy reach.

2. Unplug the dryer and move it out from the wall

(Image: © Getty)

Once you’re ready, unplug the dryer to avoid getting a nasty shock. If you have a gas model, you’ll need to turn off the supply while taking extra care to avoid accidentally dislodging the line. If in doubt, it’s best to consult a pro. 

You’ll need to carefully move the dryer away from the wall so you can access the vent at the back of the machine. Enlist the help of a friend or family member if it’s heavy to reduce the risk of injury. 

3. Disconnect the vent

(Image: © Getty)

Next, disconnect the vent or tube from the machine and the wall. If it’s fastened with screws, you’ll need a trusty screwdriver for this step. 

4. Remove and clean the outside vent cover

(Image: © Holly Cockburn)

Locate where the vent exits outside the house - you should see a vent cover. Remove the vent cover using a screwdriver. 

Take this opportunity to wash the cover in warm, soapy water and leave it to dry thoroughly. A clean cover maximizes airflow and enhances performance. 

Check there are no obstacles to the vent  - you may need to prune any shrubbery blocking the exit.

5. Brush and vacuum the vent from the outside

(Image: © Getty)

Our pro tip is to clean the vent from wherever it’s highest so that gravity lends a helping hand with dislodging debris. Typically, that’s outside, though tackle the job from the inside first if it’s the opposite way around in your home.

Take the round brush from your dryer vent cleaning kit and insert it into the vent from the outside. Rotate it and move it up and down to loosen dirt. Some kits recommend attaching a power drill to level up that spinning motion. Follow the instructions for yours.

Once the debris is loose, clear hard-to-reach spots with your vacuum cleaner and the crevice attachment. 

6. Brush and vacuum the vent from the inside

(Image: © Getty Images)

It’s the same drill as earlier - but this time from the inside. For a thorough clean, remember to tackle the inside of the exhaust pipe and the back of the vent on your dryer.

Insert the brush into the vent to loosen the lint before vacuuming.

7. Vacuum the surrounding area

(Image: © Helen McCue.)

While your dryer is away from the wall, take advantage of the opportunity to spruce up the surrounding area. Use a dustpan and brush or your vacuum to achieve a spotless finish. Lint has a habit of sneaking into the dryer, so this can minimize the chances of annoying clogs. 

8. Reconnect the vent

(Image: © Getty)

Once you’ve cleared the debris, it’s time to reconnect the vent. Don’t forget to replace the external vent cover once it’s dry.

9. Plug in and test

(Image: © Whirlpool)

Finally, lift the dryer back into place. Plug in your appliance. If it’s a gas model, turn the valve back on.

Test that everything’s connected by programming an air or fluff cycle for ten minutes. Once that’s done, your dryer will be ready to make short work of your laundry. 


How often should a dryer vent be cleaned?

How often you should clean your dryer vent depends on your household. We recommend tackling the job once a year as a minimum. If you have a large household or furry friends, consider upping it to twice a year to avoid clogs. 

Staying on top of cleaning your dryer vent helps you dry clothes more efficiently while saving on energy bills. If you don’t do it regularly, the lint build-up can lead to overheating, posing a fire risk. According to The Home Depot, clogged dryers cause 1000s of fires annually in the US. 

If your dryer vent becomes clogged, it’s best to tackle it straightaway for safety reasons.

How do I know if my dryer vent is clogged?

If you don’t stay on top of cleaning your dryer vent, it may become clogged. Here are the telltale signs:

- Drying your clothes takes longer than usual - you may need to resort to multiple cycles.

- The machine is hot after use. 

- Your clothes are hot after a cycle.

- You can smell burning.

- You notice an excessive build-up of lint around the dryer.

If any of these sound familiar, your dryer needs urgent attention. Cleaning the vent should address the issue, though call out a pro if the problems persist. 

How do I keep my dryer vent from clogging?

While it’s impossible to completely prevent clogging, you can minimize the chance of it happening with a few simple actions.

Every time you dry laundry, remove lint caught in the lint trap. The secret is to do this before you run a cycle to reap the benefits of more efficient drying. Another tip is to go easy on the dryer sheets - these can cause blockages. 

And, of course, staying on top of cleaning the dryer vent can also reduce the chance of clogs.

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. The 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.

Final thoughts

While it may seem like a chore, cleaning your dryer vent is a surprisingly straightforward and satisfying job to tackle yourself.

A little routine maintenance goes a long way in making laundry - and your life - easier.  

Louise Bond

Louise Bond is a UK-based writer and the founder of The Cove Copy. She has been published in The Guardian, Breathe, Fit & Well, Top Ten Reviews, and more. When she’s not writing, you can usually find her out in nature, whether hiking in the woods or pottering in the garden.