There are a few home cleaning tasks that I genuinely don’t mind doing: On Saturday mornings, I blast some Whitney Houston and get to work cleaning the baseboards. Changing the sheets doesn’t bother me, and I quite enjoy dusting off the etagere, as I can see the fruits of my labor instantly. Unfortunately, there are a few tasks I’m not too keen on—and have notoriously put them off as long as possible so that it becomes dangerous. Cleaning out my dryer vent tops that list.
Maybe it’s an out-of-sight, out-of-mind thing, or maybe it’s because it just feels like so much of a chore, but it’s not something I look forward to. Add to that the fact that it’s not exactly a simple process and you’ve got a recipe for a long-overdo process. But if your dryer is taking way longer than it should—i.e. when your clothes are no longer fully drying during a regular dry cycle—it’s probably time. Another few tell-tale signs are a telltale burning odor that comes from the dryer when you have a load going, you feel excessive heat in the room where the dryer is running, lint and debris accumulate around the dryer's lint filter, or the dryer vent hood flap doesn’t open properly.
Luckily, cleaning out a dryer duct isn't difficult—nor is it time-consuming. I like to wear gloves and a mask when I do it because I’m extra sensitive to dust particles, but that’s not usually necessary.
First, before you even begin, locate the vent at the back of your dryer, then locate the dryer exhaust vent at your home's exterior. It should be close by. Unplug the dryer (or, if you have a gas dryer, turn the supply valve off while cleaning), then pull the dryer about a foot away from the wall. Lastly, disconnect the dryer duct from the back of the dryer. (You may need to use a screwdriver to disconnect the vent clamp.)
Here’s where you can throw on gloves: Clear away any obvious lint clumps by hand, then grab your ShopVac or hose attachment to clean out the inside of the duct. Some homeowners use a leaf blower to expel dust through the vent from inside, but it’s not always efficient, especially if you’re in a shared apartment or your dryer is located upstairs.
After you’re done vacuuming out as much of the duct as you can, go outside the house and remove the exterior vent cover then clean out the dryer vent from the outside using a vacuum.
Once you’re finished cleaning, inspect the ducts to make sure that they’re in good shape, then reattach ductwork and vent cover. Push the dryer back into place and plug it in or turn the gas valve back on, then test the dryer, by running it for 15 to 20 minutes on the fluff or air dry setting to make sure all the connections are strong. This may also dislodge any remaining debris, so make sure you keep your wastebasket nearby.
And that’s it! Experts recommend you clean out your dryer ducts twice a year, but if you smell a burning scent coming from the laundry room, that’s a sign that it’s time.
Now that you’re prepared, shop some of our favorite laundry must-haves!