Your dryer is probably one of those appliances that you just take for granted until it stops working. However, properly cleaning and maintaining your dryer–specifically the dryer vent–is critical to keeping it operating safely and efficiently.
The dryer vent acts as a chimney. As hot, dry air is pumped into the machine, the vent funnels the dense, wet air outside. This keeps high temperatures and humid air out of your home while allowing the moisture to lift from your laundry.
This airflow also disrupts and carries any fibers, hair, dust, dirt, or other debris not caught by the lint trap, where it collects along the inside of the vent. While this leaves your clothes lint-free, the vent can become clogged with detritus over time. A clogged vent not only inhibits the functionality of your dryer, but it can also be extremely hazardous.
4 Reasons to Clean Your Dryer Vent
Your dryer works hard, and like most appliances, the harder it works, the dirtier it gets. While you may not directly see the impact of all those loads of laundry, accumulated dirt, dust, and debris in your dryer vent can lead to serious problems and potentially catastrophic damage.
1. Clogged dryer vents are a leading cause of residential fires.
According to the NFPA, dryers were the cause of almost 14,000 residential fires per year from 2014 to 2018. Lint is extremely combustible, especially when compacted. An overheating machine alone can be enough to ignite a dense ball of lint, and dryers are much more likely to overheat when their vent is clogged due to degradation of sensitive heat sensors and temperature regulators.
Extremely flammable lint clogs can also contribute violent fuel to a fire started by other means. This is particularly a concern for gas-powered dryers, as a blocked vent could lead to trapped fumes igniting.
2. Dangerous fumes can leak into your home.
Improper air flow caused by an obstruction in your gas dryer’s vent can lead to carbon monoxide seeping into your home. Carbon monoxide is a silent killer, with no perceptible scent, and people with CO leaks often go to sleep at night completely unaware, only to fall severely ill or simply never wake up.
3. Pests can take up residence in the vent.
Insects, birds, and a variety of rodents–along with all their nesting materials–are attracted to the warmth and security of a compact dryer vent. Once inside the vent, these critters can wreak all sorts of havoc. They can damage the vent itself, create further obstructions, leave droppings and other organic materials, or introduce biting insects into your home. Creatures could even get trapped and die inside the dryer vent—which you might not notice until there’s a horrible smell.
4. Mold can grow in the buildup.
The dark, damp, fibrous confines of a stopped-up dryer vent are the ideal growing conditions for mold. This can lead to your laundry being “baked” with these common allergens, accompanied by a foul odor.
How to Tell If Your Dryer Vent Needs Cleaning
Depending on how long it’s been since you last cleaned your dryer vent, you may not notice right away that there is a problem.
Some common signs that your dryer vent needs cleaning include:
- Laundry that is still damp after one cycle, or if cycles are taking longer to complete. If the vent is clogged, the humid air created in the dryer during a cycle can’t escape, giving it nowhere else to go but back into your clothes.
- A lack of visible lint on the lint screen, or buildup and residue on your laundry. The lack of airflow caused by a clog makes it harder for lint to collect on the lint trap screen, so it clings to your clothing instead.
- Clothes that feel too hot after one cycle, or the dryer is hot to the touch. Like moisture, heat can also have trouble escaping your dryer due to a clog. Hot laundry can signal that the whole system is too warm. If the dryer itself is unusually hot, it could be on its way to overheating from working harder and longer than usual and/or from heat failing to dissipate.
Other signs your dryer vent needs cleaned might be:
- Mildew inside the dryer or on your clothes, caused by unvented moisture trapped in the dryer drum.
- A burning smell after running the dryer, which could indicate that machine parts are overheating and deteriorating. It could also mean extremely flammable materials are getting hot enough to begin to catch.
3 Benefits of Cleaning Your Dryer Vent
Dryer vents typically reach into the attic or other less-than-accessible spaces of a home, which is why many homeowners don’t bother to clean them. However, cleaning your dryer vent just once a year can produce an array of benefits.*
Here are just a few benefits to having a clean dryer vent:
- Dryers have many sensitive parts that can easily be damaged due to overheating, and those parts also tend to be critically necessary to replace if they deteriorate. Cleaning the dryer vent can extend the life of your machine and reduce the number of future repairs you may need.
- A clean vent helps your dryer run more efficiently, saving you time and money on your energy bill.
- A clean dryer vent can help protect your clothing. An efficient dryer dries your clothes faster in fewer cycles and on lower heat settings. Less time in the dryer means less friction and wear on your laundry, minimizing stretching, damage, shrinkage, and fiber deterioration.
*For homes with pets, more than two people, and/or high dryer usage, more frequent dryer vent cleanings may be recommended.
Maintaining a Clean Dryer Vent
Once you’ve had a professional dryer vent cleaning, there are several things you can do to help maintain it and extend the time between services. Cleaning the lint trap after every use is the easiest, quickest, and most significant task you can do to maintain a clean dryer vent and prevent buildup.
You should also:
- Regularly sweep and dust the areas around and under your dryer. The less debris that could be funneled into the machine’s intake, the less debris there is to accumulate in the vent.
- Limit your use of fabric softeners and dryer sheets. Not only do these leave chemical residue that builds up on the lint screen, they weaken the strength of the fibers in your laundry, causing more lint to release during each load.
- Use shorter drying cycles. Less time spinning means less time shedding lint.
- Hang heavy bedding outside to dry. Large, thick bedding takes a very long time to dry completely, so hang it first to air dry and minimize dryer buildup.
- Occasionally wash the screen to remove chemical residue, which is especially important if you’re using dryer sheets and/or fabric softeners.
- Vacuum the screen housing once every three months to remove lint that has collected in the pocket between the lint trap and the vent.
- Inspect the dryer exhaust duct. Look for any crimps, obstructions, or unnecessary bends in the duct itself to give debris fewer places to collect.
- Cover the external portion of your dryer vent to prevent critter entry while also allowing for proper ventilation.
Trust SafeAir to Clean Your Residential Dryer Vent
Properly cleaning and maintaining your dryer vent is something to take seriously, both for the safety of your family and your home. For more than 20 years, SafeAir Duct Solutions has been Oklahoma City’s choice for professional dryer vent cleaning services that are fast, thorough, and effective. Because our NADCA-certified experts are held to the highest standards in cleaning methods and processes, you can be confident that we’ll restore the safety and efficiency of your dryer vent for better operation and less worry.
At SafeAir Duct Solutions, we’re committed to honesty, transparency, and exceptional customer service, so we go above and beyond to answer your questions and address any concerns. We provide upfront pricing with no hidden fees and free estimates, so you’ll never get a surprise charge after your service. Contact us today for more on how our affordable dryer vent cleanings can reduce your risk of fire and to request a dryer inspection.