How to Clean Your Dryer Vent to Reduce Fire Risk

  • 01 of 10

    Dryer Vent Cleaning

    Repairing Clothes Dryer Removing Dust and Lint from
    Scott Leigh / Getty Images

    What I want to focus on in this tutorial is showing you how to remove dangerous lint build up in your dryer and dryer venting. Excessive lint build up occurs slowly and gradually. You don't realize it is happening. You think that by cleaning out the lint filter after each use you are doing your job and maintaining the dryer. Not quite!

    A full load of wet clothes contains about a half gallon of water. Lint is created from the clothes as water is removed during the drying process. This lint will...MORE build up in crevices deep down inside the lint filter trap, and all along the dryer vent hose. At the end of the day, your ​dryer is the number 1 source of fire in the home.

    In 1999 the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (USCPSC) developed a report called the “Report on Electric and Gas Clothes Dryers.” In that report, they determined that of the 15,000 fires studied in one year, electric dryers were over 2.5 times more likely to be the cause of the fire than gas dryers. Fires originated most frequently from two places: dryer venting and the lint trap.

    What are the warning signs that dangerous lint build-up is occurring in your dryer and venting system? Well, the symptoms may include:

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  • 02 of 10

    Dryer Vent Cleaning Brush Kit

    Dryer Duct Cleaning Tool
    Dryer Duct Cleaning Tool - Lint Eater® Jr. © 2009 Gardus Inc.

    Dryer Vent Cleaning Brush Kit

    To effectively clean your dryer and dryer vent hoses / venting system, you will need a special brush for this dryer repair. Vacuum attachments alone do not work as well because they do not agitate the lint to separate it from the duct and it is this physical agitation that is important.

    There are a few different dryer duct cleaning brush kits or tools out there, but I've found the best value to be a great little kit called the LintEater® Jr. 4-Piece Dryer Vent...MORE Cleaning Kit manufactured by Gardus Inc.

    Compare Prices Duct Cleaning Brush Kit

    The brush kit will come with a long bristle brush to clean the lint screen but the important component is the specialized round, thick bristled brush that cleans out the round 4" dryer duct. The brush tip fastens to a flexible fiberglass shaft that can be added onto to increase the length.

    Now let's get started.

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  • 03 of 10

    Remove the Lint Trap Filter From Dryer and Clean It

    Cleaning Clothes
    Lisa J. Goodman / Getty Images

    Remove the Lint Trap Filter 

    This is the step you are most familiar with and probably do on a regular basis such as after each load. As a matter of fact, this step is probably all you have ever done, just like 90% of the population. Although this step of cleaning the lint filter is important, it does not solve the problem of lint build up in the dryer or in the ducting. However it is important as a first line of defense and we need to do it, so:

    • Remove the lint screen by pulling it straight out;
    • Cle...MOREan the screen of any lint by gently brushing it with the fine bristled cleaning brush.
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  • 04 of 10

    Vacuum Lint Trap Housing Cavity

    Clean Dryer Lint Trap
    Use Lint Brush to Dig Out Lint Trapped in the Housing and Vacuum Away Any Lint. © 2009

    Vacuum Lint Trap Housing Cavity

    OK, now we start getting to areas of the dryer where you're going to find all kinds of lint hidden away. The next area you want to clean is the lint trap housing cavity, the cavity from which you pulled the screen out. You'll need the long flexible fiberglass handle of the brush kit to get into this area.

    • Extend the brush all the way into the bottom of the cavity;
    • Using a gentle and slight twisting motion, pull out the brush to expose the clumps of lint it has...MORE removed;
    • Using a household vacuum cleaner or shop vacuum, vacuum the brush head clean of any lint;
    • Repeat this process until there is no more lint that can be removed from the cavity.
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  • 05 of 10

    Disconnect Sections of Dryer Vent

    Lint Clogged Vertical and Corner Dryer Ducts
    Lint Clogged Vertical and Corner Dryer Ducts. © 2009

    Disconnect Sections of Dryer Vent

    OK kids, now we get a little physical. You're going to now disconnect the various sections of dryer ducting to expose the inside lint for removal. The photos above show dangerous lint build up inside a vertical dryer vent right behind the dryer and in a 90 degree bend a few feet away. You can see all the lint that has built up. Some duct cleaning products and approaches try and clean this mess from the outside of the home with all of the ducting intact but if...MORE the ducting is accessible, why go through the effort and expense of extremely long shafted brushes, bags and all that only to end up with a less than a good job.

    If you just disconnect the vent sections, you'll be able to easily and properly clean each section and put it back together correctly. In the case of this tutorial's installation, the dryer duct sections were originally duct taped and screwed together, all of which is wrong!

    To properly disassemble and reassemble the duct sections, proceed as follows:

    • Unplug the dryer;
    • Turn off the gas valve at the dryer (if it is a gas dryer);
    • Disconnect the duct joint closest to the dryer;
    • Gently pull the dryer away from the wall;
    • Disconnect the remaining sections of dryer duct.
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  • 06 of 10

    Insert and Rotate Dryer Duct Brush into Ducting

    dryer duct brush
    Use duct brush to clean dryer duct of lint. Use manually or attach end of cleaning rod to a power drill. © 2009

    Insert and Rotate Dryer Duct Brush into Ducting

    Next, we get a little dirty, but it's worth it. You're going to be greatly reducing the #1 risk of fire in your home (dryer fire) by doing this.

    • Fasten the duct brush end to the flexible fiberglass shaft;
    • Fasten as many threaded shaft sections together as needed. 2 sections come with the LintEater® Jr. 4-Piece Dryer Vent Cleaning Kit used in this tutorial;
    • The other end of the brush can either be used to turn the brush manually, by hand, or it can be...MORE fastened into a variable speed drill as shown in the upper left-hand inset photo.
    • Insert the duct cleaning brush into the dirty lint lined duct and sweep it clean by using a rotating motion while pushing the brush back and forth;
    • Go slowly and if you use a drill, make sure to use a slower speed. Once most of the lint debris is removed you can go faster to really clean the duct out.
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  • 07 of 10

    Before, During and After Duct Cleaning

    Dryer duct lint removal cleaning
    Lint Removal From Dryer Duct, Before, During and After Cleaning. © 2009

    The Duct Cleaning Process: Before, During, and After

    Properly performed the duct cleaning process will look like the photos above (and this is pretty hard to mess up, I mean you're brushing out a pipe for Pete's sake).

    Perform this cleaning procedure for each section of dryer duct and all the elbows. Also, make sure the exhaust discharge cap on the outside of the house is cleaned out and has no lint obstruction.

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  • 08 of 10

    MacGyver Style: Makeshift Dryer Vent Cleaning Brush

    Use a Gong Brush as a Makeshift Dryer Duct Brush
    Use a Gong Brush as a Makeshift Dryer Duct Brush. © 2009

    Makeshift Dryer Vent Cleaning Brush

    OK, let me get MacGyver with you. Let's say you can't get one of these LintEater® brush kits. What do you do?

    Well although it is more difficult to use, you can try using a long handle 20" gong brush or long-handled scrub brush.

    Long Handle Scrub Brush

    Although the handle is limited to 20" in length, you can clean a duct section by accessing both ends of the ducting.

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  • 09 of 10

    Amount of Lint Removed in One Cleaning

    Lint Removed From Dryer Duct
    Lint Removed From Dryer Duct. © 2009

    Amount of Lint Removed in One Cleaning

    It is amazing how much dangerous lint will be removed from your dryer ducting when the cleaning is complete. The above photo shows the incredible amount of lint removed from just 8-10 feet of duct and two elbows.

    Prior to this cleaning, the dryer always had its lint screen cleaned after every few loads and the dryer was working "fine" it just seemed to take a little long to dry clothes.

    This is why dryer fires are so dangerous, the lint builds up over time and...MORE you get used to the progressively inefficient drying performance of your dryer. All the while, lint is dangerously building up.

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  • 10 of 10

    Reassemble Dryer Ducting: Putting it all Back Together

    Use Rigid Dryer Exhaust Corner or Duct May Kink
    Use Rigid Dryer Exhaust Corner or Duct May Kink. © 2009

    Reassemble Dryer Ducting

    Once the dryer ducting is cleaned out, you now reassemble the duct.

    • Attach an adjustable rigid 90-degree elbow to the exhaust end of the dryer. Do not use a semi-rigid flexible duct as an elbow out of the dryer. As you can see in the photo, the semi-rigid duct can kink when the dryer is pushed back into place, thereby causing a major obstruction to exhaust flow.
    • Attach all rigid metal and semi-rigid ductwork sections with a 4" worm-drive stainless steel duct band clamp.
    • T...MOREurn on gas valve if you have a gas dryer..
    • Plug in dryer.
    • Make sure lint screen is in place.
    • That's it!