As a homeowner, safety is always top-of-mind; you install fire alarms to alert you of smoke and flames; carbon monoxide alarms to warn you of potential poisoning; locks on your doors and security cameras to keep out intruders. But did you know one of the biggest dangers can be lying within your vents?
That’s right – your home’s dryer vents can house flammable dust and debris that, if not cleaned properly, and regularly, can be a big fire risk. In fact, according to the National Fire Protection Association, nearly 17,000 home dryer fires are reported each year, resulting in, on average, 51 deaths, 380 injuries, and $236 million in property loss. And of these 17,000 fires, nearly 40% are the result of the homeowner’s failure to clean out their dryer vents.
Thankfully, this risk can be mitigated by taking some time (about twice a year) to clean out your dryer vents. Read on to see how.
Indications That it’s Time to Clean Your Vents
When your dryer stops performing at its peak, that’s usually a good indication that it’s time to clean out the vents. Signs that you’re overdue for a cleaning include clothes taking longer than usual to dry, your laundry room overheating when the dryer is on, and even burning smells when running the dryer.
If you don’t pay attention to these warning signs, you’re preventing the dryer from being able to exhaust hot air, which can lead to it overheating and causing a dryer fire.
How to Clean Your Dryer Vents
Cleaning out your dryer vents is a small afternoon project you can complete in under two hours to help ensure your home stays safe from fires (in the dryer, at least!).
Step 1: Gather Your Supplies
What You’ll Need:
- A vacuum cleaner
- A flexible cleaning brush
- A cloth or towel
- A dust mask and/or goggles
Step 2: Unplug Your Dryer and Disconnect the Duct
Be sure to unplug your dryer for safety and then pull it away from the wall to locate the vent, which is typically found at the back of your dryer attached to the duct. Disconnect the duct from the back of the dryer.
Step 3: Vacuum
Using a hose attachment, vacuum out the dust and debris surrounding the entrance to the vent, going as far into the exhaust duct as you can.
Step 4: Clean with a Flexible Brush
Using your cleaning brush (it’s best to have one with an extendable reach), gently spin it clockwise through the duct. This part can get messy as more and more dust gets removed, so you may want to wear a dust mask and goggles to help protect your face and lungs from dust particles.
Step 5: Vacuum (Again) and Mop
After cleaning out the vents, there’s likely a lot of dust on your laundry room floor. Vacuum it up, and, if the lint leaves any residue, use a damp cloth or towel to wipe it away. You can also give your laundry room a quick mop to soak up any lingering debris.
Step 6: Clean the Exterior Exhaust Vent
Your dryer’s exterior exhaust vent is located at your home’s exterior, above where the dryer sits indoors. If it’s low enough to the ground, you can use your flexible brush and repeat step four to clean the duct from the outside working in.
Finally, plug your dryer back in and, to maintain its cleanliness, be sure to always clean out your lint trap after every cycle to minimize lint buildup. For ongoing maintenance, repeat this task at least twice a year to keep your dryer in tip-top shape, and keep your home out of danger of dryer fires.