If your clothes dryer has been acting up, don’t just blame it on old age. It could be trying to tell you something — like, “Clean my vents . . . now!”
Dryer vent cleaning might seem like a dull task, but if you haven’t done it in a while (as in, over a year), it’s one you should add to the top of your to-do list immediately.
Here’s why and when to get your dryer vents cleaned, plus a list of warning signs that your dryer needs a good vent cleaning in.
Why You Should Get Your Dryer Vents Cleaned
It’s an oft-forgotten item on the honey-do list, but it’s crucial to the safety of your family.
According to the National Fire Protection Agency, clothes dryers and washing machines were responsible for an estimated 16,800 house fires in the U.S. in 2010. That’s 4.5% of all house fires — a truly staggering statistic.
Lint is highly flammable, so when it collects in your dryer vents, it poses a serious fire hazard. If the air flow is restricted, exhaust gases get backed up, creating the perfect environment for a fire to form . . . or for poisonous carbon monoxide to be released into your home.
Along with the danger of fire damage, clogged dryer vents can:
- Cost you more on your energy bill (since dryers with excess lint can use up to 30% more energy)
- Decrease the lifespan of your dryer (since you’ll need to run it more often in order to fully dry your clothes)
- Invite animals to nest in your vents (since your duct hood flap may not close properly, thus providing an entrance to pests seeking warmth during the winter)
When to Clean Dryer Vents
Scared yet? Then you know it’s necessary to get your dryer vents cleaned regularly.
By “regularly,” we mean about once a year. You should at least inspect them annually — more often if you run your dryer frequently. A family with four children, for instance, may want to have their dryer vents cleaned three times a year.
Most experts recommend having your vents cleaned professionally. There are do-it-yourself options, but unless you’re a trained specialist, you probably won’t get rid of all the lint; worse, you could actually compact some of the lint, thus creating a worse problem.
Warning Signs Your Dryer Needs to Be Cleaned
So, how do you know if your dryer needs cleaning?
For starters, if you don’t remember the last time your vents were cleaned (let alone by a professional), it’s time to schedule a dryer vent cleaning service. If nothing else, it’s a good fire safety precaution for your family.
Second, you can take a look at these warning signs to see if your dryer is showing symptoms of dirty vents:
- Your clothes aren’t getting dry. If you have to run multiple cycles just to get your clothes completely dry, you probably have a buildup of lint preventing the air from circulating.
- Your dryer is hot to the touch. If your dryer or clothes are extremely hot during or at the end of a cycle, a blocked vent could be the cause.
- Your laundry room feels hot or humid. If your dryer vent can’t push the air outside your home, it’s got to go somewhere (a.k.a. leak out into your laundry room).
- You notice a musty smell. If the hot, damp air from your dryer is being leaked inside your home, that will also cause a musty smell (or even a burning smell, if the lint has started a spark in your dryer — in which case you should stop using your dryer immediately and call the pros to take a look).
- Your vent hood flap doesn’t open properly. If your duct hood flap isn’t opening like it should, or if you see lint or debris around the dryer hose or outside vent opening, the air flow has been restricted, causing dangerous buildup.