How to Clean Dryer Vents Yourself
When you’re a new home owner, you learn a bunch of new things you didn’t know. You also learn a ton of other things you didn’t know you needed to know. How to clean dryer vents fell into the second category for me and my husband. I didn’t really know much about it until my parents came for a visit. My dad noticed a lot of lint hanging out of exhaust vent on the side of the house. Driving around town, I started to notice companies advertising their services of “Dryer Vent Cleaning” with images of houses engulfed in flames due to dirty dryer vents. As a DIY evangelist, I decided I would take on the job so that you too can learn how to clean dryer ducts and vents yourself.
Like any new mom, you learn to take advantage of the time you have when baby naps. Luckily, mid morning is when my precious bundle of joy likes to take an extra long nap, so as soon as his little eyes slammed shut I thought, “GO TIME!”
One of the most important cleaning devices I’ve found as a lover of cleaning is a Shop-vac. I purchased a Shop-Vac similar to this one and it has been great for my purposes. I highly suggest getting one with wheels. It’s also wet/dry so you can clean up liquids which is something you can’t do with a normal vacuum. You will need a Shop-Vac accessory kit with a brush attachment and a narrow wand, which you can buy from Amazon or from Wal-Mart.
The first thing I did was clean excess lint hanging out of the exhaust vent. (This is an after shot so the lint has already been cleaned out.)
My exhaust vent happens to be on the second floor. Luckily I was able to reach it by sticking my head out the kitchen window and using the extension poles on the Shop-Vac. You may have to use a ladder to get to yours, or it might be on the ground level if your dryer is on the first floor or in the basement.
The next step: I had my husband pull the dryer out from the wall so I could get all the way behind it with the Shop-Vac.
***I climbed up on the washing machine and unattached the exhaust vent before pulling the dryer out so I wouldn’t rip it.
As you can see, the previous owners most likely never cleaned back here. They didn’t know how to clean dryer ducts, so there was a lot to be done! On the right you’ll see the gas line and on the left is the exhaust vent that leads outside.
You can turn off the gas valve if you feel more comfortable while you’re cleaning around back there. I left mine on just in case I noticed any smell of leaking gas.
I vacuumed up the floor but most importantly cleaned all the connections with the brush accessory on the Shop-Vac.
Next, I tackled cleaning the inside of the vent that leads into the wall:
I stuck the Shop-Vac hose inside the vent with no attachment at first just to get it in there as much as possible.
****Insert the hose when the vacuum is off incase your vent is windy so it doesn’t suck and stick to the sides. You can also use this Dryer Vent Cleaning Kit Tool which works great by connecting it to a power drill and feeding it through the vent. I myself have used a different one that is basically the same. Be prepared for there to be a bunch of lint wads outside where your exhaust is.
Next, I cleaned the inside of the vent in the back of the dryer thoroughly. I found this is where most of the lint and other objects had built up.
I found a ton of lint and a bunch of these bad boys (collar stays) from the previous owners:
Next, I cleaned the metal dryer vent hose with the brush attachment and sort of swirled it around:
If yours is really damaged, I suggest buying a new one. They are pretty cheap to replace and you can get them at any hardware store, or from Amazon.com.
Once you’ve cleaned all of your connections, hoses, and vents, reattach your dryer vent hose. You might have to push your dryer in a bit if it’s short.
**** Don’t forget to turn the gas valve back on if you turned it off.
Now things are looking pretty good behind the dryer. Clean dryer ducts are happy dryer ducts! Don’t forget to clean the actual lint trap thoroughly with your Shop-Vac as well!
Next, just run your dryer for a few minutes. Then go outside to your exhaust vent to see if any additional lint comes out.
If it does, let it run until it seems clear of lint and clean any that gets trapped on the vent.
And all this just in time before the baby woke up!
Now that you know how to clean dryer vents, go take a look at yours: it might be a fire hazard right now.
Or maybe now you need to clean your porcelain sink…