Admit it – there are some appliances in our homes that we take for granted unless they begin malfunctioning. Probably one of the most neglected yet essential appliances in homes is the dryer. Especially during winter, people depend on dryers to get their clothes from dripping wet to dry and warm in just a matter of minutes.
Just like any other parts and appliances in the house, the dryer needs regular maintenance. Taking care of the dryer is more than cleaning the lint filter once in a while; there are other important things that you have to pay attention to such as your dryer vent.
Why is cleaning my dryer vent important?
More than ensuring your clothes are properly washed and the dryer keeps working for years, cleaning it, including vents will also keep your home and loved ones safe.
Although the clothes dryer is used in many households, this appliance is also a good place where a fire could start. Electric or gas dryers both can catch fire due to lack of maintenance and overuse. For example, the heating element in the dryer can ignite if the appliance is overworked.
In fact, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reported that almost 16,000 house fires from 2010-2014 were caused by dryers and washing machines. Although this data fluctuates each year, poorly maintained clothes dryer is the leading cause of residential fires.
The NFPA also identified that lint is the top reason why dryers catch fire. First, lint is highly flammable, and unfortunately, it accumulates in the dryer and the dryer vents. The lint buildup causes the dryer to work double-time every load and could work its way towards the heating element, which could lead to a fire. Even lint and dirt accumulation outside the vent can clog the airflow and is a serious fire hazard.
How do I know if my dryer vents need cleaning?
Although there are a number of fire incidents that involve clothes dryers, you can still safely use this appliance by following proper guidelines and regular maintenance. Here are seven warning signs telling you that it’s time to call a pro and have your dryer vents cleaned.
(Continue reading and we’ll also provide you with more tips to prevent dryer fires.)
- Your clothes take longer than usual to dry
Are your clothes taking longer to dry? If your clothes remain damp even after an average cycle in the dryer (about 45 minutes), it is possible that you have lint buildup in your dryer vents. Taking more time to dry your clothes means more use of energy, which will increase your utility bills. More importantly, a blocked dryer vent is a fire hazard as the heat from the dryer can cause the lint buildup to combust. If your clothes remain moist even after running them in the dryer, consider calling professional services to have your dryer vent checked and cleaned.
- The clothes are hot to touch after running them in the dryer
It’s not normal for the clothes that came out of the dryer to be too hot to touch. A reason why this happens is that the airflow might be restricted. When this happens, make sure to check your lint trap and clean it for any buildup. If the problem persists, it is likely that there are issues in the vent.
- The temperature in the room is warmer than usual
Did you notice that your laundry room suddenly is warmer than normal? Your dryer could be overheating! Blockage in your dryer vent will restrict airflow and can cause the system’s heating element to overheat. Don’t let your dryer overheat any longer and cause a fire. Make sure to schedule a visit from a dryer vent cleaning service soon.
- The lint flap isn’t opening
The lint flap outside should be open while you’re operating the dryer. If it’s not, the air in your system could be restricted and it is possible that lint build-up in the vent is the culprit.
- The dryer suddenly stops working
Some models of dryers have the safety feature where it will automatically shut off if there is too much heat. Again, an overheating dryer could be due to a dirty vent. Before you panic and set out to buy a new dryer, have your vent professionally cleaned and inspected first.
- The dryer’s indicator something is wrong
There’s a reason why a warning light or an error code is flashing when you’re operating the dryer. Don’t ignore it. When this happens, check the lint trap and vent to see if they are clear of any obstructions.
- It’s been over a year since the dryer vent was cleaned
When it comes to cleaning dryer vents, a good rule of thumb is to have them professionally cleaned and inspected at least once a year. If you have kids or have a large household consider having your dryer vent maintained every six months.
Other tips to prevent dryer fires
Besides making sure your dryer vent is cleaned at least once each year, there are other maintenance tasks that homeowners should carry out to prevent their dryer from catching fire.
- Make sure to clean the lint trap – For a dryer to work properly, it needs to have proper airflow. When the air is restricted, heat can build up and can cause the system to overheat or catch fire. Other than the vent, one area where blockage can occur is in the lint trap. This is why it’s vital that the lint trap is cleaned every single load – yes, you read that right not every week, but every single time before running the dryer so that your filter remains free of lint.In addition, it will also help to wash the lint filter every three months using some laundry soap and water to clear out any residue.
- Clean the drum – Yes, even the drum needs some cleaning too, and it’s very easy to do this. Just use a microfiber cloth and rubbing alcohol to wipe down the inside of the drum and allow it to dry thoroughly.
- Inspect the vent cap outside – Being exposed to the elements, it is possible that dirt, snow, and debris will accumulate around your vent outdoors. Make sure to regularly check this and clear out any buildup to let the air flow freely.
- Careful not to overload – Although it’s more energy efficient to only run your washing machine and clothes dryer in full loads, you have to be careful not to overload them. Overloading will make your dryer work double and may cause it to overheat. Plus, drying in large loads can defeat your purpose and won’t completely dry your clothes.
- Use the dryer properly – Yes, dryers make doing the laundry a lot easier, but it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use it without caution. Be sure to pay attention to labels or instructions when you’re washing or drying clothes. Plastic and rubber should not go in the dryer, and clothes that are stained or soiled with flammable compounds (gas, alcohol, oil) should not be placed in the dryer as these could catch fire.
How is a dryer vent cleaned?
Here’s what you can expect when you hire a professional dryer vent cleaning service:
- A pro vent cleaner will start by looking for the outside dryer vent, removing the cap, and inspecting it thoroughly.
- Next, the cleaner will slide a tube-like vacuum in the vent to dislodge and remove any debris that has accumulated over time. If there are any blockages remaining, the professional cleaner will use a snake brush to scrape and clear the vents.
- A professional will also take special attention to the bends and elbow areas of the vents to make sure everything is vacuumed out as these are the areas where debris easily buildup.
- Some services will also run a diagnostic test before they start cleaning the vents. This test will determine the pressure that goes through the vent, spot any damages in the vent, and will also measure how much gas makes it into your home.
Can I clean the dryer vent on my own? Yes, you can periodically try to clear out your dryer vent; however, you would need to invest in some tools and cleaning kits to carry out the job properly. In addition, it would also take a chunk of your time to ensure everything in the vent is clean. So, if you don’t have the time and don’t want to buy the cleaning tools needed, it’s more practical to hire a professional cleaner instead.
Professional vent cleaning services have the knowledge and proper equipment to ensure that your dryer is in tip-top shape and your home is safe from dryer-related fires.
How much does a dryer vent cleaning service cost?
Hiring a professional dryer vent cleaning services costs an average of $80 to $185. Note that the amount will vary per company, where the amount of time and difficulty to clean the vents can also affect the price.
Some companies charge a flat rate, while others charge per hour. Make sure to clarify this with the contractor before you hire them. Be cautious of companies that have extremely low rates as you may be surprised with the “additional fees”.
Keeping your dryer vent clean is highly important as poorly maintained dryers can pose danger to your family. Don’t miss having your dryer vent cleaned at least once a year by professional services. Find dryer vent cleaning services near you here.