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Clean Dryer Vents Help Prevent Fire and Boost Dryer Performance

February 15, 2013

Dryer Lint TrapWe’ve touched on this topic in the past but today we’re going to explore clean dryer vents a little closer.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reports that the leading cause of clothes dryer fires is operational deficiency including failure to clean the dryer and that lint is a close second to clothing as the first fuel ignited in dryer fires.  It seems that keeping lint cleaned up is a good idea.

First things first, clean the lint trap every time you use your dryer.  That trap is there for a reason.  It’s easily accessible and it’s simple to pull the lint out and put it in the garbage.

Secondly, clean your dryer vent system at least once a year.  In some cases it may be necessary to do this more than once a year.  If you have a large number of people using your dryer, or the vent tube is longer than 10 feet, or if your dryer is more than 10 years old, you may want to consider cleaning the vent tubing more often.

Third, we recommend that you use metal flex tubing rather than plastic.  Plastic melts at fairly low temperatures and melting plastic will feed the fire.  Metal tubing withstands higher temperatures than plastic, will help contain the fire and will not contribute to fire growth.

With those things out of the way, you can clean out your dryer vent system.

  1. Disconnect power to your dryer.  If you have a gas dryer, shut off the gas supply and disconnect the gas supply line in accordance with the manufacturer’s directions.
  2. Slide the dryer out from the wall.
  3. Disconnect the dryer vent tubing both at the wall and at the dryer.
  4. Using a shop vac or home vacuum, vacuum out the inside of the dryer where it connects to the vent tubing.  If your dryer is like mine, you’ll find a lot of debris here that made it past the lint trap.  USE CAUTION REACHING INSIDE!  Metal connections can have sharp edges and you don’t know what was once in someone’s pocket that is now lurking in a dryer vent to snag your hand.
  5. Now vacuum everything out of your vent tubing that you can get.  Collapse the tubing to get all of it vacuumed out.  Most texts indicate that you’ll find your biggest lint accumulations at either end of the vent tubing, but inspect the middle of the line also.  Take the tubing outside.  Shake it out so anything trapped inside can fall out.  If lint is stuck in the middle a plumbing snake can help get it out.
  6. Next, vacuum out the vent in the wall from the interior side.
  7. Now, go outside and remove the exterior dryer vent cover.  Sometimes you’ll need a screwdriver to accomplish this, but often the dryer vent cover is just snapped into the vent.  Vacuum this vent from the outside.  Once again, a plumbing snake can help remove clogs inside the line.
  8. Leave the vent cover off and re-connect the inside vent tubing to the dryer and wall connection.  Re-connect the power (and/or gas) to your dryer and run it for ten minutes with the exterior vent cover off.  This may blow some more lint out that you’ve loosened up.
  9. Vacuum any remaining lint and replace the exterior vent cover.

Cleaning dryer vents not only eliminates a fire hazard, it provides more efficient operation of your clothes dryer, faster drying times, and reduced operating costs.

You’re done.  Pop open a cold beverage and revel in the level of fire safety protection you have just afforded your family.  You identified and eliminated a problem.  You got up and did what needed to be done.  You ARE the man!  (or woman as the case may be)

Federal Emergency Management Agency. (2007).  Clothes dryer fires in residential buildings.  Retrieved February 13, 2013 from www.usfa.dhs.gov/downloads/pdf/tfrs/v7i1.pdf

WikiHow (n.d.).  How to clean a clothes dryer vent.  Retrieved February 13, 2013 from http://www.wikihow.com/Clean-a-Clothes-Dryer-Vent.

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From → Fire Prevention

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