Ah, summer! Vacations, picnics, parties, and … dryer vent maintenance. Summer is by far the best time to take care of this often-overlooked part of regular home maintenance. Clogged dryers cause 15,000 fires a year in homes across the country, but the safety of your family and your home is just one reason to have your dryer checked. A clean dryer will also be more efficient, use less energy, dry clothes more quickly, and will be far less likely to need repairs.
A quick test will tell you if it’s time for service. Remove the lint screen from your dryer. Use a flashlight to look through the opening* into the box that surrounds the lint screen. If you can’t see the surface of the box, it’s time for a cleaning! Another test is to tap the outside of the vent pipe behind the dryer. If it doesn’t sound hollow, chances are it’s coated with lint. One more way to know if your dryer needs cleaning: it takes longer to dry a load of clothes.
If you want to tackle this yourself, you’ll need to disassemble the dryer, clean inside the box surrounding the lint screen, and reassemble the dryer. If you have a long enough and narrow enough crevice tool for your vacuum cleaner to reach the bottom of the box, you might not need to disassemble it. Whatever you do, don’t simply use a brush. Clumps of lint will get stuck on your fan blade, which can clog the fan, cause the fan to break, or prematurely wear out the bearings on your motor.
After the dryer is clean and reassembled, it’s on to the vent pipe. You can buy a vent cleaning brush, replace the pipe, or disassemble and clean it. If your vent pipe is vinyl (plastic), replace it. These are dangerous and not approved for venting dryers. If you have the springy aluminum foil type of vent pipe, we strongly suggest replacing it. The thin foil is unlikely to stop the spread of a fire should one occur. Our favorite vent pipe is the semi-rigid aluminum style. It’s inexpensive and easy to use. Aluminum straight pipes are also inexpensive, but they break easily if they need to be moved or disconnected. The best vent pipe is, of course, the galvanized steel straight pipe. For any setup you choose, always use galvanized 4-inch elbows behind the dryer and where the pipe goes through the wall to the outside. Foil tape – not duct tape – on the joints looks great and ensures everything stays firmly connected.
Condo owners: The dryer may be yours, but the vent pipe is a permanent part of the building. Many condos vent the dryer 2-6 stories off the ground, or even to the roof. This requires special tools such as cherry-pickers or long ladders, and it sometimes requires special permission. Check with your owners’ association; they should have a schedule for this planned maintenance. If they don’t have a schedule, they need one. It makes the most sense to clean all the vents in the building at the same time.
Overall, if you don’t mind a trip or two to the hardware store, some time on YouTube for dryer dis-assembly instructions, and an hour of dusty work when you could be fishing or reading a book, we encourage you to take advantage of the warm weather for some necessary home maintenance. But if that doesn’t sound appealing, please call All City Appliance to schedule a visit. We’ll take care of it quickly, efficiently and correctly. We look forward to hearing from you!
*If your lint screen is at the top of the machine, look through the holes inside the back of the dryer.