Cleaning the lint trap in your dryer is an everyday activity, not performed by superheroes. It’s a task we perform many times a week. We wash a load of clothes, transfer it to the dryer, clean out the lint trap, shut the door, turn it on and walk away. We don’t think it could, potentially be a safety hazard.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), there are over 15,000 house fires every year caused by dryers. Most of them are caused by lint build up and ventilation system of the dryer.
The lint trap on your dryer does not catch all of the lint produced when you dry a load of clothes. Small amounts of lint pass through the vent with each load, and these can accumulate in the dryer vent. Over time, this build up can restrict air flow. When air flow is restricted it also traps the heat that is produced by your dryer, which in turn can cause the lint to catch on fire. How do you tell if your dryer vent is clogged? The first indication is that it is taking longer for your clothes to dry. For example, a load of 4 pairs of jeans used to take one cycle of 60 minutes to dry and now takes 90 minutes or longer. You can test the dryer by disconnecting the vent from the back of the dryer and running a load of wet clothes through. If it dries within the time it should then your drier is OK and your vent is clogged. Don’t hook the vent back up until it has been cleaned.
Doing It Yourself
You may be able to clean the dryer vent it out yourself. If it is vented straight out through a side wall with a short run, with a metal or flexible vent hose, disconnect the vent hose and clean it out. This can be done with a vacuum cleaner or a shop vac. Most of the lint will collect in the ends, so be sure to look through the hose. If it is clogged in the middle, you can use a plumbing snake to pull it out to remove the clog. The flexible tube on your vacuum cleaner may works well for this.
Once you have cleaned out the hose, use the vacuum to clean out the portion of the vent that goes through your wall to the outside. Make sure to look through the vent to make sure that there are no clogs. When you have reconnected everything, run the dryer for 10 minutes on fluff before you close up the outside vent housing. This will blow out anything that you loosened in the cleaning process and blow it outside.
If you are unable to reach the inside of the hose because it is long, goes through a wall or vented through the roof you can use an old pair of pantyhose or knee high fine mesh stockings. Insert one leg into the other so the stocking is doubled up. (Cut the pantyhose off in the heavier section.) Use a rubber band, hardware clamp or duct tape to secure the stocking to the snout of your dryer. This will temporarily collect lint from the dryer until a professional can be scheduled.
Dryer vents that go longer distances, through walls, or are vented through the roof should be cleaned by a professional chimney sweep. Dr. SOOT, Chimney Sweep has the tools and expertise needed to ensure a thorough cleaning.