Dryer Vent Cleaning: Everything you need to know

Everyone knows, the lint trap on your dryer should be cleaned with every load. But what about the dryer vent ductwork that takes the dryer exhaust out of the house? The ductwork can collect lint and other debris during regular dryer over time, and while most of it vents outside, some of the lint gets trapped in the dryer vent ductwork.

How often should dryer vent cleaning be done, and when is it time to call in a professional? In today’s article, we will be covering the dryer vent ductwork and exterior exhaust and we will answer some of the questions that come up in our day-to-day services with our duct cleaning customers.

First, does Total Aire Care clean out dryer vents? Yes. The cost for us to come to your home in Waterloo and Wellington Region is $139 plus HST. If you have your ducts cleaned by our duct cleaning division, while we are out at your home, we can clean the dryer vent ductwork for $99 plus the tax. Not every home needs a dryer vent cleaned out when we show up though, and in some cases, it might be easier and more cost effective to do it yourself.

This is, of course, the purpose of this article; to help you determine if your dryer vent needs to be cleaned out, how to clean the dryer vent yourself, and when to call a professional.
Let’s begin,

How do I know if my dryer vent is clogged?

As a professional, the first thing I look for is the dryer vent outside. Often, there could be several vents on the side wall that look the same, so the one we are looking for usually has at least a little bit of lint stuck around the edges. If this does not help to identify the dryer vent exhaust, then the next thing I will do is turn the dryer on in the house and watch for the exterior dryer vent to open.

I have included two types of dryer vent exhausts commonly found on the exterior of the home. The second image, is a dryer vent that needs to be done right away.

typical dryer vent exhaust
Common Dryer Vent Exhaust
dryer vent exhaust in need of cleaning
This dryer vent is a fire hazard and needs to be cleaned right away.

After finding the outside dryer vent, I open it and use my camera phone to snap a picture of the inside. Have your flash on, and give the phone time to focus. This photo shows a dryer vent on the inside that is clean, and does not need to be cleaned out.

This is a dryer vent that is relatively clean at the exhaust port at the exterior of the home.

Is dryer vent cleaning worth it?

A plugged dryer vent can become a fire hazard in your home and impair the performance of the dryer. Your lint trap is a first line of defence. It should be cleaned after every use, lessening the chances that lint makes it into the duct.

Cleaning the Dryer Ductwork

Hiring a professional or doing it yourself

There are different options at this point, depending on the length of your dryer ductwork, and the type of ductwork venting your dryer. Here are a couple of scenarios.

Scenario: Short dryer vent duct work that goes directly to an exterior wall

Tools Required
  • Screwdriver
  • Tin Tape for reassembly if needed
  • utility knife for cutting tape

This is really the best scenario for any dryer. If your dryer vents directly outside, your machine will perform well overall and cleaning the dryer vent ductwork is easy. Simply pull your machine out from the wall on an annual basis, remove the dryer duct work, and make sure there is no lint in the dryer vent duct work that goes to the wall. Take the time to clean out the wall vent itself from the inside, and make sure there are no obstructions in the wall vent and the dryer vent duct work. Disinfect as you see fit and put everything back together.

If you had to remove any tape to disassemble the duct work, be sure to retape everything. Dryer vent duct work that is not secured properly can come loose and create a mess.

Scenario: Cleaning a long dryer vent

Tools Required
  • Screwdriver
  • Tin Tape for reassembly if needed
  • utility knife for cutting tape

It’s not always possible to have the dryer next to an outside wall, which means longer dryer vent ductwork is needed. If the vent pipe has bends on its journey to the outside vent, each bend will be an accumulation point for lint. Also determining the type of material the dryer vent ductwork is made of is critical. is the ductwork vinyl hose, flex pipe or actual tin ductwork?

I‘ve seen various lengths with a combination of flex pipe, vinyl hose and regular tin ductwork. Switching to tin ductwork, rather than flex piping, will help improve the exhaust flow of your dryer.

There are do-it-yourself kits available at Walmart or Amazon, basically brushes that attach to a drill. But they are limited in length, and run the risk of breaking everything up, but not bringing the excess lint to the dryer vent exhaust.

If you’re using a kit from Amazon or Walmart, consider disassembling the ductwork before cleaning. This will allow more access points for your dryer vent cleaning kit and will ensure you remove more lint then if you didn’t disassemble.

Often, we hear the question, how do you clean a long dryer vent pipe?

Cleaning a longer dryer vent pipe, when done by a professional, usually involves the use of compressed air, with an airline and a reverse air fitting that spins and blows backward in 360 degrees.

The lint is drawn to the exterior dryer vent exhaust, and at Total Aire Care, we capture the lint with our 6” duct cleaning truck vacuum hose. This vacuum system is far more powerful than a home vacuum cleaner or shop vac.

360 degree spinning reverse air fitting used in duct cleaning & dryer vent cleanouts

Scenario: Long Dryer Vent ductwork with Flex hose

Flex hose is easy to work with and can be an easy option for venting a dryer. The only real problem that arises is, at times, homeowners make several bends to get to the exterior dryer vent point. Additionally, vinyl hose or flex pipe can tear which creates problems for the vent.

On a side note, I have seen hose that has been crushed as the dryer is pushed back to the wall, be careful to avoid this if you are using dryer vent hose.

There are a couple of types of flex hose for dryer vents. One is made from vinyl, is paper thin and delicate. If you have this type of dryer vent flex pipe, I suggest replacing it with regular laundry dryer vent ductwork, or at least flex pipe. Be sure to disassemble the dryer vent flex pipe with care, as it can tear easily.

The second type of flex pipe is a little more costly, but a bit stronger. The simplest way to clean this type of flex hose is to take the flex pipe apart and take it outside. You will be able to tell in most cases where the blockages are once the flex pipe is taken apart. Use your garden hose to rinse out the inside. Any blockages will be pushed through.

Once it is cleaned to your satisfaction, bring the dryer vent flex hose into the house, and reassemble with care. Be careful when reattaching your flex hose to the exterior dryer vent and to the dryer itself.

Long Dryer vent ductwork that is tin pipe

Tools Required
  • Screwdriver
  • Tin Tape for reassembly if needed
  • utility knife for cutting tape

First thing to consider here is, how many bends does the pipe make. Each bend will be a point of build up for dryer lint. Are there any screws holding the pipe together or is it tin tape? It is recommended not to use screws, since each screw can cause lint buildup. Replace and reseal with tin tape if you can.

Ultimately in any dryer vent situation, the best solution is long and straight, if this is not the case, you may want to consider having your dryer vent cleaned by a professional. Duct cleaning companies have special tools for this situation.

At Total Aire Care, we use compressed air with our duct cleaning trucks and have a 30-foot airline with a reverse air fitting that also spins 360 degrees. We insert the airline through the exterior dryer vent. As the airline with the reverse air fitting descends, it blows the lint upward and outward in the direction of the exterior dryer vent.

As professionals, we bring our 6-inch duct cleaning vacuum hose to the exterior dryer vent and suction all lint as it exits the exterior dryer vent. This method is the quickest solution, and by far the cleanest.

Can I clean the dryer vent myself?

The short answer on this one is yes, depending on your comfort level with working tools and tackling projects around the house. There are some important considerations before beginning for the Do-it-Yourself person when approaching a dryer vent cleaning task.

It is important to remember that removing duct work, dryer vent hose or any type of venting can be difficult. Ductwork can have sharp edges and can cut easily. In all cases we recommend having a professional do this. However, many of our clients who are comfortable with do-it-yourself projects may find this a rewarding challenge.

If you are not sure, or want a professional opinion, feel free to book a service call or schedule a duct cleaning and ask the technician when he is out to look at your dryer vent duct work while he is there. Cleaning dryer venting is one of our regular services here at Total Aire Care, and we want only the best for our customers.

If the dryer vent needs to be cleaned out, we will tell you. If it does not need to be done, we will tell you that too. Either way, you will have some peace of mind, which is our goal.

How often should a dryer vent be cleaned?

Cleaning frequency depends on a few variables. How often is the dryer used? What is the distance and length of pipe from the dryer to the exterior vent? Is the dryer vent ductwork a straight line, or does it take several turns in the journey to the exterior dryer vent? Cleaning the dryer vent annually at a minimum is a good starting point. I would suggest inspecting the dryer vent at least a couple of times a year. The image below illustrates a dryer vent that needs to be cleaned out.

Dryer Vent Cleaning Before & After shots

Dryer Vent Cleaning: A vent that needs cleaning.
Dryer Vent before cleanout: A dryer Vent that needs to be cleaned out.
Same dryer vent after a professional dryer vent cleaning

How often should you replace your dryer vent hose?

This is a great question. Each home has a different setup, if your home is using the correct tin ductwork, more than likely you won’t need to replace the ductwork. If you have flex pipe or vinyl hose than replacing it can depend.

Generally as a rule, if it is not broken, don’t fix it.

Inspect your dryer vent hose and disassemble and reassemble on a regular basis for cleanout. Watch for wear and tears. If the hose looks to be in good shape, you should be okay. If it is beginning to tear, or has become too short from assembly and disassembly, replace it.

Again I want to reiterate the importance of using the proper tin ductwork vs flex pipe or vinyl. While flexpipe is okay, the tin ductwork is better; If you can afford it, go for it.

I want to touch on the laundry room venting code in Ontario, Canada. According to Canadian Home Inspection Services, in 2016, changes to the Ontario building code include:

  • Laundry vents shall directly discharge outdoors
  • should be independent of other exhaust ducts
  • accessible for inspection and cleaning
  • constructed of a smooth corrosion-resistant material

For more information on laundry room venting, check out Canadian Home Inspection Services article, Venting of Laundry Room.

How much does it cost to get dryer vents cleaned?

Depending on your setup, a professional home duct cleaning company can clean the dryer vent during the duct cleaning process for an extra fee.

At Total Aire Care Duct Cleaning, we clean out the dryer vent as an additional service to our duct cleaning for $99.00 plus the HST. If your ducts do not need to be cleaned out, but wish to have your dryer vent cleaned out, we also offer this service for $ 139.00 plus HST. Other duct cleaning companies have similar pricing.

At Total Aire care, while we are a relatively new company, we strive for nothing but the best in workmanship and quality. We have over 10 years experience in the HVAC industry, and we have a customer first approach.

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