How Often Should You Clean A Dryer Vent | Answered

No one likes the messy job of cleaning their dryer exhaust vent, and many of us tend to ignore this task for as long as possible. The reality is that dryer vent cleaning is important. Not only will it extend the life of your appliance and make it work more efficiently, but it also helps keep your family and home safe by reducing the chances of a dryer fire. 

It’s easy to take your clothes dryer for granted, but you must conduct regular maintenance on the machine to keep it in good working, safe order. In the paragraphs that follow, I will go over why you need to clean your venting, how often to clean it, signs it needs to be cleaned, and much more in terms of dryer vent cleaning. If it has been a while since you’ve cleaned your dryer’s vent, keep reading. By the end of this article, you will understand just how important this chore is and why you shouldn’t put it off any longer. 

Why Clean Your Dryer Ventilation

The answer to this question is twofold. First, a clean dryer vent is an efficient dryer vent. What this means is if your dryer’s ventilation system is clogged with lint, the machine has to work harder to dry your clothes. This results in faster wear and tear of the appliance, longer drying times, and ultimately, higher energy bills to boot. Wasted time and money are great motivators for conducting routine cleaning of your dryer vent. 

If that isn’t enough incentive to get that dryer duct cleaned, here’s my second point: a buildup of lint in your dryer’s ventilation system can be a fire hazard. Did you know that nearly 16,000 house fires caused by clothes dryers occur each year in the U.S.? According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), these fires resulted in almost $240 million in property damage and even worse, injury and death in some cases. I’d say this point alone is reason enough to make sure your dryer vent is cleaned regularly, wouldn’t you?

How Often Should You Clean A Dryer Vent

Most repair persons and fire prevention experts agree that a dryer exhaust vent should be cleaned at least once a year. With that said, if your vent hose is long or has bends in it, you should consider cleaning it every six months as the longer or windier the hose is, the more likely lint is to get caught inside and build up. Also, if your household includes several people and you do a lot of laundry, cleaning your dryer vent more than once a year is a good idea. 

How To Tell Your Dryer Vent Needs Cleaning

Even if you religiously conduct dryer vent cleaning once a year, there could be signs that it needs a good cleaning sooner. Rather than rely on the calendar to tell you when it is time to clean your dryer vent, keep an eye out for the signs below, and don’t ignore them if you notice them. I know cleaning the dryer vent isn’t a fun chore, but it’s a necessary one to keep your home and family safe. 

Long Drying Time

One of the first signs your dryer’s vent needs to be cleaned is clothes take longer to dry than they used to. When lint blocks the exhaust hose, it restricts airflow, which ultimately causes your dryer to work harder to dry your clothes. You may find that you have to turn your dryer back on for a second round to dry each load, which is a tell-tale sign that it’s time to clean the duct. 

Reduced Vent Air Flow

As a responsible homeowner, you should know how strong the airflow is coming from the outside dryer vent cover. If you don’t, you should make a point to turn the dryer on and go outside to check the airflow coming from your clothes dryer.

You should feel a strong, warm flow of air coming out. This means your dryer’s exhaust is moving freely through the hose. If you don’t feel a good flow of air or the flow of air is absent altogether, your dryer’s vent system is clogged somewhere and needs a good cleaning. Blocked airflow can also lead to a build-up of condensation which in turn causes water to leak from your dryer vent into your interior wall cavity.

clogged dryer vent How Often Should You Clean A Dryer Vent

Clothes or the Dryer Gets Very Hot

When the dryer vent is blocked, it prevents the hot air from the dryer from escaping outside. This can cause your clothes and/or the dryer itself to be hot to the touch. 

Burning Smells

If you ever smell something burning while your dryer is running, turn it off immediately, and don’t use it again until you have had the vent cleaned. The burning odor you’re smelling is actually a lint blockage in the vent hose that is smoldering. Because lint is highly flammable, the trapped heat inside the hose can ignite the lint and start a fire very quickly. 

Other Basic Cleaning Requirements

Although experts recommend having your dryer vent cleaned by a professional annually, there are some minor maintenance tasks you can conduct yourself to keep your dryer in good shape. 

cleaning a dryer lint filter

Clean Your Lint Filter

The lint filter on your dryer traps lint as it comes from the drum. Although this filter doesn’t catch 100 percent of the lint produced by your clothes, it does catch quite a bit that needs to be removed after each load. 

The lint trap is usually located on top or just inside the dryer. Simply open the access door, pull out the filter, and remove the thin layer of lint that has gathered there. Replace the filter and you are ready to dry another load. 

Once a week or so, you should take the lint filter cleaning a step further by washing the filter in hot, soapy water. Products like dryer sheets and fabric softeners cause a buildup on the screen, which can impede airflow and make it harder for your dryer to do its job. 

Clean The Dryer Drum

As a general rule, the drum (where your clothes go) doesn’t require any special cleaning. However, if you have pets or wash a lot of dirty, gritty clothes, you may notice a buildup of pet dander or large particles of debris in the drum. If so, simply wipe it away with a damp cloth. 

Should something make its way into the dryer that leaves behind gunk or residue (lipstick, for example), run the dryer for a few minutes to heat the stain and then scrape it off with a putty knife or wipe it away using a damp cloth and a small bit of laundry soap. Your dryer’s drum is quite durable, so don’t fret if something that shouldn’t be in there makes its way inside and leaves behind a big mess. 

Cost of Dryer Vent Cleaning Service

If you are looking to hire a professional to clean your dryer vent, you have a few options. Some companies clean dryer vents, and that’s all they do. Otherwise, you can check with a reputable air duct cleaning or chimney sweep company as they also conduct dryer vent cleanings. You may even be able to combine your dryer vent cleaning with an HVAC duct cleaning to save money. On average, you can expect to spend anywhere from $75-$200, depending on the service(s) you choose. 

Why Get Your Dryer Vent Cleaned

Hopefully, you now understand the importance of cleaning your dryer vent regularly. While it’s a dirty job, somebody must do it. Let’s recap why you should get your dryer vent cleaned. 

Improve Drying Time

This is probably the most common reason people clean their dryer vents. If you notice your clothes are taking longer to dry than usual, the machine’s vent hose is probably clogged. When you clean it out, you will notice right away a dramatic improvement in how long it takes a load of clothes to dry. 

Extend the Life of Your Clothes Dryer

Replacing a dryer isn’t cheap, so regularly cleaning your dryer’s vent is important as it will extend the life of the machine. When lint blocks the vent hose, the hot air from the dryer can’t escape. Your dryer must work harder to dry your clothes, thus causing undo wear and tear on the appliance. 

Reduce Potential Fire Hazard

In addition to producing hot air to dry your clothes, your dryer produces massive amounts of lint. This lint must escape the machine to avoid catching fire. When lint gets trapped inside the appliance’s ventilation system, however, the blockage, when combined with the hot air, creates a fire hazard. Some 16,000 house fires are caused each year by clothes dryers, making cleaning their vents regularly a huge safety must. 

Many of us take our washers and dryers for granted, failing to conduct routine maintenance on time. Failing to do so where clothes dryers are concerned can lead to excessive wear and tear, decreased efficiency, and a possible fire hazard. 

Now that you know how often to clean a dryer vent, the signs your dryer vent needs to be cleaned, and the reasons for cleaning this vent, I’m sure you’ll stay on top of this important task. 

Andrew Brown
Appliance Service Technician | Website

Andy has over 8 years of experience working on residential household appliances, performing diagnostics, and repairs across most major brands. He graduated from the Denver Institute of Technology, is NASTeC certified, and has worked for Mr. Appliance. Andy has contributed to features on major publications including Better Home & Gardens, Family Handyman, and Yahoo.com.