Welcome to the How Do I Do This? series from Bounce Energy. Each month, we’ll dive into what it what you need to know to shop for, install, or repair those things in your home to keep your life affordable and convenient. Plus, you’ll (hopefully) learn some useful tips for other projects along the way.
How Do I Clean A Clothes Dryer?
Whether they’re gas or electric, clothes dryers use lots of energy to get your wet clothes dry. How exactly do dryers work? Most dryers work by pulling dry, heated air through the back of the rotating drum filled with your damp clothes. Then, the damp, warm air is exhausted through a Lint screen just below the door assembly. The air is sucked into a blower fan (usually driven by the appliance’s main motor) and is then blown out of the machine into the exhaust hose and exits the vent outside.
However, all that heat, moisture, and tumbling action creates lots of lint. Lint is the accumulation of cloth fibers that are pulled or separated from your clothes when they are washed or when they tumble and rub against each other in the dryer. Unfortunately, in spite of dryer lint traps, cloth fibers are often small enough pass through the lint trap mesh and move further down the length of the dryer hose. Because these fibers are also moving along in a current of very humid air, they are more likely to stick hard when they run into some sort of obstruction such as a bend, or in the case of vinyl, a flex Duct where it sags. This builds into a pile of lint that grows by capturing even more lint.
Over time, lint build up will begin restricting the dryer’s air flow. In some cases, the reduced air flow will prevent clothing from drying at all, forcing the dryer to run longer, costing you more money. The more frequently you use your dryer, the quicker the dryer’s ductwork will become clogged.
Why should I clean out my dryer?
Periodically cleaning out all that lint is THE most important dryer maintenance job there is to do. Yes, it’s dusty and messy, but it does these important things for your home:
- It improves your dryer’s performance and energy efficiency.
- It saves you money.
- Keeping the outside vent clear and functioning reduces drafts and keeps out pests.
- You only need to do it once a year.
- It reduces the risk of fire.
What d’ye mean, FIRE?
Lint blockages can trap heat and raise the temperature in the dryer ductwork until it’s hot enough to ignite the lint —which burns like crazy. According to a National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 2017 report, there were over 15,000 fires each year between 2010 and 2014 involving clothes dryers or washing machines. Clothes dryers alone were responsible for 92%. In those cases, 27% of the time the source of the ignition was lint. For one third of these cases, the leading factor contributing to the start of a lint fire was failure to clean!
Clean out your dryer with these 6 steps:
- Unplug the dryer’s power cord. For gas dryers, you’ll next need to turn off the gas supply valve to the dry. Most gas dryers have a flexible gas supply hose attached to them.
- Inspect the lint trap inside the dryer door. Heavy concentrations of lint around the trap as well as just below it indicate reduced airflow, and that lint is very likely building up inside the dryer hose. Clean out as much of the lint as you can. Using a vacuum cleaner with a crevice attachment will help you get deep down into this part. Now it’s time to put on the dust mask and work gloves because it’s going to get really messy.
- Pull the dryer away from the wall and get behind it to disconnect the dryer from the exhaust duct or hose.
- Clean out the dryer’s duct connection. Inspect the dryer’s duct opening in the back of the dryer with a flashlight. This part of the dryer duct usually runs all the way to the front of the dryer where the blower is located. Begin by removing as much lint as you can by hand, reaching in as far as you can. You can also use a dryer hose cleaning brush to loosen and pull out the dust and lint. Be careful NOT to push the brush so far inside that it gets caught in the blower. Move the brush carefully inside and stop pushing when the brush hits an obstruction.
- Clean out the duct. Because lint and dust build up thickest in elbow connections or where ever flexible dryer hoses sag, ideally, the whole duct run should be as short and straight as possible. If your home has flexible plastic dryer hose, check for clogs by scrunching it up to shorten its length as much as possible. Again, clean out as much as you can with your hands and then switch to using the dryer duct brush tool to pull out even more. The more you clean out, the better the dryer’s airflow.
- Clean is the outside dryer vent. Even if yours is equipped with a flap or some kind of door, after a few years of reliable service, sticky, wet lint and dust will collect on it and prevent it from closing. With the vent stuck open, damp outside air will get into your home and increase humidity in your home. This can lead to higher heating and cooling bills as well as add to mold problems. Plus, it also provides a way for mice and other pests to enter your home. Cleaning the outside vent controls this problem. Don’t for get to lubricate any pivot points for flaps or doors with a squirt of silicon lubricating oil. Unlike petroleum oil, silicon is vinyl friendly and it doesn’t collect as much dust and dirt.
A note on duct brushes: Hand powered duct brushes work well on foil dryer hoses but you’ll need to take a little extra time to clear the dust and lint from the duct hose’s spiral wire-ribbing. Some brushes can be attached to a power drill and snaked through the length. Drill powered duct brushes work best on metal ducts because the metal can easily withstand the friction better. They’re not such a good idea to use on the cheap vinyl hoses because they can tear through the vinyl.
If your home has the cheap vinyl dryer hose, seriously consider upgrading it to metal ductwork. It will trap less lint, be less likely to wear out from heat and age, and is far easier to clean.
Over a number of years, you might need to clean the blower’s fan blades. Because the blower is usually located deep inside the dryer, you’ll need to disassemble the dryer to get at the blower. For that, you’ll need to look up a repair manual for your dryer’s make and model. YouTube has many helpful videos that take you step by step to do this. However, if it’s something you think is over your head, don’t hesitate to hire a professional.
One other thing you can do is to install an energy saving dryer vent hood. Available on Amazon from different manufacturers, this vent has a small plastic cup inside that opens when the dry is blowing. When the dry stops, the cup drops to seal and close the dryer vent. Not only does this reduce clogging problems, it virtually eliminates problems with outside drafts getting into your home and keeps out pests. It can also be used for bathroom fan and kitchen hood vents.
TIP— While this vent’s plastic is generally resistant to the suns’ UV radiation, if you’re installing it in a location that gets lots of sun, I’ve found it’s good idea to disassemble it and spray on a couple of coats of white enamel. It will last years longer.