How to Clean Dryer Lint and Avoid a Dryer Fire

Dryer Fire Dangers
Dryer Fire Dangers

Clothes Dryer Ducts Should Be Cleaned Often

The clothes dryer is a common cause of house fires. These home fires are easy to prevent with proper care and some basic maintenance. Not all dryer ducts are easily accessible and you could hire a professional or you could also DIY, which is my preference.

I'm a Do-It-Yourself kind of person when it comes to maintaining my home. If I'm able to get 'er done while saving a few bucks, I'm all for it.

Recently my clothes dryer was misbehaving and taking too long to dry a load of clothing. A normal load for my dryer takes about 45-50 minutes, not 3 hours. I knew there must be a problem.

I normally clean out the duct hose every 3-4 months and I was on schedule. But we had been doing more laundry lately so I checked out the duct hose and WOW I had quite a surprise. I hit the mother lode with lint.

The same day on the other side of town my niece's clothes dryer had caught fire, luckily she was home and caught the fire in time. Ida's dryer fire happened very quickly, but she was able to catch it even before the smoke alarms went off by using a fire extinguisher. She did call 911 and the firemen did come evaluate the situation. Her dryer was sent out for repairs and returned a week later. Being without a dryer was a hassle, but nothing compared to a full blown fire.

I thought I would share what both my niece and I learned from our experiences, to help save your dryer, power bill and most importantly your life and home.

How to Prevent a Dryer Fire
How to Prevent a Dryer Fire | Source

Prevent Dryer Fires by Being Vigilant

Just like any home appliance treat it right and it will take care of your needs. Just like humans need occasional maintenance so do your appliances. A bit of lube, some elbow grease, a dusting of coils, a checking of circuits...just some simple tasks to do.

If your dryer duct goes out the back of the dryer towards the roof, chances are you will have more issues with lint being backed up. It takes a lot of work from the dryer to push that lint upwards. If your dryer's duct goes straight to the side of your house, chances are the lint won't be that much of an issue. In my previous house the laundry room was in the garage, the duct was behind the dryer but the vent went straight outside...I was in that house for 13 years and never had a lint issue. I didn't get that lucky in my present house. I have learned a lesson for my next house, check the ventilation system for the dryer before proceeding with purchase.

There could also be a trap at the end of the vent on the roof that lint could get trapped in, especially if it rains and the lint gets wet...wet lint tends to not move as quickly or at all. Also small animals could become trapped. So at least 3-4 times a year check the vent on the roof to make sure it's free flowing.

Most fires happen when people are sleeping or not home. It's better to be safe than sorry. Do not run the clothes dryer on your way to sleep or on your way out the door. Be vigilant to prevent dryer fires.

Dryer Vent Lint
Dryer Vent Lint

Do you regularly clean your dryer duct?

See results without voting

How to Self Clean Your Dryer Duct / Vent

  • Clean the lint trap before each load of laundry is placed in the dryer. Granted, there won't be much lint, but by getting in the practice of doing this, you will never forget to clean the lint trap again.
  • You could purchase a lint brush to go deeper into the trap area which is usually located on top of the dryer. This brush helps remove lint the trap missed.
  • Have a fire extinguisher handy, just in case. They do have expiration dates, so be sure you replace them as needed.
  • When the dryer begins to get sluggish, not drying as fast as it usually does it's time to clean out the duct hose. Pull out the dryer, remove the duct hose from the back of the dryer and the wall. Clean out or replace the duct hose, it should be replaced every 1-2 years.
  • I then use a leaf blower and insert it into the wall vent. A word of caution with a leaf blower. I use an electric one which is safe to use indoors. If you have a gas blower, use caution using it indoors. I have used one because my laundry room is very close to an outside door so I was able to air out the area quickly. I tightly place a small towel around the top of the blower to avoid a blast of lint in my face. Blow! Keep blowing! My wall vent goes up and the lint comes out on the roof. After you have done enough blowing, which is about 10-15 minutes off and on, securely replace the duct hose.
  • Never, ever push your dryer up to the wall and bend the duct hose (see aluminum tube above in my photo). By cutting off the air supply to the duct hose the lint gets backed up and re-enters the dryer which causes a fire.
  • The duct hose must be open wide enough for the air and lint to freely flow through.
  • Small pieces of lint can build up inside your dryer. It usually burns itself out and never causes a problem. But, at times it could cause a problem. Periodically have a licensed professional vacuum out the inside of your dryer. Or DIY.
  • Do not store items on top of your dryer. Do not store paper items or cleaning products near your dryer.

UPDATE: Two weeks after my lint incident, while mowing the lawn I noticed clusters of lint underneath the drain spouts. While blowing the lint out through the roof vent, lint must have landed in the gutter. We had a few days of rain and presto...the lint was washed downwards.

Many of my neighbors use the leaf blower for self cleaning of the dryer ducts. Some use a wet/dry vac. If you are not comfortable with the self clean method, call a professional.

Just say no to, Dryer Fires.

Dryer Fire Alerts!

Quotes for Firemen

All men are created equal, then a few become firemen. ~Author Unknown

Firefighters save hearts and homes. ~Author Unknown

Firefighters are hot stuff! ~Author Unknown

If you think it's tough being a firefighter, try being a firefighter's wife. ~Author Unknown

Volunteer firemen do it for free! ~Author Unknown

What you call a hero, I call just doing my job. ~Author Unknown

Firefighting is all about ass - busting ours to save yours. ~Author Unknown

© 2015 Linda Bilyeu

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Comments 42 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 23 months ago from Olympia, WA

Good information. It's usually the little things we take for granted that cause big problems. Great reminder for everyone.


DJ Anderson 23 months ago

Great information!

Several years ago, we got very concerned as we could hear the pitter patter of bird feet in our dryer vent hose which is metal. The Laundry room is on the second floor and not easily accessible from the deck below. We called Critter Catchers to come remove the nest and put in a metal grid so birds could not nest there again.

The Critter Catcher went up the ladder and after a minute he called

to me. Lady, you have the cleanest dryer vent that I have ever seen.

He determined that the birds were removing the lint to line their nests with warm fuzzy lint. Still had to pay him a 100. just to tell me my vent was clean. Yea, just my luck. ha, ha

DJ.


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 23 months ago from Orlando, FL Author

Exactly, Bill. Every one should add dryer vent cleaning to their to-do list.


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 23 months ago from Orlando, FL Author

Awww, DJ...I love your pitter patter story. I wish I had little birds collecting my lint. That would save me some time in cleaning the ducts. Thanks for sharing! :)


mary615 profile image

mary615 23 months ago from Florida

I never leave any electrical appliance running when I leave my house. Once I put in a load of clothes to wash, and when I came home from work, my entire kitchen was flooded. The water just continued to go into the machine. I do clean out the lint trap after running the dryer, but I've never cleaned out the duct: now I will!! Thanks.


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 23 months ago from Orlando, FL Author

I had that problem also Mary...my washer was off balance and flooded the laundry room. Good luck with your lint, hopefully you don't have a build up and never will.


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 23 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

HOLY LINT FLAMES, Bat Woman! You are so correct. From one Do-it-your-selfer-to another, there sure are alot of responsibilities to owning,& maintaining a home, especially a "safe"home.

GF....I remember being told repeatedly by our parents, never leave any type of appliance ON when not at home!.....that is even more important with Dryer fires, which like you point out, start quickly!

Oh yeah, one more thing...Thanks for the heads-up! :),....UP+++pinned & tweeted


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 23 months ago from USA

Very useful information, Linda. To prevent small animals like bats and birds from entering the hose from the outside, I had my husband install some wire mesh like chicken coop wire. It will at least make them think twice.


Vellur profile image

Vellur 23 months ago from Dubai

A very useful hub, better safe than sorry. Great tips on how to clean the dryer, the thought that it could be a fire hazard did not cross my mind at all till I read your hub. Thank you for sharing.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 23 months ago

I just had my dryer clean last month because it was taking twice as long to dry the clothing. The lint inside the hose was packed. Your post is going to save lots of money, time and lives!


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 23 months ago from South Africa

This is an above-average useful hub in my books, Linda, because the more independent I can be, maintaining and repairing my own things, the happier I am. So this hub goes straight to my DIY-folder. Thanks a lot.

BTW, we call this a Tumble Dryer


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 23 months ago from Orlando, FL Author

FA, Chicken coop wire works great for preventing little critters to hang out in the dryer duct. We had a small flap on the vent in the roof, but since wet lint got stuck in there last time, I had my SIL remove the flap, little critters best stay away! Thanks for the tip!


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 23 months ago from Orlando, FL Author

Vellur, I'm glad I was able to help with this reminder. Be safe!


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 23 months ago from Orlando, FL Author

Way to go Teaches! I had an appliance repairman open up the back of my dryer last year and OMG there was so much lint inside the dryer! It somehow got backed up in the duct and went inside the dryer...scary moment.


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 23 months ago from Orlando, FL Author

Hi SAA, A Tumble Dryer is an accurate name for the Clothes Dryer :)


bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 23 months ago from Central Florida

Linda, my son cleans out our dryer hoses periodically with a shop vac. Fortunately, our hose leads to the side of the house. And I always, always clean the lint from the screen trap after each load.


PAINTDRIPS profile image

PAINTDRIPS 23 months ago from Fresno CA

I think I have committed all the no-no's here. I keep things on my drying, I'm not nearly annal enough to clean the lint trap every time and in 4 years I have never cleaned the lint hose in the back. I guess it's time to reform my ways. Thanks.


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 23 months ago from Orlando, FL Author

Good to hear, Sha! Your son is very thoughtful.


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 23 months ago from Orlando, FL Author

Best of luck, Paintdrips...once you get into the habit of cleaning out the trap and duct, you will be used to it and help prevent a dryer fire! :)


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 23 months ago from Phoenix, Arizona

Like Shuana's son, I use a shop vac. I put the hose into the dryer duct and then seal the two together with duct tape (what else!).

But I've also used a leaf blower, and both work great.

BTW, if the vent gets plugged and you're using an electric dryer, the element will burn out.

Great Hub, Linda!


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 23 months ago from Orlando, FL Author

Excellent addition WillStarr! My dryers heating element did burn out twice. Thank you for the reminder! :)


DDE profile image

DDE 23 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

I like your helpful tips and so easy to deal with. Voted up, interesting and useful.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 23 months ago from England

Great info Linda, not something we would even think about, but so darn dangerous! I used to have a dryer, I just use the washing machine now, and put clothes out to dry properly or on the radiator hanger, I used to clean the lint from the filter like in the video, but would never have thought of the back pipe! great advice! voted and shared, nell


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 23 months ago from Oakley, CA

Very well done. We had the dryer out just recently to get at the water hoses for the washer; they were 12 years old, and we thought those should be replaced before there was a problem.

While back there, I vacuumed out the dryer ducting. There really was not much in it. It goes from the back of the dryer out the side of the house, only a run of about 6 feet.

I'm more worried about what might collect under the lint trap (in the front, just under the door, on my dryer), where the slot is too small for the vacuum attachment to fit.

Voted up, interesting and useful.


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 22 months ago from sunny Florida

It is so important to know how to do this and to DO IT. I just cleaned the dryer at my daughter's; mine is in storage for a bit. It is too scary to think about coming home to a fire. I know of cases where people have left home with the dryer on and come home to a house totally engulfed.

Shared voted up g+ tweeted

Angels are on the way bringing many blessings. ps


colorfulone profile image

colorfulone 22 months ago from Minnesota

What a great reminder this hub is for everyone who has a cloths drier in their home. I will tweet about it and vote it up! Thank you Sunshine!


eugbug profile image

eugbug 22 months ago from Ireland

Useful, voted up, tweeted and G plussed!

I never leave high powered electrical appliances such as washing machines, tumble driers, heaters or water heating appliances powered up when unattended. If there are any loose electrical connections, there is always the potential for fire.


poetryman6969 profile image

poetryman6969 22 months ago

Some handy safety tips. Thanks.


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 22 months ago from Orlando, FL Author

I'm glad I was able to help share these tips and remind myself it's time to clean out my dryer ducts! :)


peachpurple profile image

peachpurple 22 months ago from Home Sweet Home

Good thing that we don't use a dryer at home, voted up


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 22 months ago from Orlando, FL Author

Dryer safety is a must for every household. Clothesline drying is much safer! :)


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 22 months ago from the short journey

An important and useful post here! Thanks for highlighting the concerns. Makes one think twice about turning the dryer on at bedtime so items can be ready to put away the next morning! If given the opportunity to build a house or rework an existing floor plan it would be a good idea to insist on the shortest and straightest possible route for the dryer vent ductwork from machine to outdoors.


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 22 months ago from Orlando, FL Author

Amen, RT. No clothes dryers during sleeping hours!


social thoughts profile image

social thoughts 21 months ago from New Jersey

This is great! Thank you. Oddly enough, I was 'just' concerned about this, last night. I wanted to be more informed. I'm glad you brought me to your attention by commenting on my articles!


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 21 months ago from Orlando, FL Author

Hi ST, I'm glad I was able to offer you some advice! :)


Poetic Fool 21 months ago

Hi Linda, great article! I actually wrote an article on this very subject elsewhere, pictures and all. Yours has reminded me that I'm due to do this very thing. Keep up the good work!


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 21 months ago from Orlando, FL Author

HI Rick! I want to read your article! :)


dagwood01 profile image

dagwood01 21 months ago from Toronto

some good and valid points here on dryer duct cleaning here. One thing that you have to be very careful with is to make sure that you do not damage the foil flex duct that goes that may run from the way to the outside. When that happens it is possible that dryer lint and moisture may escape into the wall cavity.

http://powervac.ca/power-vac-toronto-gta


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 21 months ago from Orlando, FL Author

Good point, Dagwood. My foil flex duct is attached from the back of the dryer to the wall. It's very delicate too.


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 11 months ago from Orange County (Southern California)

Linda,

You have presented some very important information in this article. There are probably many people who do not realize how easily a fire can start. Thanks for the tips.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 11 months ago

Just had to read it again for the good advice!


ChitrangadaSharan profile image

ChitrangadaSharan 11 months ago from New Delhi, India

A very useful and informative hub! It is so wise to periodically clean the dryer ducts and prevent fire. And this can be done without calling the professional as well.

Thanks for the reminder in this well presented hub!

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