Cleaning your own dryer vent line

I know what you are thinking…how hard could it be to clean out my dryer vent? I could save money if I do it myself rather than having it professionally cleaned! Armed with the proper knowledge, the appropriate tools, enough time, the right safety equipment, and a reasonably straight vent line, you may be correct, but then again…here are some of the problems you may run into or cause if you try to clean the line yourself.

It is pretty common for homeowners to try and use their vacuum cleaner to remove the lint from their dryer vent line. Unfortunately, the attachments that go on your vacuum hose are not permanently attached. We often get called to a home to help the homeowner retrieve a piece of the vacuum that has become detached inside the dryer vent line. Worse yet, if the attachment is left in the dryer line airflow will become obstructed, blocking lint flow to the outside which aggravates the issue of lint build-up in the line. Brush systems that can be purchased to clean dryer lines, often cause the same issue. Vent lines with 90° degree elbows provide an even greater likelihood that a cleaning instrument will break off inside the line.

Care should be taken to prevent damage to vent lines made of plastic or foil which tear easily. These type of lines, once damaged, often emit lint, moisture and combustible by-products into the home and will further decrease the overall efficiency of the vent line. The same for metal vent pipes; if the joints are not properly taped, the line can become disconnected and vent efficiency is reduced.

Another situation that can occur from cleaning your own dryer vent line is incomplete cleaning. Lines that have not been scrubbed out completely will re-fill with lint rather quickly. Lint on the sides of the line slows the airflow, allowing more of the lint to stick to the side. Further issues can arise from failure to clean the entire line and, pushing lint back into the line from improper cleaning which causes blockage.

Finally, if you choose to clean the dryer vent yourself, be sure to wear the proper safety equipment; safety glasses and a respirator. Birds, rodents and small animals—also a problem for dryer vents—create the potential for bacteria or fungus to be present in the lint that is removed. Conditions in a dryer vent line, especially one with excessive lint build-up, are conducive to the growth of mold and mildew. Inhaling these substances could be extremely hazardous to you and/or your family!

Bottom line, there is a lot involved with the proper cleaning and maintenance of a dryer line. It is far better to call a professional and save yourself time, money and aggravation. Remember, a properly cleaned dryer vent can extend the length of time between needed cleanings and will insure you have a properly operating dryer vent system.