How to Tell If Your Dryer Vent is Clogged

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If your clothes and other laundry are still damp even after a full drying cycle, there is a good chance your dryer vent might be clogged. When this occurs it will stop your dryer from being able to operate correctly and it is also a dangerous fire hazard.

Most of the time a blocked dryer vent is caused by excess lint getting stuck in it, or in some cases it can be caused by other loose debris. Thankfully, unclogging a dryer vent is as simple as using a vacuum cleaner to vacuum up all of the loose lint and other debris.

Before we explain how to unclog your dryer vent we want to start by discussing some of the main ways you can tell your vent is clogged.

Signs your vent is clogged

If your dryer vent is clogged, one or more of these four warning signs will almost certainly be happening:

  • Your dryer is taking a long time to dry. The most common sign your dryer vent is clogged up is when the dryer takes a long time to dry your laundry. Most of the time a dryer takes between 30 and 40 minutes to complete a drying cycle. When the vent gets clogged up, it will take much longer, sometimes as much as twice as long.
  • There is a burning smell coming from your dryer. If you can smell a burning smell coming from your dryer this is another likely sign that your dryer vent is clogged up. This is due to your dryer having to work extra hard to operate during a drying cycle which can cause some of the components within your dryer to start smelling like they are burning.
  • The outside of your dryer is hot. If the exterior of your dryer unit is really hot when the dryer is operating, this is another warning sign that the dryer vent is clogged up. When the hot air cannot be removed from your dryer through the vent, it will stay in the dryer which causes the exterior panels to heat up.
  • Your lint filter is full. If your lint filter (the one inside your dryer) is full of lint this is a good sign the vent is also clogged up. You may also notice lots of lint on top of your dryer or on the wall above it (if it is attached to your laundry room wall).

How to clean your dryer vent

Once you have confirmed the dryer vent is clogged, simply follow these step-by-step instructions to unclog it.

  1. Disconnect the vent

The first step is to disconnect the vent from the dryer. You can do that by following these steps:

  • Switch the power off to your dryer. If you cannot unplug the dryer you will need to turn off the circuit breaker that powers your dryer.
  • If you have a gas-powered dryer, turn the gas off
  • Pull your dryer out from the wall
  • Locate the vent and disconnect it from the dryer. You might have to loosen up a clamp if it’s attached to the dryer by one.
  • If possible, remove the dryer vent duct from the wall as well.
  1. Clean the vent

Now that the vent has been disconnected from the dryer, the second step is to give it a good clean. You can do that by:

  • Using a vacuum cleaner to vacuum out all the loose debris in the vent
  • If you don’t have a vacuum, you can use a small brush to remove the lint
  • Once the pipe is clean, use your brush or vacuum to clean the vent out on the dryer. You can also use a damp cloth to clean the vent area.
  • If you can access the outside exit point of the vent you should clean that out too.
  1. Reattach the vent

Now that the vent is clean, the final step is to reattach it so you can check if cleaning it out has solved the problem. Here’s what to do:

  • Start by reconnecting the dryer duct and securing it with the clamp
  • Reconnect the duct to the wall
  • Turn the power (or gas) back on
  • Turn your dryer onto a drying cycle (the hottest setting possible is best)
  • Once the drying cycle is complete, check if the appliance is now working correctly. If not, you may need to call a qualified technician to come and inspect your dryer to find the cause of the problem.

How to keep your vent clean

Now that your vent is unblocked and hopefully working again, here are a few simple tips to stop it from clogging up again.

  • If you use your dryer regularly it’s a good idea to vacuum out the vent with a vacuum cleaner once a month (simply use our guide above)
  • After every drying cycle, remove the lint filter and remove the lint from it. This will stop lint from clogging up.
  • If you see lint building up on top of the dryer or around the vent area, use a damp cloth to clean it up
  • Clean out the dryer vent from the outside exit point a couple of times a year to stop lint from building up.
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