The dryer is one of the most commonly-used household appliances, but it can also be one of the most dangerous.
Firefighters across America respond to over 15,000 dryer-related house fires every year, and they cause an estimated $238 million in home damages.
A failure to clean accounted for over 30% of those fires, so regular dryer maintenance is a must. While there are plenty of steps you can take to ensure your dryer’s safe operation, even the most vigilant homeowners need professional help.
It’s recommended that you have your dryer vents cleaned by a licensed technician at least once per year.
Read on to learn more about dryer safety, the signs your dryer is in need of service, and what you can expect from professional dryer vent cleaning in Washington state.
Proper Dryer Care
Knowing and practicing proper dryer upkeep is the first step to preventing dryer fires. These tips will reduce the likelihood of fires and help keep your dryer in proper working condition.
1. Keep the Lint Filter Clean
Lint is often the source of dryer-related fires. A surprising 27% of fires were caused by lint or other debris that collected on the filter. Sparks in the dryer’s drum can ignite these materials, leading to catastrophic consequences.
Before and after every load, remove the filter and wipe off all lint, fibers, and dust that has collected on it. You should also clean the interior of the dryer drum since the filter can’t catch every bit of flammable material.
For many, wiping the filter clean is common sense, but clearing out the drum is often overlooked. It’s as important as wiping down the lint filter.
2. Avoid Overloading the Machine
It can be difficult to keep up with laundry, especially if you live in a larger household. In these instances, avoid the temptation of stuffing the dryer full of clothes. An overloaded machine can pose a serious fire hazard.
Running your dryer at a greater capacity than it was designed for causes stress on the dryer’s interior components. The added stress causes your machine to overheat and a spark is all it takes to ignite a fire.
Clothes are the second most likely source of a dryer fire, accounting for 26% of first-ignited materials.
While overloading the dryer can be dangerous, preventing this dryer vent fire hazard is simple. Never load the dryer beyond its designated capacity. You may have to plan ahead or budget more time for laundry, but you’ll be much safer in the long run.
3. Always Monitor the Dryer’s Operation
You should never run your dryer if can’t keep an eye on it. Doing so could be literally playing with fire.
Starting up the dryer and then heading out to run errands may sound like an easy way to maximize your time, but you won’t be able to respond to a fire if one occurs.
4. Have Your Dryer Professionally Installed
Professional technicians are familiar with all kinds of dryers. They are able to advise you on all sorts of dryer safety specifics for your individual unit.
They will ensure that your dryer is connected to the proper plugs and outlets, recommend the ideal place to install your dryer, and test all connections to make sure everything is in working order.
5. Get Your Dryer Serviced at Least Once a Year
While the lint trap is effective, it can’t catch everything. Over time, this excess lint can build up inside the dryer and work its way into the ventilation system.
Because of this, it’s recommended that you have a professional clean your dryer and vents once a year at a minimum. Heavily-used dryers will need more frequent cleaning.
6. Replace Plastic or Foil Ducts
Not all ducts are created equal. In the case of the duct that connects your dryer vent to the outside, you need a rigid metal duct.
However, some homeowners use plastic or foil accordion ducts. Those kinds of ducts are inferior, as they don’t fit properly which leads to excessive lint build-up around their edges.
If you have those kinds of plastic or accordion ducts, you should have them replaced as soon as possible.
7. Avoid Drying Clothes With Chemical Stains
Clothes stained with flammable chemicals like gasoline and oil should not go in the dryer. While washing the stained clothes repeatedly can minimize the dangers, it’s safest to air-dry these items.
8. Keep the Area Around the Dryer Clean
It’s easy to let things pile up in the laundry room. You might have clothes that need to be put away, boxes of detergent, and other random odds and ends.
To ensure the safe operation of your dryer, you need to keep your laundry room clear of flammable objects. This means not stacking clothes on top of your dryer and keeping the area around the dryer clean.
Signs Your Dryer Vents Are in Need of Cleaning
Regular cleaning is an important part of dryer maintenance. These tell-tale signs indicate that it’s time to schedule an appointment with a professional dryer cleaning service.
Excessive Lint and Debris Build-up
You should be cleaning your lint filter and dryer drum before and after every load, so spotting an accumulation of lint and other fibers will be simple. If you notice that more lint than normal is building up in the lint filter, it’s likely time to clean your vents.
Also, you may notice lint build-up around the dryer vent itself. When this occurs, you can be sure that it’s time for a cleaning.
Lint poses the greatest dryer fire hazard. Take special care if you notice an overabundance of lint in your machine.
Laundry Is Still Damp
Dirty air vents restrict the airflow inside the dryer. This leads to clothes not drying fully and could cause mold growth in your laundry room.
An easy way to test if your dryer vents are blocked is to turn on the dryer and put your hand near the vent. If the air is moving slowly or isn’t very hot, a blockage in your dryer vents is likely to blame.
You Notice a Musty or Burning Smell
If you detect an odd smell coming from your dryer, it’s time to check the vents. Like wet laundry, these smells are indicative of an issue with the airflow in your dryer.
A burning smell is especially worrisome. It means that something has already ignited inside the dryer. Exercise extreme caution if you smell something burning and immediately shut off the machine.
Your Laundry is Too Hot
Everyone loves the feeling of putting on a nice, fresh pair of socks straight out of the dryer. Freshly dried clothes are usually warm to the touch, but if they’re especially hot, you likely have a blocked vent.
The hot air from the dryer should exit the machine through the vent, but if it’s clogged, the heat gets trapped in the drum.
Damage to the Vent Hood
Your dryer has an exhaust system designed to route air, lint, and other materials out of your home. On the outside of your home, the vent hood protects the dryer vent from small animals and the elements.
It should be easy to remove the vent hood and clean the vent. If you notice it’s been damaged or won’t open due to the accumulation of debris, you need to call a professional.
The hood and vent area should be completely clear of lint and other materials, so this is another issue that’s simple to diagnose.
It’s Been Over a Year Since Your Last Cleaning
Dryer vents need to be cleaned at least once a year, so you’re overdue for cleaning if it’s been longer than a year. However, this conventional wisdom doesn’t apply to large families or those that use their dryers frequently.
If your household has more than five members, your dryer is working overtime and the vent needs to be cleaned more than once a year.
A Step-by-step Guide to Cleaning Your Dryer Duct
If you notice your dryer duct vent is especially dirty or blocked, you can clear out the vent yourself. It’s not a terribly difficult job, but this is not a substitute for having your vents cleaned by a professional.
Step 1: Locate the Dryer Vent and Exhaust Vent
The dryer vent is found on the back of the appliance and the exhaust vent is located on the exterior of your home.
Step 2: Disconnect the Dryer
If you have an electric dryer, unplug it. If your dryer is gas-powered, turn off the gas supply. You’ll also need to disconnect the dryer duct on the back of the dryer and pull it away from the wall.
Step 3: Vacuum the Vent
Next, you’ll need to clear debris from the vent. Some lint can be removed from the duct by hand.
You’ll also need to vacuum the duct. It’s advised that you use a shop vac for this, but a regular vacuum with a hose attachment can get the job done.
Step 4: Clear the Vent With a Brush
Some vents are rather long and vacuum hoses won’t sufficiently clean them. For this, you’ll need to invest in a dryer vent brush.
These brushes are extendable and can reach deep into the vent. Gently move the brush back and forth while you rotate it to dislodge any lint in the vent.
Step 5: Inspect and Reattach
After you’ve brushed out the vent, take a look at your dryer’s components and make sure they’re not damaged. If it all appears to be in order, reattach everything and run the dryer on a low setting.
This will ensure that you’ve reassembled everything correctly and force out any leftover debris.
The Downsides of Cleaning It Yourself
While the process of cleaning your dryer duct is simple enough, sometimes it’s best to leave the job to a professional. In some cases, you might make the situation worse.
Some vent cleaning brushes can cause serious damage to your vent work and can even puncture them. This is especially true if your vents are made of flexible material or you use too much force cleaning an elbow joint.
Puncturing a hole in your vent work can cause hot air to build up in your laundry room and lint to accumulate near the dryer. Both of these things pose a health hazard.
Some Vents Aren’t Easy to Clean
If your dryer vents are over 7 feet long, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to sufficiently clean them on your own. In addition, if your vent work has a lot of bends or angles, it’s best to leave it to a professional to avoid damaging it when you attempt to clean it.
You Could Make It Worse
The whole point of cleaning out your dryer vent is to alleviate blockages, but if you do a poor job of cleaning, the problem will only get worse.
Instead of fully clearing out the duct, you may push all of the debris into an isolated area. This can cause an even more severe blockage than when you started cleaning.
Could Cost More in the Long Run
While you may want to be frugal and attempt to clean your vents on your own, doing so could end up costing you more money.
A poorly ventilated dryer raises your utility bills. As a result, you’ll need to run the dryer more often and it uses more energy.
Additionally, you’ll need to have a professional fix your mistake should you cause damage to your vents. It’s best to just accept that the most cost-effective way of cleaning your dryer vents is by hiring a service team.
What to Expect From Professional Dryer Vent Cleaning
Proper dryer maintenance keeps you, your home, and your belongings safe from fire risks. While you may attempt to clean your vent on your own, it’s a job best left to professionals. They have the tools and know-how to get the job done right.
Once you contact a professional duct cleaning company, expect them to arrive and perform a check-up on your dryer and its ventilation system. They’ll be able to walk you through any issues they see and offer their expert advice.
The technicians will be looking for holes in your ducts, damage to the vent hood, and poorly constructed ductwork.
While you can purchase a DIY duct cleaning system, it won’t be nearly as robust or do as thorough a job at cleaning compared to the tools professionals bring to the job.
Professional duct cleaners make use of specialized brushes, vacuums, and sometimes even cameras to locate blockages and clean your ducts. You won’t need to worry about accidental damage to your ducts if you hire a professional.
A Review of Your Ducts
Finally, after the technician has cleaned your ducts, they should explain whatever issues they found. This step is important and could save you time and prevent future fire hazards from developing.
They may tell you that you should consider altering your ductwork if they’re too long or if you have any kinks or blockages that could pose issues in the future.
How Do Professionals Clean Dryer Vents?
Technicians start out by removing the cap on the outside dryer exhaust. It’s best to start on the outside since the exhaust port is likely located higher than the dryer. This allows gravity to help dislodge debris.
Then, they’ll take a specialized dryer vent cleaning snake brush and vacuum and scrape it along the inside of the duct. The brush dislodges any debris and the vacuum quickly removes it.
Finally, technicians take extra care when it comes to cleaning elbows and bends in your ductwork. Those areas are where debris tends to accumulate, leading to blockages and posing fire hazards.
Benefits of Hiring a Professional
While cleaning your dryer vents is something you could do yourself, there are many advantages to hiring a professional cleaning company.
Your Vents Get Completely Clean
Many ventilation systems are too long for a homeowner to clean without specialized equipment. It’s also likely you don’t know exactly how long your vents are until you attempt to clean them on your own.
With a professional service, you never have to worry about whether or not your vents get the attention they need. A technician’s expertise and equipment ensure a thorough cleaning every time.
Make Your Dryer Last Longer
Proper cleaning can dramatically extend the lifespan of your dryer and ventilation system. Dirty vents cause the dryer to work overtime, which can lead to excess wear and tear on its interior components.
Getting it professionally cleaned ensures that your dryer will continue to function properly.
Reduce Energy Consumption
If a dirty vent causes your dryer to work harder, it’s also consuming more energy. This costs you money every month.
If you’re used to a poorly performing dryer, you’ll be surprised how much money you save on energy bills when your dryer is working as it should. It’s sure to save you more money than having it professionally cleaned would cost.
Quicker Drying Time
By now, it’s no secret that blockages and clogs in your dryer vent limit your dryer’s ability to do its job properly. As damp clothes are a sign of a dirty vent, it’s no surprise that your dryer will dry your clothes much more efficiently when the vent is cleaned.
Not only will cleaning the vent lead to thoroughly dried clothes, but it will also take much less time to get them dry.
Greatly Reduces the Risk of Fire
Dryers are a leading cause of house fires in America, and dirty vents are the main contributor. All of that excess lint that ends up in your vents or near your dryer becomes a serious fire hazard. It takes is a spark to set it ablaze.
Rest easy knowing that a professional has thoroughly cleaned your dryer, dramatically reducing your risk of fire. As always, be sure to clean your lint filter and wipe down the inside of your dryer drum.
How to Find a Dryer Vent Cleaner
When it comes to maintenance, you need to find technicians you can trust. You don’t want just anyone coming into your home and working on your appliances.
You should start by searching the internet for vent cleaners in your local area, but your friends and family could also be valuable sources of information. After all, every homeowner should have experience with dryer vent cleaning services.
Then, you should inquire about their expertise. Since dryer vent cleaning is an important service, you’re looking for a company with a long track record. Any company that hasn’t been on the job for at least two years probably doesn’t have the experience you’re looking for.
Many of the best cleaning companies prove their abilities by joining national associations. When you’re searching for a dryer vent cleaner, look for one that’s a member of the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA).
The NADCA is the premier global association of HVAC cleaning and restoration professionals. A company that is able to obtain membership provides exemplary service that is up to date with industry standards.
Finally, you’ll want to find a company that’s transparent and upfront in its business practices. Most homeowners aren’t knowledgeable regarding the ins and outs of vent cleaning, so you’ll want someone who can break it down and explain it to you in plain language.
Untrustworthy companies will give you the run-around when it comes to pricing and services needed.
Dryer Vent Cleaning in Washington State
Clothes dryers can pose a serious safety hazard. They’re one of the leading causes of house fires in America and can devastate a family. Prevent dryer vent fires by regularly cleaning your dryer vents and keeping them free of lint.
Whether you choose to clean your vents yourself or hire a professional cleaning company, understand that this is one household chore that needs to be done at least once per year.
If you’re looking for dryer vent cleaning in Washington, air duct cleaning at University Place, or dryer vent cleaning in Thurston, reach out to the team at Capitol Duct Cleaning. They’ve provided their HVAC expertise to King, Pierce, and Thurston counties since 1995.