Are you seeing an increase in the number of cycles it takes to dry your clothes? Are your clothes or dryer hot to the touch? Do your clothes smell musty or feel damp after a complete cycle? If you answered yes to any question it is likely you need a dryer vent cleaning.
The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) released a survey in 2010 revealing that even when a consumer believed their dryer to be faulty the real cause was actually a clogged dryer vent.
Think of your dryer vent duct like the exhaust pipe on your car. The dryer vent is attached to the back of the dryer, and its job is to exhaust the hot air and moisture being evaporated from the clothing during the drying process to the outside. While your lint filter (if cleaned after each load) does most of the work catching the lint, over time lint will build up in the vent and restrict air flow. This forces your dryer to work harder and use more energy. If your dryer vent is not routinely and thoroughly cleaned it could lead to mechanical problems and most importantly puts you at greater risk for a dryer fire.
FEMA and the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) estimated 16,800 fires in 2010 involving clothes dryers-including combination washer/dryers. Dryer fires result in an average of 51 deaths, 380 injuries, and $236 million in direct property damage annually.
How to Clean Your Dryer Vent: The Right Way
Contact a certified professional for dryer vent cleaning. The National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) trains and certifies technicians to perform air duct and dryer vent cleanings. NADCA endorses the use of high powered air pressure and air powered tools knows as "air whips" or "skipper balls" attached to air tubing to properly and safely clean a dryer vent. Air Powered tools are not abrasive and are able to clean the entire length of the dryer duct. This is crucial in preventing dangerous build up inside the duct which causes dryer vent fires.
Remove lint from the filter after every load of laundry. Also, if you routinely use fabric softener be sure to soak and lightly scrub the filter in warm soapy water. While it is drying, vacuum out the dryer's lint trap (where the filter is housed) with a brush attachment.
Side Note: Gas versus Electric Dryers. Reports from the CPSC found that gas dryers are less likely to cause a house fire than electric dryers. Gas dryers require less energy to heat up and have fewer components. By comparison when either a gas or an electric dryer is packed with lint, the electric dryer is more likely to start a fire because of the coil heating elements and energy used. However, gas dryers are more hazardous if they spring a leak in the hose or in the machine itself. Have gas-powered dryers inspected by a professional annually to ensure that the gas line and connection are intact and free of leaks.