Perfect for handy homeowners.
May be worth the DIY if your budget is tight.
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What you'll need:
- Vacuum with nozzle attachment
- Utility knife
- Dryer vent cleaning kit (including flexible cleaning rods, blockage removal tool, auger brush,and a lint brush)
- Aluminum tape
- Dryer vent insulation
Since dryers don’t use water, the last thing homeowners may expect to see is dripping, leaky pipes. But surprisingly, when dryers get backed up or clogged with lint, fabric, debris, and cleaning product residue, you can see leaks. In fact, leaky pipes are one of the most common signs you need a dryer vent cleaning.
Hot, humid air from inside the dryer condenses into liquid and drips out through holes, but there’s also another problem: All that backed-up lint is highly flammable. There are nearly 3,000 home clothes dryer fires each year, according to The U.S. Fire Association, so neglected dryers can be a serious hazard.
Below are seven DIY steps to dryer vent cleaning, plus information on when to call an appliance repair service. Here’s the basic information you need to get started.
Reasons Your Dryer Vent Is Leaking Water
Dryer vents aren’t plumbing pipes and don’t hold water very well, and that’s a good thing. Water leaking from a dryer vent indicates that condensation is happening inside the duct, and you need to take action. There are several reasons that condensation is occurring, and leaking from, your dryer vent.
Trapped lint: This is the most common way that water traps in a dryer vent.
Pinched flexible ducting: This issue occurs behind the machine, in the wall, or the attic. It slows airflow, creating a trap for lint and water, which can be dangerous.
Inoperable flapper: An inoperable flapper at the vent exit on the roof or the exterior wall obstructs humid air from escaping, and it can leave water droplets in the duct.
Uninsulated vent: This type of vent issue travels through cold spaces like the attic or near cold objects such as cold water plumbing lines or air conditioner ducts.
Tight or multiple bends in dryer vent: Abnormalities in the dryer vent can slow airflow, allowing lint to build up and condensation to pool.
Poor vent construction: If a vent isn’t made or installed properly, including exposing foil tape to the inside of the duct or screws that protrude through the vent, it causes lint to become trapped and ultimately trap water.
Inspect Your Pipes
The first step to cleaning out clogs is to inspect your dryer ducts to learn where the blockages are, which will take about 30 minutes in total. Remove the duct that connects your dryer to the duct in your wall, making sure to handle the materials gently. You don’t want the duct to detach from the wall or the dryer, nor to dent or crush.
Clean Your Dryer Pipes
Basic blockages often cause these perplexing leaks. Once you’ve removed the duct, look inside for lint, loose pieces of fabric, and other types of debris. All this “gunk” impedes the passage of humid air and causes dripping condensation.
With a vacuum, suck up the debris, shaking the duct as gently as possible to make sure nothing stays lodged inside. Regularly checking pipes and removing these accumulations can ensure the safe passage of air and can even prevent fires.
While checking the condition of your pipes or making repairs, also look for any existing vent holes where water may be escaping from or where pests might be entering your dryer. Before you put everything back, seal these holes with aluminum tape to prevent outside dirt from entering (and getting stuck inside) the duct.
Shorten Your Dryer Vent Duct
If your dryer vent is so long that it sags or bends every which way, there’s a higher chance of lint and fabric getting caught. One solution may be to shorten your dryer vent hose by cutting it to a more appropriate length. You may also be able to find a pro to install your dryer vent after you adjust the length.
Insulate Your Pipes
If you live in an area known for its low-dipping temperatures, you may experience a leaking pipe more often than most. That’s because cold temperatures can give rise to a leak simply by providing enough of a contrast between outside conditions and the hot air that runs through the pipes. When the air from the dryer hits an exterior's chilly climate, condensation can begin to drip off the pipes.
Protect your pipes by insulating them with fiberglass pipe wrap. This process is easier with a rigid dryer vent duct that has smooth sides rather than a slinky, bendable one with folds. (Rigid ducts also tend to have fewer blockages compared to the flexible ridges that trap more lint.)
Make sure to insulate all existing parts of the pipe and not just those that are closest in proximity to cold air.
Make Room Between Pipes
Dryer pipe leaks are often the result of the pipe’s proximity to water sources or condensation. Believe it or not, air conditioner pipes that touch or lean against dryer vents can cause leakage, thanks to humidity and evaporation.
Try putting some distance between the dryer and air conditioner pipes—ideally at least six inches. For best results, secure them in their new locations to reduce the chances that they return to their original, trouble-making positions.
Replace Old Parts
All parts of a pipe must function properly for the successful release of dryer air, including flappers that open and shut depending on the passage of exhaust. Parts like these remain integral components to the appliance. Malfunctions can also encourage pipes to trap water from outside sources like rain, sprinklers, or even a wayward garden hose.
DIY Dryer Vent Repair vs. Hiring a Pro
Because dryer safety is so important, you may be weighing the option of getting your dryer vent professionally cleaned rather than DIY-ing it.
Generally, a DIY dryer vent pipe cleaning kit costs about $35 to $45. Costs vary based on region, but a ballpark estimate for a professional dryer vent pipe cleaning (including mold and bacteria disinfecting) is about $150 to $220. For the average dryer vent pipe cleaning job, you may be able to save well over $100 by DIY-ing it.
However, it may be worth paying a pro to come and save you some time — especially if it’s been a while since you last cleaned the vent. If so, find a local contractor who specializes in dryer vent repair.
Is it normal for a dryer vent to be wet?
If you happen to disassemble your dryer vent and feel the inside of the duct immediately after drying a load of laundry, it will likely feel damp and warm. That’s normal. However, if your dryer vent has water droplets in it at any time, it’s a sign that there’s trouble with the machine’s ventilation.
How do you know if your dryer vent is clogged?
If it’s been a while since you’ve cleaned your dryer vent, it’s on its way to getting clogged. You’ll be able to tell that it’s past time to clean your vent if you see lint clinging to the outdoor exhaust vent, the vent flapper isn’t opening freely, the dryer is taking longer than usual to work, or you sense excessive heat or smells on your clothes after doing a load of laundry.
How often should a dryer vent be cleaned?
Dryer vents need thorough cleanings one or two times a year, depending on family size and the machine's use.