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How to Clean a Dryer Vent Properly

Pile of dryer lint and debris on a white background

Did you know that your dryer vent can become bogged down with trapped lint, dust, hair, and debris? This can seriously affect the efficacy of your dryer, as well as pose a significant risk to your safety. Your clothing can take longer to dry, your dryer can overheat causing damage to the machine, and the quality of your appliance will degrade over time if your dryer vent is left uncared for. It’s important to keep your dryer vent free of obstruction to lower the risk of a fire. Cleaning a dryer vent can be a big and complicated task, so keep reading to find out the proper and safe way to clean a dryer vent.  

How do you clean a dryer vent properly?

Step 1: Clean your lint trap

The lint trap on your dryer collects small fibers, dust, hair, and debris which are shed from your clothes in the drying process. Over time it can become covered in excess lint, and can take no more. Consequently, if your lint trap is too full, lint will stay in the dryer drum on your clothes, or get stuck in the dryer vent. It’s important to clean your lint trap after every use to keep your dryer vent clean and help your clothes dry faster. Start by removing the lint trap and removing any lint stuck to it. If it’s especially dirty you can use your vacuum with a brush attachment to give it a good deep clean. 

Step 2: Clean the lint trap cavity

Before reinserting your lint trap into your machine, give the cavity a quick vacuum to remove any more trapped lint. Use your vacuum’s long skinny hose attachment to get into the small space, being delicate as to avoid any damage. You can also use a brush from your dryer vent cleaning kit to lift up any trapped lint inside the cavity. Once the cavity is free of debris you can reinsert your lint trap. 

Step 3: Turn off your dryer

When working with appliances it is safest to turn off their power when doing maintenance. If you have an electric dryer, unplug it from the power source, and move it slightly out from the wall so you can easily access the dryer duct, and you can vacuum the area surrounding it. 

Step 4: Disconnect the dryer duct

The dryer duct can be found at the back of the dryer. Disconnect the dryer duct from the machine and move your dryer out of the way so you have enough room to access the dryer duct. You can disconnect the extra section of the dryer duct that comes out of the wall to more easily access the rest of the vent.  

Step 5: Vacuum your dryer vent

Use the hose attachment to vacuum the inside of the dryer duct. This will remove any easily accessible large obstructions before you get started with the electric drill and cleaning attachments. 

Deflecto DVBRUSH12K/6 Dryer Duct Cleaning Kit, Lint Remover, Extends Up to 12 Feet, Synthetic Brush Head, Use with or Without a Power Drill, accessory

Step 6: Use an electric drill and dryer duct cleaning brushes

An electric drill attached to dryer duct cleaning brushes is the most effective way to clean your dryer vent. It will allow you to reach much farther into the duct system and will agitate the inside of the vent much more effectively than doing the job by hand. Be sure to follow the instructions on your dryer duct cleaning kit, and attach the included brush to your electric drill. 

Gently insert the brush end of the drill into the dryer vent and turn on the drill at a low speed to create the rotating motion. Slowly move the brush in and out of the duct to loosen the trapped lint and debris. After a few passes, turn off your drill and remove it to clean the brush[2]. Repeat the process until there is no further debris being pulled out by the brush. 

Step 7: Clean the outdoor dryer vent

If accessible, you should also clean your outdoor dryer vent, as it can also trap a large amount of lint and debris, which can lower its ability to move air from the dryer outside. Remove the dryer vent guard and clean it. If your dryer vent has a plastic guard, you should be able to unscrew it and soak it in hot soapy water to remove any buildup. Follow the same process in steps 5 and 6, vacuuming the vent first, and then using your electric drill with attachment, regularly cleaning the brush. 

Step 8: Reassemble your dryer vents

After cleaning your indoor and outdoor vent, reassemble your dryer ducts firmly to the wall, and back to your machine. Vacuum the area surrounding your dryer to clean up any fallen lint, and remove any clutter surrounding or on top of the dryer. Then you can move your dryer back into place, reconnect it to the power source, and start using your dryer that should now work like new. 

What do you need to clean a dryer vent?

Electric drill

The most crucial instrument for cleaning your dryer vent is an electric drill. An electric drill in combination with dryer vent cleaning kit attachments will effectively agitate and loosen built-up lint, dust, hair, and debris trapped in the dryer vent. A drill will allow you to get the job done without too much elbow grease. 

Makita FD09R1 12V max CXT® Lithium-Ion Cordless 3/8" Driver-Drill Kit (2.0Ah)

Dryer vent cleaning kit

A number of brush attachments are included in a dryer vent cleaning kit which can be attached to your electric drill. The attachments will allow you to reach far into the dryer vent to remove any buildup. 


Dryer Duct Cleaning Kit Flexible Lint Remover, Can Use with a Power Drill or Without a Power Drill, Includes 8 Flexible Rods, Synthetic Brush Head

Vacuum with hose attachment 

You can use a vacuum with a hose attachment to complete the preliminary cleaning of your dryer vent and any difficult-to-reach areas around your dryer. There could be a big mess on the floor after cleaning your vent so a vacuum that is easy to navigate around any tight corners is very useful. 

GIBTOOL Vacuum Attachments Accessories Cleaning Kit Brush Nozzle Crevice Tool for 1 1/4 inch & 1 3/8 inch Standard Hose 6pcs

Why do you need to clean your dryer vent?

Did you know that the “U.S. Fire Administration reports that every year more than 2,900 home fires are started by clothes dryers'[2]? A dryer vent that isn’t cleaned regularly is a fire waiting to happen. The lint, dust, pet hair, and other debris like fabric threads are incredibly flammable in combination with the high temperatures made by the dryer. Because of this, it’s incredibly important to clean your dryer vent regularly.

Hand cleaning dryer lint out of a lint trap on a white dryer

Additionally, a dirty dryer vent can actually reduce the performance of your dryer. If your dryer vent is dirty, it is obstructing the hot humid air from flowing out of the dryer, through the vent, and then outdoors. If the hot moist air is trapped in the dryer, it can make your dryer reach extreme temperatures, as well as make your clothes take much longer to dry. If your dryer is extremely hot, this can be a fire hazard[1], but also it can cause damage to your machine and shorten its life span. With your clothes drying slower due to the trapped humid air, you will also be running longer, and more cycles, wasting energy, and money. 

To keep your dryer running its best, and to keep your vents clean, you should clean your lint trap after every use. This will prevent excess lint from becoming trapped in the vent. Additionally, keep clutter away from your dryer, especially on top of it to prevent overheating. Clean your dryer vent regularly to keep your machine running in tip-top shape! 


Article Sources: 

  1. Architectural Digest. “How to Clean Out a Dryer Vent in 7 Simple Steps
  2. The Spruce. “How to Clean Your Dryer Vent Ducts