Saturday, January 12, 2008

Cleaning the Dryer Vent

Today I want to explain a bit how to clean the actual vent of your dryer ventilation system. This is the part that goes from the dryer to the great outdoors. It starts with the transition vent, which connects your dryer to the wall. Then the main vent is the part that's behind the wall. The tailpipe is the last piece that connects the main vent to the outside. The hood is the part that is actually outside.

It is best to be able to clean the whole thing from the outside. Your ability to do this depends on a few factors. One, you must be able to reach the hood from the outside. Sometimes this is up very high, and you may not have a ladder high enough to reach it. Other times, it is up on some weird part of the roof, and you can't get to it for that reason. The next best place to clean from is at the tailpipe just inside your home. Often you can access this via the attic when it is too hard to reach from outside. It may be a tight fit in some attics, but it's better than taking a spill off a roof twenty feet in the air. If you can't get at even the tailpipe from the inside, your only choice may be to clean your vent from inside, at the transition vent. This is least optimal, but still better than not cleaning at all.

When you clean from the outside, you generally turn on the dryer, on air fluff, and then go outside. Next, you bring your set of brushes and rods and drill outside. Once outside, remove a screen from the front of the hood if necessary, and get to work. Just go one brush rod at a time, running the drill on high-speed, medium torque, drill-in or screw-tightening mode (turning clockwise). With each rod, go in slowly, and then pull out slowly that one rod, and then go back in. This will kick out all the lint that's in that section. Keep going in and out until you get no more lint coming out from that section. You should have an idea of how long the vent is, by estimating or even measuring the distances to cover. That way you know how many brushes you need to run through, and you won't try to push the brush all the way into the dryer. You don't want to run the brush all the way into the dryer.

When you work from inside at the tailpipe, you just disconnect the tailpipe from the main vent (this is sometimes hard to do and sometimes easy to do) and do the same basic procedure as above. This is a little less convenient, because often the indoo space is cramped. Furthermore, the dust that you kick out of the vent will go all over the place inside. You can use a vacuum attachment to run a little shop vac collecting the lint from the vent, but then you don't get to see how effective your brushing is.

When you work from inside at the transition vent, you just disconnect the transition vent from the back of the dryer, and do the same basic procedure as above. Of course, running the dryer won't help you, since you are at the dryer side of the vent. In this case, it might be best to use the vacuum method, since you'll want to be drawing the lint that you loosen up towards you, otherwise it may just sit in the vent where you loosen it. When you clean from here, you may also want to put a leaf-style blower onto the vent once you have cleaned it, just to loosen any debris that you couldn't get to you from the dryer. Be careful when you do this, because if there's a screen at the hood, it could become clogged when you blow out the lint.

It is worth noting that wet lint cannot be as easily removed as dry lint. Some amount of moisture won't prevent your brushes from working, but if the lint is damp, it just won't come out with the brush most of the time. Be prepared to take apart the vent one section at a time and manually remove the wet lint. Not pleasant, but very effective. Then once you get to dry lint, you can reassemble the vent and brush as normal from the end.

You must also beware of potentially disconnected vents. If you get little or no airflow from the vent, even when the dryer is running, you may have a severe clog, or you may have a disconnected vent. Clogs are OK - the brush is good at that. But disconnected vents can be a real problem. When you get to the disconnected part, your brush can easily become stuck, and if you're not careful, you can get the brush stuck behind a wall or floor somewhere. Unless you want to be cutting into walls, floors, or ceilings, be careful of this.

That's the overview of cleaning the actual vent. Sort of a theory of operation for how it could go, or how to approach the basic situation. If this all seems a bit overwhelming, or if you find yourself in over your head after giving it a shot yourself, just drop me a line! Or give me a call at 860.324.5213, and I'll bail you out.


Roof Ventilators said...

Home ventilation is very important because it effectively removes nasty smells, pollution, humidity and water vapors, while at the same time brings in the home fresh and clean air that we all need to survive.

Davidjohn said...

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