Clothes dryers, like most other appliances in our homes are not maintained until they fail. When I was inspecting homes, many of my clients would ask me ” how often should I clean my dryer duct ? ” The answer to that question can vary greatly as it is based on the amount of use and the condition of the ducting. First lets look at what the dryer duct is intended to do and things you can check to ensure proper operation and safety.
Clothes dryers evaporate water from wet clothing as they tumble inside the spinning drum and hot air blows past them. The heat is provided by a gas burner or an electric element. Heavy garment loads may contain more than 1 gallon of water. During the drying process, this water becomes water vapor which exits the dryer and home through an exhaust duct. This ducting is more commonly referred to as the dryer vent duct.
Ensure the clothes dryer duct is properly connected
The dryer duct connection is usually behind the dryer, but some dryers are capable of being connected either underneath or out the side.
Locate your dryer exhaust outlet and make sure that it is actually connected and secured using a clamped to the exhaust outlet on the machine.
The other area that is often overlooked is the connection in the attic or crawlspace. If your dryer ducting is not venting to the exterior of your home you may well have another concern. Many times I have seen mold in attic spaces and crawlspace areas because of a failed through ceiling or floor connection. These areas should be check annually to ensure that the dryer vent is exhausting to the exterior as intended.
Make sure that the ducting is not restricted.
It is quite common for clothes dryers to be installed in tight areas such as closets or smaller rooms. They are usually pushed back against the wall to provide more working room in front of the machine. These types of installations usually have kinked ducting and are a higher risk to catch fire.
When I was inspecting homes I would often see clothes dryers connected with flexible plastic ducting. This type of ducting is unsafe in my opinion because of the materials’ ability to fail quicker if a fire occurs.
Many times dryers will vent using a flexible metal ducting, this type of ducting is better than the plastic type but still not the best option.
Check your ducting type,solid metal ducting should be used in where possible. The side walls are smooth and will allow air and lint to freely escape to the exterior of the home. Place proper 90 degree elbows where possible. If flexible ducting is required, ensure it is the metal type and that it is not kinked.
So how will my Ducting catch on fire?
The primary reason that restrictions can be a fire hazard is because the lint that is exhausted through the ducting will get trapped at the kinked locations of the dryer duct. Restrictions will limit the warm moist air from freely escaping the clothes dryer as it is intended.
Warm air will build up inside the machine and can cause the dryer to over heat. As the dryer overheats the probability of a mechanical failure increases and could trigger a spark. These sparks can ignite the dryer lint that is trapped inside the dryer ducting. The fire generally starts inside the machine but can quickly spread along the path of the ducting. Dryer ducting in many installations are inside walls or floor cavities, leaving the ducting and fire inaccessible.
Facts and figures on clothes dryer related fires
- Clothes dryers accounted for 92% of the fires; washing machines 4%, and washer and dryer combinations accounted for 5%.
- The leading factor contributing to the ignition of home fires involving clothes dryers was failure to clean, accounting for one-third (33%) of dryer fires.
- A mechanical or electrical failure or malfunction was involved in the vast majority of home fires involving washing machines.
- Fires involving clothes dryers usually started with the ignition of something that was being dried or was a byproduct (such as lint) of drying, while washing machine fires usually involved the ignition of some part of the appliance.
Source: NFPA’s “Home Fires Involving Clothes Dryers and Washing Machines” report
As you can see the dryer duct vent plays an important role in how efficiently and safely your clothes dryer functions. You should always follow the manufacture’s guideline for care and installation of your clothes dryer.
In answering the question “how often should I clean my dryer duct ?”
Annually at minimum, if you notice that the dryer is taking longer to dry your clothes, check the dryer vent. More times than not this indicates the ducting is restricted and is either kinked or full of clothes lint. You can buy a flexible tool with a cleaning head that is powered by an electric drill specially made for cleaning your dryer duct.
If you have any questions or comments about how often you should clean your dryer duct , please leave it below. Please share this post via the Pinerest image above to build awareness of clothes dryer safety to your friends and family.
Thank you Rick