Published on October 7th, 2015 | by Guest Contributor
How to Clean a Dryer Lint Vent Using the LintEater
You know the lint that builds up inside the lint trap every time you run a dryer load? Well, that lint can also make its way into the dryer vents. This lint doesn’t just block airflow and cause the dryer to do a poor job of drying clothes. It also presents a significant risk for a fire. Here we’ll detail how to clean a dryer lint vent safely and easily, saving money and energy.
If you don’t believe it could happen to you, consider that clothes dryers were involved in one out of every 22 home fires between 2006 to 2010. The National Fire Protection Agency attributes dryer lint as the cause of 30 percent of the fires that led to dozens of deaths and hundreds of injuries. Further, clothes dryer fires accounted for over $200 million in property damage.
The risks are real, but the solution is simple.
To minimize the risk of fire and to improve energy efficiency in your clothes dryer, it’s important to know how to clean the dryer lint vent, screen and trap (here’s how). The most challenging part of the cleaning is getting the lint vent clean. A LintEater is a cost-effective way for homeowners like you to manage dryer fire risks by doing exactly that. The product is affordable and easy to use, effectively resolving issues like airflow blockages, not getting clothes dry, and increasing energy consumption (leading to higher energy bills).
How to Clean a Dryer Lint Vent with a Linteater
The LintEater is a nifty product that acts very much like a plumber’s snake that roots out clogs in plumbing pipes. But in this case, the tool winds its way through the dryer venting (where no man can go), rootering out the lint. Here’s the components we’ll refer to in the next section.
Here’s a short video that gives you an idea of the project you’re about to undertake:
Here’s how to use the LintEater:
- Get your drill. You’ll need this to operate the LintEater.
- Connect the rods together, and tighten the connection using pliers. Connect the auger brush to the rod you’ll have at the leading edge of the rod conga line, and tighten it into place with the hex wrench (if applicable).
- Place one end of the rod into the drill, where a drill bit usually goes. Tighten the rod into place by twisting the drill’s chuck. Make sure that the drill has an adjustable chuck, and that it’s set to the middle or lower setting. Also make sure that the drill is set to clockwise rotation–if it’s set counterclockwise, you may end up disconnecting the LintEater rods from each other and getting one or several stuck inside the tubing! That would be muy muy malo!
- Get out the selection of LintEater brushes. There is an auger used for venting, and a lint trap brush for the lint trap. (Alternatively, for large blockages, the blockage-removal tool can be used, but be careful with this…more on this below).
- Before proceeding, determine the type of venting your home employs. Many homes have durable steel venting, which is the best–easiest to clean and most likely to stay clean. However, others have white vinyl or flexible foil venting. If there is flexible/vinyl tubing and it is old and/or showing signs of wear, you might want to simply avoid using any tools to clean them, since there’s a likelihood of causing a tear. If you do decide to use the Linteater or any other rootering tool on non-durable metal tubing, proceed with extreme caution.
- Remove the vent hood from the outdoor vent, then turn the dryer on.
- While the dryer is running, check the outdoor exhaust vent. If there is airflow, skip to step 10. If there isn’t airflow coming from the vent, proceed to the next step.
- Turn off and unplug or cut off power to the dryer at the breaker, then remove the blockage. Many times, it is close to one end or the other. If you can simply remove it by hand (with protective gloves, of course), you can often get the air to at least begin flowing. If it is farther down the vent tube than that, and the vent is durable steel venting (not the flexible or vinyl kind), the blockage tool can be used to snake out the vent and find the blockage. If it is not steel venting, you can perhaps still use the blockage tool, but only if the blockage is visible from the outside, and is not beyond a curve in the dryer vent. If you feel 100% confident that either it is steel venting or that the blockage is visible (close to the end) and not past a curve, insert the blockage tool into the vent. As with all LintEater rods, the rod should rotate clockwise when you insert it. Push it gently into the vent. When it butts up against a blockage, give it a firm push, then pull the rod back out. Continue until you have removed as much of the blockage as possible.
- Turn the dryer back on and check the vent’s airflow. If the problem hasn’t resolved, check the venting inside the home, looking for disconnected, torn or crushed vents. If you can’t find the source of the blockage and the exhaust vent still isn’t releasing air, stop everything you’re doing, and get the help of a company that has industrial strength vent cleaning tools (the LintEater is a nice professional tool and works in many cases, but in some cases, you simply need to bring in the really big guns).
- Turn off the dryer and unplug it from the power source or cut off power at the breaker.
- Gently nudge the dryer away from the wall (unless it’s a gas dryer, where even gentle nudging may cause gas leaks…in this case, we don’t recommend moving the dryer at all, but instead just doing your best to vacuum out debris behind the dryer with a vacuum extension).
- Use a vacuum to clean the area behind the dryer, after using the LintEater large 2.5″ lint brush to remove as much dust as you can from the surface wall on the back of the dryer.
- Go outside and insert the leading rod with the LintEater 4″ auger brush into the vent.
- Press the drill “on,” and start slowly moving the rod with the brush into the vent. It should (always) spin clockwise.
- You may need to attach additional rods as they move through the venting, depending on the length of the vent. If you do, make sure to tighten the connection with two pliers (one on each side, twisting in opposite directions until the connection is very tight).
- Continue cleaning the vent, moving the rod back and forth and slowly increasing the speed of the drill.
- Once the brush reaches the end of the tubing, reverse the direction of the rod, and slowly pull it out of the vent. You may want to repeat this process several times, depending on how long it’s been since the vent’s been cleaned.
- Once you’re done, turn the dryer on momentarily to blow out the loose dust. As an alternative, you can connect your vacuum to the LintEater’s vacuum adapter and suck the lint out that way. However, the grand majority of the lint will come out simply by blowing it out by turning on the dryer.
Always use care when the rod is inserted into the vent. If you come up against a blockage or you can’t easily move the rod further down the vent, stop in order to avoid damaging the venting. In some cases, there is also a dryer heat diverter device. It may look like this:
These are designed to keep heat in the home (as opposed to sending it out into the cold, cold world), which in theory is nice in the winter in cold climates. However, they’re not great for indoor air quality (especially if you happen to be drying synthetic, petroleum based clothing like athletic shirts). In addition, they can get in the way of cleaning the vent. Don’t get your linteater caught in one of these! So do yourself a favor and find out if there is one first.
Keep in mind best practices for dryer safety, such as using the LintEater three to four times a year, or hiring a dryer lint vent cleaning service in Honolulu, cleaning the area around the dryer several times a year, and always removing lint from the lint trap/screen prior to running the dryer. Wash the lint screen twice a year in a solution of hot, soapy water to get rid of the film dryer sheets leave behind.
This post was written by Anita Alvarez