How Bad Is It To Not Clean Your Dryer Vent Once a Year?

published Apr 1, 2018
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(Image credit: Bethany Nauert)

Many home maintenance tasks don’t need frequent attention. Left undone, most yearly or semi-yearly tasks (like washing the curtains or wiping down the walls) won’t cause anything more drastic than a bit of extra dirt or dust. Neglecting other jobs—such as changing air filters, fire alarm batteries, or appliance maintenance—can cause not just nuisances, but actual danger. So, where does cleaning your dryer vent fall?

Regular maintenance of our dryers involves clearing lint out of the trap every single time we use it, wiping it down on the inside if, heaven forbid, a crayon or lipstick finds its way in, and shaking out sandy or gritty clothing before it gets to the dryer.

(Image credit: Lindsay Tella)

In addition, dryer vents, the tubing that leads from the dryer to the outside, must be cleaned at least once a year, and sooner if there are indications that the vent is clogged. Here’s why:

Clogged vents lead to longer drying times, which can damage your clothing and drastically drive up your utility bill. Your dryer’s sensors can malfunction, leading to still-damp clothes, or clothes that are flaming hot when the beeper goes off. Furthermore, overworked dryers can result in heating elements and blowers wearing out prematurely.

Most importantly, according to the National Fire Protection Association, clogged dryer vents are the leading cause of house fires caused by washers and dryers. Lint is highly flammable and the combination of restricted airflow, combustible lint, and hot air can easily cause ignition. In a four-year span, for example, municipal fire departments responded to almost 16,000 house fires caused by washers or dryers. Dryers accounted for 92 percent of these fires, and the leading factor in causing these was “failure to clean.”

Not cleaning your dryer vent can cause a fire. It has to be done.

(Image credit: Marisa Vitale)

Although you may clean your dryer vent yourself with an extendable wand, air compressor, or vacuum attachment, we recommend scheduling a professional dryer vent cleaning at least once a year, especially if you have a longer vent tube; it’s too easy for lint to get left behind or for a vent to get punctured by a tool. The cost of the service usually ranges from about $50 to $150.

If you notice any of the following, you should get your vent inspected before the year is up:

  • Clothes are taking longer to dry than usual
  • Clothing is either still damp or particularly hot when the automatic drying cycle is over
  • A burning smell
  • A dryer that is hot to the touch on the outside

Properly maintaining your dryer, both on a regular basis, will keep your clothes in their best shape, your dryer functioning for as long as possible, and most importantly, your household safe from a dryer-caused fire.

When’s the last time you inspected your dryer vent?

(Image credit: Julia Steele)