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How do I get the lint out of my clothes dryer?

(Getty Images Photo/Eli Meir Kaplan)

Why should you worry about lint buildup in your clothes dryer and its vent?

The most obvious reason why is because removing the lint means your dryer will dry clothes more quickly and thus save you money.  But cleaning the lint out of the vent and air duct for the dryer is also a good fire prevention tactic. According to the National Fire Protection Association, 14,000 dryer fires are reported every year and about a third of them were caused by accumulation of lint.

So, how do you remove the lint? Almost everybody grows up learning that after running a dryer for a load or two of wash, you need to remove dusty residue from the lint trap. But even when you do that regularly, there can be more problems.

Once a month, remove the lint trap from the dryer and wash the mesh in the trap gently with soap and warm water. Then let it dry before putting it back in the machine. What you’re washing off is the residue from fabric softeners and detergent that build up on the screen in the trap and prevent it from doing its job quickly and easily.

Once a year or every couple of years, do a more thorough cleaning, including unfastening the tubing that goes into the wall and vacuuming it out or using a special long-handled lint cleaning brush to remove the dirt inside. Some experts also suggest replacing that crinkly accordion foil tubing with rigid ductwork at that point.

Some industrious homeowners even pop a panel off the back of the dryer to reach areas clogged with dust and lint. But before trying that, unplug the machine and be sure to consult the manufacturer’s manual for your dryer.

If you have a dryer duct that vents on an outside wall that is easy to reach, you can brush lint out of that duct as well. However, some dryer exhaust ducts travel through walls all the way up to a roof. In those cases, it’s probably best to hire a chimney sweep to go up there to clean it out.

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