Sunday, September 2, 2007

Unclog a dryer vent clogged with laundry lint

Ever had your clothes dryer turn off well before your clothes are dry? Likewise, have you noticed lint built up on the wall behind your dryer? If either of these are occurring, it’s time to take a look at the lint within your dryer exhaust for possible clogs.

This project is a little different for Old Home Blog because it wasn’t performed on my 1939 Cape Cod. My friend Rob recently asked me what I knew about dryers. He had done some reading online about why his dryer would turn off shortly after starting. Essentially, he feared his dryer exhaust was clogged resulting in his dryer turning off prior to overheating. Lucky for him, his modern dryer has a thermostat which will cut its power if it gets too hot. Imagine if his dryer didn’t have an automatic shut off for overheating and he had thrown a load of laundry in the dryer and left the house for the day. I imagine 15 or 20 years ago his house would be a pile of ashes right now.

Prior to going to Rob’s house, he gave me the following prognosis of the dryer vent:
His laundry room is on the first floor of his ranch home.
The dryer exhaust vent goes into the wall, then up to a vent on his roof.
As if the vertical rise of the dryer vent isn’t bad enough, once the vent goes into the wall, it makes an immediate 90-degree turn to the left before going vertical. This turn to the left made it hard for Rob to maneuver any type of cleaning device into the exhaust duct. Rob had tried a dryer vent cleaning kit that he had purchased from the local Ace Hardware, but he couldn’t get the “brush on a wire rod” to work around the goofy 90-degree corner in his wall.

With all of this in mind, I set off for Rob’s house with only my electrician fish tape and a roll of duct tape. Since the design of the dryer exhaust duct made it difficult to get any traditional dryer duct cleaning device into the space, I figured I might be able to work the fish tape up into the space and see if I could loosen the clog.

To get started, I wrapped some duct tape around the end of the fish tape with the sticky side out in an attempt to loosen any big lint balls clogging the dry duct. The photo on the right shows me working the fish tape up into the dryer exhaust vent. Click on that image to see the larger version and you’ll notice that my plan resulted in some minor success. You’ll also notice the lint on the wall behind the dryer. I assume that since the vent was clogged, any small gap in the dryer exhaust hose (between the dryer and the exhaust hole in the wall) was blowing whatever lint could make it out of the hole into the room. I guess the lint on the all could have been Rob’s first sign of a problem, but in all fairness, when was the last time you looked behind your dryer for signs of a problem?

Since working from the dryer port in the laundry room wasn’t resulting in much success, I decided to take the project to the roof. The photo to the right shows me trying to loosen the dryer clog from the roof. In hindsight, I could ask the same question you might be asking yourself right now: why am I the one on Rob’s roof, and not Rob? Good question.

The fish tape really wasn’t doing anything notable, so Rob and I hatched another plan to loosen his dryer vent clog: forced air. Rob has an electric leaf blower, so we decided to see if using forced air through the dryer exhaust hole would move enough of the lint up and out of the vent on the roof. We worked from the exhaust hole in the laundry room. We put the end of the leaf blower into the dryer vent and I held it in place with an old towel. (The towel would keep the lint from flying back into my face!) I gave Rob a nod and he turned on the power.

Wow, it worked! The photo to the right shows the results up on Rob’s roof. You can see that using the leaf blower not only unclogged the vent, it was powerful enough to blow the lint a good six feet from the vent. The forced air was the best way to clean out the clog dryer vent in Rob’s house. Since the dryer exhaust vent took two turns (the 90-degree turn mentioned above, plus another jog once it got up into the attic) plus had to climb well over 12 feet to the vent on the roof, I have a feeling that cleaning the dryer vent of lint is a task that Rob will need to perform on a regular basis.

Checking your dryer vent for clogs is a task you should consider doing a couple of times a year. Remember how you see ad campaigns around Daylight Savings Time reminding you to change the batteries in your smoke detector? That bi-annual event would also be a good time to check your dryer exhaust for clogs. If you think about it, the two go hand in hand: Keeping your dyer vent clean will keep your smoke detector from going off.

31 comments:

  1. Yikes! With all that lint on Rob's roof, it's a wonder his clothes actually resemble clothes.

    And the answer to the question why was Bergie on the roof and not Rob? Simple. Rob needed to take the pictures!

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  2. Better answer: Can you imagine Rob on a rooftop? I didn't want to have to put down the camera to call an ambulance. :)

    Bergie

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  3. Bergie,
    I have exactly the same problem. Have to buy a leaf blower. There are so many out there. What kind did you use?
    Rene

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  4. Rene,

    I'm not sure what brand of leaf blower my friend has. It depends whether you actually need a leaf blower for other things... you know, like blowing leaves. If you don't, I'd recommend checking out the shop-vac style of vacuums at Home Depot. I own a Rigid brand vac, and the top of the vac removes and converts to a blower. If you don't need just a leaf blower, it might be easier to justify the cost.

    Good luck,
    Bergie

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  5. Thank you for this great idea, I used an electric leaf blower (Paramount 1 horse power) that I have had for about 15 years. It worked great. Unfortunately, for the guy I had on the roof, better than he thought it would. It blew lint out all over him. Ooops... sorry about that friend. At least I hope we are still friends.

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  6. Hi Jeff,

    My pleasure. I'm glad to hear it worked. Nothing like the lint from other people's clothes dusting your friend. That's pretty funny! Sounds like you owe him one now!

    Bergie

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  7. My husband and I were just about to give and buy a new onw when we stummbled upon this link. Wow, brilliant idea. It totaly worked!!!! Thanks sooo much!!! : )

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  8. Just tried to clean out my own dryer vent (wall to exterior)...tried using my air compressor (not enough power/volume), tried snakes and sticks...no good.

    Got a hold of a leaf blower, stuck it in the wall hole with a towel to seal the gap, and let it rip.....

    Woosh! I watched out my window as the lint and other junk just shot right out...it was great. Wish I'd thought to set up a video camera.

    This was a brilliant idea! Many thanks!

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  9. My dryer vent has a "cap" on the roof. Does someone have to go up there and remove the "cap"?

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  10. This worked perfectly! Thank you for taking the time to post this Info and photos!

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  11. I have the same problem and was looking in the internet to purchase a dust collector until I could afford to get someone here to clean the dryer vent. Then I stumbled upon this article. I have a leaf blower so I will try it. Sure hope it works. Thanks for posting.

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  12. Hey Rob, are you looking for a job? I can always use more dryer vent cleaners. Just kidding. Great blog. Look at all that lint!

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  13. THANK YOU THANK YOU!! Got so tired of waiting for someone to help me fix the dryer, decided to do it myself. This was brilliant, worked like a charm. Much better than my dads idea to move the dryer, install a new breaker and knock a hole in the brick wall to revent it out of the side wall!

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  14. BUT WATCH OUT! If the vent hose and pipes are not connected well this method can blow them apart and then one will need to find the breaks and repair them or the lint will get into other areas where it will remain a fire hazard!

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  15. I was cleaning my vent today, dryer still not drying......will try to use the shop vac tomorrow! My vent goes up eight feet then thru ceiling and back across to a soffet vent. UGH! Just hope everything stays intact! If that doesn't work, guess I'll have to call for service! double UGH!!

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  16. Unfortunately, I thought my dryer was the culprit causing the flame in the gas dryer to cycle off very quickly thus not dry the laundry ... so I called an appliance repairman and it cost me $130 (good grief!) for him to clean the vertical duct ... next time I'm trying the Shop Vac first!

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  17. Moved into a new house and knew my old dryer worked but couldn't understand why clothes wouldn't dry. Three internet searches and I see your article. Blew it out and my clothes are now dry. THANK YOU SO MUCH.

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  18. Many thanks for your great hint on using a Leaf Blower to clean out a clog dryer vent line. It worked great for my son using a Toro 390 CFM electric leaf blower. I bet many people with gas dryers pay for unnecessary replacements of the coils when the lint is the culprit. Ed from Norman OK

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  19. Got the leaf blower out and VOILA! Worked like a charm!!! Thanks! :)

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  20. I am so thankful for this posting! I was stressed out for a week about my dryer situation, as I watched the piles of laundry grow bigger, and BIGGER! However, my husband I and decided to try the "Leaf Blower" solution and we're back in business! Thank goodness for the internet and smart people that post helpful information. I have saved a ton of money!! Thanks again!

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  21. Thanks a million, tried several ways to clean my vent but the leaf blower really did the trick.

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  22. This is funny I thought of using a leaf blower too before stumbling on to this article :)

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  23. I am SOooooo happy I came across your site. I have been trying to diagnose this problem with little success. I appreciate the help!

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  24. Never Thought of that Great Idea Just bought a home and the inspector said my dryer vent was clogged tried all kinds of inventive ideas no success
    but I have a leaf blower here we go!!!!

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  25. This absolutely got the job done! I too am thankful for finding this post. I was snaking and brushing for two days. I had to deal with two 90's and the vent on the roof. I figured if the electric blower would do the trick then my back packing husqvarna should work. Only difference is I taped off the connection rather than using a towel mainly because I was working alone.

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  26. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! My husband used not one, not two, not three, but 4 of those $20 vent cleaners (because of the length of our vent). They bent, broke, and the brush fell off IN THE VENT! He worked for hours until I found this blog. The leaf blower worked like a charm within minutes!

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  27. Thanks a bunch!!!!! It worked!!!!

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  28. I used my gas blower on my electric dryer in the garage. Then I decided after to look up and see how good of an idea that was after lol. I had so much stuff come out! I was shocked cuz I had tried a lint brush and my dryer is attached directly to the vent tube - there is maybe a 12" straight run. How or where all that lint was idk. Now I'm going to do it whenever I blow off the garage floor.

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  29. Great post! I found a joint in my exhaust duct in the basement and used the shop vac to blow out the blockage. I "sealed" the hose with a towel as mentioned. Worked like a champ!

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  30. If it doesnt work its because the screen on your roof vent is clogged. We found the screen on the roof and it looked like thick layers of carpet.We peeled it all off then used the shop vac to blow out the rest from the bottom connection. Great Post

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  31. Thanks for the post! My leaf blower blew a bird's nest right to the edge of my vent and I was able to pull it out.

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