7 Warning Signs You Need a Dryer Vent Cleaning

Keeping your dryer vents clear of debris is essential to protecting your family, your home, and your valuable belongings. Lint, which accumulates quickly in your dryer, can be a dangerous problem if you don't take the necessary precautions to clean it. Regardless of how routinely you empty your dryer's lint trap, you will still need to clean the dryer vent to keep the machine in tip-top shape. 

How often to clean dryer vents depends on a few factors. Dryer safety professionals recommend that you clean dryer vents yearly, but the frequency of use will also determine when your machine needs cleaning. You may need to clean your dryer sooner than expected, especially if you use it every week. With this in mind, some signs do indicate when you need to hire a professional dryer vent cleaner (more on this below).

At Filterbuy, we believe that knowing why and when to schedule a dryer vent cleaning is vital information that every homeowner should know. For this reason, we've compiled the following information to help ensure that you're cleaning your vents properly.

Cleaning Your Vents: A Dryer Safety Issue

One of the best ways to prevent dryer fires and protect your living space is by cleaning your dryer vent. When you use your dryer, small amounts of lint (a highly flammable material composed of fibers clothing leaves behind) get trapped within its system. The more you use your dryer without cleaning, the more the lint continues to build up.

A dryer fire is a very real possibility if this material makes its way into your dryer's heating element. Lint-clogged dryer vents are thus the primary cause of dryer fires and a major cause of all household fires. 

According to the U.S. Fire Administration:

  2,900 home clothes dryer fires are reported each year and cause an estimated 5 deaths, 100 injuries, and $35 million in property loss.

  Failure to clean the dryer (34 percent) is the leading cause of home clothes dryer fires.

—  More home clothes dryer fires occur in the fall and winter months, peaking in January.

Dryer vent cleanings from a trusted, professional servicer are effective ways to keep your home and family safe from dryer fires. Getting your system cleaned by a servicer will remove lint and other debris from your machine's system, ensuring your dryer remains safe. By freeing the dryer’s vent of flammable material, you are taking proper fire safety precautions and keeping your dryer in workable condition. 

Fireman stands in front of a burning house fire.

Can I Clean Dryer Vents Myself?

Cleaning your dryer vents by yourself may seem like a good idea, but it can be dangerous for you and your dryer. There is a great deal of misinformation online regarding how to do a dryer vent cleaning. Though it’s tempting, trying the process yourself can do more harm than good. Without professional tools for cleaning dryer vents, lint and debris may stay in the duct, compounding future dryer problems. 

Without training, it can also be difficult for you to identify when the vent is clear. At first glance, the system may appear clean, but without proper inspection, lint could still be present. In professional cleanings, dryer vent technicians know where and what signs to look for to confirm a cleared machine.

Incorrect procedures often present in amateur cleanings can also result in unsafe conditions. Even though dryer vent cleaning may seem straightforward, small details, such as knowing how to cut off the dryer power supply, can have disastrous results without professional knowledge. It's for this reason that you need to find a trusted professional who can properly clean dryer vents.

Warning Signs It’s Time to Clean Dryer Vents:

The U.S. Fire Administration recommends getting your vents cleaned at least once a year (or more often when needed) for proper maintenance and safety purposes. With this in mind, there are times where you may experience symptoms of clogged dryer vents. If you are currently experiencing any of the signs below, chances are you require a professional dryer cleaning.

1. Longer Drying Times

It's a common misconception that clothes taking multiple cycles or long times to dry means you need a new dryer. In reality, the lint in your vents may be the real problem. If your dryer takes longer than one cycle to dry your clothes, you may require a dryer vent cleaning professional. 

Lint buildup in your dryer's system can make your machine work harder and dry less efficiently. With a clean dryer duct, dryers generally work better and dry clothes faster than before. Therefore, if your machine takes several cycles to dry, scheduling a professional dryer vent cleaning may be the answer.

2. Clothes Smell Musty

As with longer drying times, musty-smelling clothing after a drying cycle is another sign it's time to clean your vents. Dryers may not remove all moisture from clothes if they are not operating at their maximum efficiency. Your clothes may seem dry when you first take them out, but after a short time, your closet starts to smell funky.

If this occurs every time you put your laundry away, it might be time to have your dryer vent checked out. That extra moisture could be harming your clothes and - in some cases - even you. Think about it this way, your clothing might only be smelling a little musty now, but that unpleasant odor could also be a sign that mold is developing. 

Professionally cleaning your dryer vent can prevent future problems and keep your air quality, home, and favorite shirt in optimal condition.

Stack of folded, multi-colored clothing.

3. Overheating/Burning Smells

Although no one likes musty-smelling clothing, some odors are more worrisome than others. If you’re thinking “why does my dryer smell?” after every cycle, there may be a bigger problem. Noticing a burning smell when running the dryer, is an immediate cause for concern. Lint building up in the system can reach levels too high for your dryer to function properly. If that lint reaches the dryer heat supply, it can heat up, start burning, and quickly catch on fire.

If your dryer is giving off burning scents, turn it off right away and do not use it until you get a professional vent inspection and cleaning. Continuing to run your dryer could result in serious issues, including a potential house fire. If the clothes you had in the cycle are still wet, hang them outside or in a well-ventilated space until you can get your dryer looked at by a trusted service.

4. Excessive Lint

Excessive lint after using the dryer is another sign that your dryer vents need cleaning. The clean dryer duct design lets hot air escape from your machine and into the outdoors. When the vent gets clogged with lint, the dryer does not work properly. Therefore, you should be concerned about unusual amounts of lint spilling into the clothing chamber of your dryer - it could cause dangerous problems down the line.

There are clothing materials that lint tends to stick to easily, such as corduroy and velvet-like fabric. However, if you empty the lint trap and every piece of your clothing still leaves the dryer with white fuzz, you should check your vents. Though lint might seem harmless, being safe is better than being sorry when it comes to your home.

5. Laundry Room Hotter Than Normal

Cleaning the dryer vent may be necessary if your laundry room feels hotter than the rest of your house after running the dryer. Hot room temperature is a sign that the dryer vent can not exhaust heated air outside. If your vent is blocked, the air is pushed back out into your laundry room, raising the temperature and making the room feel humid.

Having a hot laundry room not only makes doing laundry feel harder, but it is also a sign that there is a dangerous problem. In this situation, we recommend forgoing dryer usage until you can schedule an appointment with a local service. Having a trained professional inspect and clean your dryer vent can solve the problem entirely. 

6. Blocked Vent Hood

If you suspect that your dryer vent may be blocked, one option you have is to take a look at the dryer vent hood. This hood sits outside your home and serves to release the dryer’s hot air. In some cases, the dryer vent hood will display signs of a build-up in your dryer vent. 

To check, go outside and locate where the dryer vent hood sits on the side of your home. Take a close look at the hood and identify if there is lint around its opening. If you see lint or other dryer debris, you should have your dryer vent inspected and cleaned by a professional. 

If your vent hood does not show signs of lint, you may still need a dryer vent cleaning. Sometimes your vent might be clogged without the lint fully reaching the vent hood. In this case, lint and debris will not be visible. If you notice other signs, such as those listed above, you should still schedule a vent cleaning. 

White dryer vent hood filled with lint.

7. It’s Been Over a Year Since Last Cleaning

A professional dryer vents cleaning is a good idea when you cannot recall the last time you received a cleaning, you've lived in a property for over a year without having the vent cleaned, or your landlord doesn't have a recent cleaning history. As previously mentioned, the U.S. Fire Administration recommends a professional dryer vent cleaning at least once a year (and more often if necessary). 

Following safety guidelines and recommendations is an effective way to prevent future dryer damage and at-home fires. Maintaining your dryer vent and scheduling cleanings when needed ensures that your machine will last longer and meet home safety standards.

How Do I Clean My Dryer Vents?

Once again, dryer vents cleaning should never be something you try to do yourself. Doing so may cause harm to your dryer or you without professional equipment or precautions. If you determine that you need your dryer vents cleaned, you should contact a capable, trusted professional.

For all of your dryer vent cleaning needs, you can rely on America’s most trusted name in air filtration – Filterbuy LOCAL is now providing dryer vent services in your area.

We aim to improve the air quality you breathe and keep you, your family, and your home safe. Our licensed professionals will assist you with your dryer vent cleaning and other duct cleaning needs.

Click here to learn more about Filterbuy LOCAL for dryer vent cleaning.