This past year you had a lot of extra time at home. Chances are you cleaned more than you have in your entire life. But if you think you've covered all those spring cleaning chores, we have one that you may have missed. And it may pose potentially serious consequences for your home and the safety of your family.
Back when life was "normal" and I had no time or desire to clean, I went on a quest to identify the most essential spring chore. And our NNINS home insurance claim experts were very clear: it's gutters and the roof outside. But inside, one home cleaning task is critical when it comes to home fire prevention.
Your Dryer's Other Duct
You are probably familiar with the pliable dryer hose that connects your dryer to the wall. But have you ever thought about where it goes from the wall? You most likely have another more rigid metal duct inside your wall that takes your dryer exhaust to a vent on the outside of your home. We’ve seen duct pipes that run 15, 20, even 25 FEET to the outside of homes. The longer the duct, the harder to clean. And the more susceptible to fire.
If you’re like me, you’re thinking I clean out my lint trap after every load. Okay, most loads. Isn’t that good enough?
No. Here’s why:
Your dryer is designed to exhaust heat and moisture as it dries. At the same time, tiny bits of escaped dust, pet/human hair, and fabric fibers travel down into the exhaust pipe to the outside. Add your favorite fabric softener to the mix, and over time, you’ve got a sticky potpourri of highly flammable build-up.
Here are some signs your dryer exhaust duct is not safely clear:
- Your clothes are taking longer to dry.
- The laundry room heats up when your dryer is running.
- Your clothes are hot to the touch after a dry cycle.
- You notice more lint in your dryer's lint trap than usual.
- You see lint sticking out of the outdoor exhaust vent.
- Your outdoor vent cover’s flaps aren’t working.
How to Clean it
If you've got one of those extra-long exhaust ducts, hire a certified vent cleaning professional. For about $75-125, they’ll bring brushes and hoses that can reach the end of the duct and get it good and clear.
On the DIY side, if your vent duct is shorter, you should be able to easily clean it out yourself. Wear goggles to protect your eyes and follow these steps:
- Remove the vent duct from the back of your dryer and clean it.
- Remove the duct cover, screen, or any flaps on the outside of your home.
- Use long brushes and a vacuum attachment to remove the build-up.
- Start cleaning inside as far as you can from the inside.
- Reconnect the duct and run your dryer while working on the outside- that way the lint will blow forward as you work instead of getting pushed further back.
That Darn Lint Trap
Make sure you clean your lint trap after every load and disconnect the exhaust hose running from the dryer to the wall and give it a good cleaning once every six months. Justin also recommends never leaving your dryer running overnight or when you leave home.