When was the last time you thought about your dryer vent? Possibly never, right? It’s not exactly top-of-mind for most people. But it should be. According to the National Fire Protection Association, dryers and washing machines were responsible for more than 16,800 home fires in the U.S. in 2010. 92% of these fires were caused by clothes dryers.
When lint and dust build up in your dryer vent, it blocks airflow and causes exhaust gases to build up. Eventually, that buildup can start a fire. Cleaning your dryer vent regularly will prevent this fire hazard, but you have to remember to do so. If you forget, these five warning signs that it’s time to clean your dryer vent will help jog your memory.
5 Signs Your Dryer Vent Needs Cleaning
1. Drying time lengthens.
The purpose of the dryer vent is to push out hot air moist from contact with your wet clothes, thereby allowing your clothes to dry. If the dryer vent is blocked by lint buildup, airflow will be restricted and the hot moist air will be trapped inside the dryer. When there’s no way for the moisture to escape the dryer, it will struggle to do its job. You’ll start to notice that your cycles take longer and longer to complete, or that clothes are coming out still damp.
2. The dryer is running hot.
If you start noticing that the dryer and the clothes you remove from it after a cycle are hot to the touch, that’s a sign that buildup in the vent is prevent the machine from exhausting effectively.
3. The vent hood flap doesn’t open.
The hood flap covering the dryer vent should always be open while the dryer is running, to allow hot air to ventilate out of the dryer and prevent the machine from overheating. If you notice that the hood flap isn’t open when the dryer is on, that is a clear visual sign that the vent needs cleaning. A closed hood means that airflow is restricted and heat can build up inside, creating a fire hazard.
4. You can’t remember the last time you cleaned it.
Your dryer vent should be inspected and cleaned at least once a year in order to function properly and prevent fires. If you can’t remember the last time you cleaned it, it’s definitely been too long. Block out some time over your weekend to devote to cleaning it, or schedule an appointment with a professional to do it for you.
5. You smell something burning.
A burning smell is never a good sign. But if it’s coming from your dryer, it’s a sign that you have a serious problem on your hands and may have an active fire inside your dryer vent. Lint is very flammable, and will catch fire when the dryer vent or exhaust tube become too hot. If you smell something burning, turn off your dryer and call for an emergency service visit from your trusted HVAC provider.
Not only will regularly cleaning your dryer vent reduce the risk of fire, but it will also increase the longevity of your appliance. When the dryer vent is obstructed, the dryer has to work harder to get the job done. This causes extra wear in tear that over time will take years off the machine’s life. To get the best performance out of your dryer, clean your dryer vent at least once a year and schedule seasonal maintenance tune-ups with your HVAC provider.