How to clean a dryer vent – 7 easy steps to unclog it yourself

This is how to clean a dryer vent quickly and efficiently, without professional help. Keep your vent duct clear and have your appliance working safely as normal

close up of a tumble dryer vent
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you use a dryer in your home, knowing how to clean a dryer vent is essential. Why? Well, a dryer vent that’s clogged is a fire hazard, so getting rid of the lint and the grot that fills it is a vital job that should be right at the top of your to-do list. 

Even the best tumble dryers can get clogged up and unclogging it is beneficial in more than one way. While getting to grips with a dirty vent will maximize home safety, it’s important for another reason, too. If the vent is filled with grot, your dryer won’t work as well as it should and that’s a waste of energy as well as your time.

So now you know how crucial finding out how to clean out a dryer vent is, all you need to do is scroll down to discover how to get yours clear of debris.

How to clean a dryer vent in seven easy steps

Bryan G. Audiss, Division President at Lowe's says, 'Regularly cleaning your dryer vent prevents build-up, reduces fire hazards and ensures efficient dryer operation.'

So with that in mind, we've got all you need to know about cleaning a dryer vent.

You will need:

1. Disconnect the dryer to clean the vent

Before you get cleaning, unplug the dryer from the wall socket. If yours is a gas dryer, you’ll also need to turn the supply off at the valve. 

Next, move the dryer away from the wall so you can access the rear. With a gas dryer, be cautious that you don’t disturb the supply. Disconnect the duct on the back of the dryer.

2. Clean the dryer exhaust vent

The vent on the back of the dryer is a prime spot for lint to accumulate. 

Audiss says, 'Reach down into the cavity with the dryer vent brush, and gently twist it around, pulling out any lint.' You could go straight in with the hose and crevice tool of your vacuum cleaner, but we’d recommend investing in a special dryer vent cleaning brush (like Holikme's brush available at Amazon), which will allow you to loosen the lint before you vacuum it up. Howe's that for a laundry hack?

removing lint with a vent brush

(Image credit: Getty Images)

3. Clean the dryer vent duct

The dryer vent duct also needs to be cleared of lint. To clean it, disconnect the duct from the wall if possible for maximum access. Remove any accumulation of lint by hand, then it’s the vacuum you need once again to clean the inside. 

Be careful not to damage the vent duct as you work. Make sure, too, that the ductwork meets local building codes; you may need to replace it for this reason.

4. Clean the dryer vent pipe

This is where your flexible dryer vent cleaning brush comes in useful again. For effective lint removal rotate the brush as well as moving it backwards and forwards. Vacuum up the lint.

  • Need a better vacuum cleaner? These are the best vacuums on the market right now.

5. Clean the dryer vent in the wall

Once you’ve cleaned inside, you’ll need to deal with the exterior vent. Check first that the vent is not obstructed by anything, and remove if necessary. 

To get rid of the accumulated lint take off the exterior vent cover. Loosen the lint inside the duct first with the flexible brush, then vacuum up the grot. Replace the exterior vent cover.

clean white dryer vent outside

(Image credit: Getty Images)

6. Clean up at the back of the dryer

For a thorough job, vacuum up any lint in your laundry area which might have accumulated behind or under the dryer and on the back of the machine so it can’t be pulled into the machine.

7. Replace the dryer and reconnect

When the lint’s removed, put the ductwork back in place. Push the dryer back into position, and plug it back into the socket. Turn the gas valve back on if required.

Run a dryer cycle for 15 minutes on the fluff or air only setting to check it’s working correctly. 

shelving in cream fitted inbuilt cabinets with washsing machine and tumble dryer in a laundry room - smeg

(Image credit: Smeg)

Can I clean a dryer vent myself?

In case you were wondering whether you can do this job without professional help, the answer is a definite yes. The only caveat is that you’ll need to be able to move the dryer away from the wall, so you might want to get someone to help you with this part of the process, and with putting it back in place when you’re done. Follow these steps.

How do you know if your dryer vent is clogged?

We’ve said that this is at least an annual household task, but sometimes cleaning the dryer vent becomes an urgent rather than routine job. Wondering how you’ll know if the dryer vent is clogged? Tell-tale signs include having to do extra cycles to get a load dry when it used to take just one.

Other issues to watch out for are the dryer itself becoming hotter or, worse, a burning smell. If any of these problems come up, disconnect the dryer as above, and check and clean the vent as necessary. 

Signs a dryer vent may need repair are far from obvious to the average eye, so here are a few clues your dryer vent may need repair from Jason Kapica, President of Dryer Vent Wizard :

  • Your laundry room’s humid – 'Does your laundry room frequently get humid after running the dryer? While this may be your norm, it’s definitely not normal. The dryer vent is supposed to guide hot air and moisture outside. When it disperses in the laundry room, that means there’s a clog in the duct somewhere. This will greatly increase the chance of mold and mildew growing in your laundry room.'
  • Everything’s suspiciously linty – 'Lint shouldn’t be cloaking the items throughout your laundry room or staying on your clothes; it’s as simple as that. So, if you happen to notice lint collecting on shelves and random items, it means your dryer’s exhaust is getting released in the room – instead of outside.'
  • Nothing’s drying – 'The dryer vent is designed to create open airflow to the outdoors. That’s part of the drying process. When it’s not working correctly, you end up with wet clothes. If, after a cycle or two, your clothes are still wet, that likely means there’s a blockage somewhere along the duct.'
  • Your dryer duct’s missing – 'Take a peek behind your dryer; anything missing? It’s probably not the first possibility to cross your mind, but you may not even have a dryer vent. Often clothes dryers don’t just come with a vent, and it has to get installed separately. So, if you’re experiencing some of the issues above, this may be the source of your problem.'
  • Dryer hot to the touch – 'If your dryer is hot to the touch, this may be a sign that your vent is clogged and the heat is unable to escape.' 

How often should a dryer vent be cleaned?

So now you know what to do, but how often should you be cleaning your dryer vent? Well, you need to count on doing the job at least once a year. But bear in mind that in a big household where you have lots of laundry, more frequent cleaning will likely be necessary.

Can you prevent a dryer vent from becoming clogged?

The short answer is no, but you can certainly take steps to prevent build-up of lint and debris. You should remove the machine’s lint filter and clean it out after every cycle. 

Check the manufacturer’s instruction book if you need to find out how to do this. Remember that this task is another way to help protect your home from fire – lint is flammable and could equally contribute to a fire caused by something else in your home.

You should also clean the housing for the lint filter regularly, too. Use your vacuum cleaner hose and crevice tool.

A tumble dryer in good working order

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Can you use a leaf blower to clean a dryer vent?

Yes, we know some people use their leaf blower to clean out the dryer vent from inside. Our advice? Follow the steps above rather than do this because it will result in a thorough clean.

Expert tips on how to clean a dryer vent

Pick up extra dryer vent knowhow from our favorite homemaking and cleaning experts.

Mrs Hinch’s dryer vent cleaning tip

Instagram sensation and top British cleanfluencer Sophie Hinchliffe uses the crevice tool on her vacuum to clean out the debris from the vent duct of her tumble dryer. Her advice? ‘Always check your vent tube for damage’ when you’re cleaning.

Melissa Maker’s dryer vent cleaning tip

On her Clean My Space YouTube channel, Melissa adds an extra step to the dryer vent cleaning routine to help tackle the scourge of lint. She removes the back panel of the machine – she advises consulting the manufacturer’s instructions first – to access the lint that accumulates in the base and back of the machine, which she vacuums up. ‘Use a brush attachment or crevice tool to get into any difficult-to-reach areas,’ she says.

Our number one dryer vent cleaning tool

Shop Holikme 25 Feet Dryer Vent Cleaning Brush

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You can use this with a power drill to make cleaning easier.

Sarah Warwick
Sarah Warwick

Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor writing for websites, national newspapers, and magazines. She’s spent most of her journalistic career specialising in homes – long enough to see fridges become smart, decorating fashions embrace both minimalism and maximalism, and interiors that blur the indoor/outdoor link become a must-have. She loves testing the latest home appliances, revealing the trends in furnishings and fittings for every room, and investigating the benefits, costs and practicalities of home improvement. It's no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house revamper. For Realhomes.com, Sarah reviews coffee machines and vacuum cleaners, taking them through their paces at home to give us an honest, real life review and comparison of every model.

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