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Our laundry nook is smack in the middle of our house. The dryer vent goes into an interior wall, turns 90° downward, soon turns 90° back the way it came, and goes straight for four or five meters until exiting a tube near the ground on an exterior wall.

I'm a new homeowner and knew nothing about this stuff until just recently, when our dryer has started drying clothes very very very slowly. We unhooked the dryer and used a shop vac to get several big chunks of lint out of the vent. Then we got several big soaking wet chunks of lint out of the vent. And we weren't done getting lint out it when we ran into the maximum length of our shop vac hose.

Further reading and investigation has turned up several interesting pieces of information:

  • There hasn't been a vent cover on the outlet of the dryer vent the whole time we've lived here.
  • There's really supposed to be a vent cover on any dryer vent.
  • There's really, really not supposed to be any water infiltration in your dryer vent.
  • This has apparently been a really, really, really big fire hazard for who knows how long.

So given that we don't have the tools necessary to clean the thing properly, we're planning on calling a repairman tomorrow. Money's very very tight, though, so first I thought I'd ask:

Is there any way of satisfactorily cleaning our dryer vent ourselves? Or is it going to end up being cheaper to call in an expert to fix it for us?

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actually the lint being wet probably mitigated the fire hazard –  ratchet freak Apr 24 '12 at 23:55

3 Answers 3

They make Dryer Vent Cleaning Kits for this very purpose:

Kit Picture

As to why there is water in there - hopefully it's just condensation.

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This Linteater system is a must for any homeowner. Not only will it clean lint out of the duct line, you can use it to de-lint the dryer itself, sweep chimneys (that'll be a dirty job), snake certain types of drains (it won't go through a P-trap but most other twists and turns are fine) etc etc. –  KeithS Apr 25 '12 at 16:28

Do NOT use the dryer until you get this fixed. I think you know that already, but as you realize, it can easily cause a fire. You are lucky it is wet in fact, as otherwise there would have been a fire.

So first, get a screen to put in the dryer, and clean it out after every use. This will intercept much of the lint, but enough will still get through, and the many bends in this vent make the air slow down enough to cause problems.

Next, get the vent cleaned out, and do that periodically. Don't wait until the dryer starts to slow down. Do so at least once a year, and given the number of bends, twice a year might be a good idea until you know how quickly the lint accumulates. You CAN do this yourself.

The first trick is to cut the vent in several spots, so that you can access all parts of the vent. The shop vac trick is a good idea, and where a straight length of vent can be found, use a vent cleaning kit. Personally, since my vent is simply 4 inch diameter metal duct, I bought a chimney cleaner, with a 4 inch brush. All it is is 4 pieces of flexible plastic rod that screw together, so I can make it as long as I need it. At the end, a chimney cleaning brush screws on.

Yes, I said to cut open the existing vent in several spots to access it. Do so cleanly. This allows you to put the vent back together, but using a twist lock kit (called a Dryer Dock) that is made for EXACTLY that purpose.

Dryer dock

Amazon sells it. This is just a plastic union, that with a quick twist pops open. While the picture shows it screwed to a wall, you can put this inline anywhere. I know it can, because that is what I did. Use a pair of hose clamps to re-attach the vent to each side of the dryer dock, and now you can do your vent cleaning quickly and easily every time.

The nice thing is a clean vent will mean quicker dry times, so much less energy used.

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While this is a working answer, there are several things I find wrong with it in general. First, if you have flex-line ducting in the wall (and not just from the dryer to the wall), are experiencing lint problems, and have this kind of access, you should be looking at replacing it with rigid ducting. Second, again if you have this kind of access you should consider an inline lint trap (for an electric dryer; you can't use them for gas) which will drastically reduce lint build-up in the line beyond. –  KeithS Apr 25 '12 at 16:32
    
Lastly, the dryer vent cleaning kits you recommend are designed specifically to "snake out" a vent line, even through several twists and turns, without needing to disassemble it. –  KeithS Apr 25 '12 at 16:33
    
@KeithS - However they are ADVERTISED, they work in the middle of a line quite nicely. When you have a vent with many twists and elbows, you will be unable to run a brush through it. Therefore, do as I needed to do, as I did. Put one or more disconnects into the line as needed to access problem parts of a vent. –  user558 Apr 25 '12 at 19:28
    
@KeithS - Yes, it is true that rigid ducting is far better than flex lines. In fact, the flexible plastic lines are something to be avoided, replace them wherever this is possible. –  user558 Apr 25 '12 at 19:30

There are plenty of good answers here about how to clean the duct. However, no one is dealing with the long term problem of how to stop it from clogging up in the first place.

What you need is an Inline Lint Trap. This should be attached between the dryer and the wall, hopefully at eye level so that the build-up will attract your attention every time you use the dryer.

http://www.redtienda.net/storeimages/directfans/pro/140392.file_a.gif

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