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I have a very long dryer vent run that is about 18' or so, and is completely behind a wall. Included below is a rough sketch of what I think the vent looks like, but I have no way to confirm that without removing a lot of dry wall and flooring.

I bought one of those dryer vent cleaning kits that has a brush on one end, and has a bunch of attachable rods that end up attaching to a drill. Unfortunately if I come at it from inside the house (basement), I think it's getting caught up on the second 90 degree turn right before the 11' stretch. I tried coming at it from the outside, and I think it's getting caught up again on the 90 degree turn right before the 11' stretch.

I took a rigid shop vac that converts into a blower and blew at the vent from inside the house, but that basically did nothing (in fact, the vent flaps on the outside vent cover didn't even move / open).

What do you guys recommend that I do? Should I just leave it? The dryer runs fine, I just wanted to clean the vent as that's a potential fire hazard.

enter image description here

  • The vent cleaning brush kits i have used have not had a problem making 90 deg turns. Sometimes i have to work it back and forth while rotating to get it to make the turn. The kit i used had the shop vac attach to the end i was running the rod and brush from so it would suck out the loosened lint. – Alaska Man Aug 30 at 22:37
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    FYI. NEVER run the drill in reverse with the brush and rod inside the duct. It can unscrew at the joint and stay in the duct. – Alaska Man Aug 30 at 22:48
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    @AlaskaMan yeah I never ran it in reverse. And I also taped at the joints of the rods with the tape they provided (electrical tape). I tried to work it back and forth and adding some of my own rotations, but nothing worked.. Just got stuck, like I hit a wall. – David Aug 30 at 23:04
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    Another option: Replace the drier to one with a condenser, and then you don't need the hard-to-clean vent at all. – Jonathan Aug 31 at 10:11
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    Also, this isn't an answer for cleaning it, but useful: you can get (dirt cheap!) USB endoscope cameras that are great for poking up inside vents like this to see what's going on. – R.. GitHub STOP HELPING ICE Aug 31 at 17:31
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Perhaps a leafblower (or two?) might clean it out a bit?

Also maybe get advice on how to make the outside vent area fire resistant if the tube does catch fire.

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    Got to give this an upvote as I have done it and it worked ! I blew from the dryer location. It did blow the hood off of the plastic outside piece but all the lint in the pipe was in the side yard where it exited the house. I was able to reassemble the backdraft flap and hood but the leaf blower did clear a huge amount of lint out of the pipe that was causing the dryer to overheat and blow the safety fuse. – Ed Beal Aug 31 at 1:27
  • Me too electric leaf blower boasting 200 mph did amazing job cleaning lint from dryer duct. – Kris Aug 31 at 1:42
  • same here. 200mph leaf bower clears the lint out. If no lint comes out, you do have a blockage. – Programmer66 Aug 31 at 4:42
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    I guess I thought the blower on the shop vac would be comparable to a leaf blower, but judging from these comments I'm guessing it's far from it. I'll rent a leaf blower from a big box store, thanks! – David Aug 31 at 12:04
  • I got to upvote this just because of the entertainment value. I'm going to have to do this just to keep the neighbors amused. – Greg Nickoloff Sep 10 at 17:21
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I have had success with an electrician's "fish tape". You snake it through one end until it pokes out the other, and attach an old t-shirt to it. Then, you pull it through slowly, working it around the bends and where it want to catch up.

Patience is key here, but it can be done, even with 90-deg bends.

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  • yeah someone above recommended fish tape. it's the first time I'm hearing of such a thing. it looks like it could be helpful for sure. if the leaf blower method doesn't work, I'll pick up a fish tape and hope for the best... – David Aug 31 at 16:17
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    Oh darn. I should have searched instead of just scanning -- I missed that it was already mentioned. I'll leave this here, though, because I have first-hand experience with this method going through at least one 90-deg bend. – jdv Aug 31 at 16:23
  • no problem at all, thanks again for your feedback! – David Aug 31 at 16:24
  • The issue with this as the code now specifies no screws in the joint for dryer vents. Before the new code, screws were used to connect joints in the dryer vent. My house which is old, has vents connected with screws. Using the rag/t-shirt in these, the rag will catch on the screw. Even if the rag/t-shirt is pulled out, the remnants will begin to catch lint. I have used the fish-tape with a brush attached to the end to successfully clean out the vent. Now I just use the high power blower. – Programmer66 Aug 31 at 16:45
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Those do-it-yourself kits seem to be geared around houses that (for example) have the dryer in a garage and the vent line goes straight out the back and through the wall. They don't handle a lot of turns very well, and they certainly aren't long enough to clean a stretch of ductwork that spans multiple rooms.

I got frustrated trying to clean my vent line out, gave up, and called a chimney sweep. They don't sound like the sort of thing that should still exist in the 21st century but they do, and they excel at cleaning out those long duct runs with a large number of turns. It was only about a half hour's worth of work so the price was very reasonable (less than $100 IIRC). If you're going to spend money renting/buying equipment to do it yourself, I highly recommend getting a quick quote from a pro first.

Like you, I would have said that my dryer dried clothes fine before it got cleaned out. The buildup in your vents decreases your drying efficiency so slowly that it's hard to notice the change. After you clean the vent out, though, you'll swear it's a new dryer.

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  • this is incredibly useful. I ended up getting a 150mph leaf blower from a friend, and it didn’t seem to do anything. In fact I kept the vent cover on the outside just to see if the flaps would open, and they didn’t (brand new cover, flaps are smooth, so it just didn’t get any air). Called an HVAC company to come and give me an estimate because I didn’t know who else to call. Chimney sweep sounds like just the guys, will give a call tomorrow. – David Sep 2 at 1:06
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Cheaper than a leafblower…

If the brush end of the kit will take a permanent bend, then bend the end over 30° or so - less than the width of the pipe so it doesn't catch on the straights - then pay attention to which way it's facing at each turn.
Ignore the drill attachment, use manual push/pull instead.

Alternatively, how about affixing a tennis ball or cheap plastic ball to the end, making the corners less prone to catching?

Third alternative - use a fish tape to pull the brush through initially. You could then use the drill on the retract.

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  • the brush actually has a circular pointy looking plastic thing affixed at the end. A tennis ball would definitely be better, but I might just rent a leaf blower for $30 and give it a shot. If the vent cover on the end side still doesn't open, I either have a serious blockage, or something's messed up with the vent. – David Aug 31 at 12:19
  • I bought my leaf blower for $40 at harbor fright. "180mph", not 200, but it does a good job. – dandavis Aug 31 at 21:17
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all of the above, plus... remove the exterior vent cap/flap. Often the problem is it is siezed shut due to mechanical failure of the flap "bearing"; or birds/rodents have built nests in there with sticks etc clogging it up (and then filled in with lint fiber). Poke around with your arm and a coathangar wire as far as you can (tethered so you don't accidentally drop it in there, being careful it doesn't get hung up on anything). Do this on both ends.

you might also consider a plumbing snake (cheap hand-operated type), which use more flexible "shaft" material that might negotiate those 90 degree bends more easily than the fiberglass/plastic rod material used in dryer vent cleaning devices. While they don't have the brush, they have a little corkscrew that should "catch" on any lintball clogs. Go slow and repeatly remove and inspect

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Going forward, I'd allow easier cleaning by either

  1. Put an inspection hatch and elbow at the basement/dryer room joint - the inspection hatch will be accessed from the drying room
  2. Moving the rising pipe into the drying room, and again put an inspection joint here

You might also want to replace the other elbows with hatches and inspection elbows.

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