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Hazards of a Dryer Vent

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by Jim Neidner

Jim Neidner is a national award-winning
builder/remodeler and radio home host.


It's not often you hear a clogged dryer vent line was the reason a home burned to the ground. Believe it or not, this does happen. As a radio home host I get questions and articles sent to me from different parts of country. Over the years I have read stories about lint clogged in dryer vent lines causing a fire.

Single family homes vent to an outside wall and normally it’s a very short run, which is not a problem. Having said that, did you know you should inspect and clean your dryer-vent line once a year? Dried lint can be very combustible. Regular cleaning can prevent potential problems and/or a possible fire. Whoever does the laundry at home knows how much lint is removed once a week in the lint filter. It’s normally a sizable hand full; at least it is when I remove the lint from my dryer filter.

When you have the opportunity, pull your dryer back from the wall and look at all the lint and dust behind your dryer and on the floor. Now would be a good time to remove the dryer vent-flex-hose connection from the wall vent and see if it’s clean and free of lint.

If you have a gas dryer, the dryer-vent line should be made of metal rigid vent piping. Building codes today have virtually made it mandatory in all states that dryer-vent lines are to be made of metal rigid vent piping.

Townhomes and quad-plex construction can sometimes be designed where a dryer-vent line can be a difficult line to install in an outside wall. Many have to route the line into the attic and over to the soffit or between the floors to the outside. Most building codes don’t allow builders to exceed more than a 20’ run to the outside wall. If for some reason you have a concern about how far to install a dryer-vent pipe, call your local building department. They are always happy to answer questions on the local building codes. I have always enjoyed working with the inspectors; they are there to protect the consumers and help assist the builder regarding local and state building codes and/or recent changes in the codes.

Over the years I've received questions on my radio home show like, "How do I clean my 17’ dryer-vent pipe line--it’s full of lint? Here’s what I have found that works for me. Get a toilet snake like the roto-rooter then attach a big sock, maybe a small towel or large rag to the end. The big thing is to make the sock or rag large enough to clean the line walls, at the same time not to come off your probe while pushing through the line. You sure don’t want a bigger problem if the rag gets stuck in the line. I have used duct tape combined with a thin wire attaching the rag or sock firmly to the end of roto-rooter.

You might have to remove the outside dryer-vent cap cover to allow pushing the sock or rag through the line. Also look at your outside caps. It, too, could be full of lint. Once this cleaning process is completed you should have removed any and all lint in the vent line.

I’ve also heard of carpet cleaning companies using a long vacuum hose pushing it in all the way to the end of vent line. Using a professional cleaning service or (DIY) do-it-yourself with which ever method you choose, don’t overlook checking or cleaning your dryer-vent line yearly. With the hot summer around the corner and the heat build-up inside your dryer-vent line, don’t run the risk of a dryer vent nightmare. Now’s the time to do your line cleaning. Again, short running lines to the outside walls or long dryer-vent lines, both should be checked and cleaned yearly for your protection.

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