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Do outside dryer vents need to be cleaned?

Having a properly functioning dryer vent is important for efficient drying, preventing fires, and saving energy. Over time, lint and debris can build up inside the dryer ductwork, reducing airflow and causing a number of problems. Cleaning dryer vents regularly helps ensure proper operation and safety.

How often should the outside dryer vent be cleaned?

The outside dryer vent, also called the dryer exhaust vent, should be inspected and cleaned at least once per year. Lint and debris can accumulate surprisingly quickly, so an annual cleaning is a good rule of thumb for most homes. Here are some signs that indicate it’s time to clean the outdoor dryer vent:

  • Clothes are taking longer than normal to dry
  • The exterior vent flap does not open during the dry cycle
  • There is a visible accumulation of lint around the outside vent
  • The dryer overheats and shuts off before clothes are fully dry
  • You can feel reduced airflow when holding your hand near the outdoor vent

Homes with pets or lots of lint-generating fabrics like towels may need to clean the outside vent more frequently, such as every 6 months. Additionally, it’s a good idea to do a quick inspection of the outdoor dryer vent before each season when the dryer gets more or less use.

Why is it important to clean the outdoor dryer vent?

There are a few key reasons why regular cleaning of the outdoor dryer vent is so important:

  • Fire prevention – Lint buildup in the ductwork is highly flammable. Cleaning helps remove this fire hazard.
  • Improve drying time – When airflow is restricted due to clogs, it takes longer for the dryer to do its job. Cleaning improves airflow and drying efficiency.
  • Prevent overheating – With reduced airflow, dryers have to work harder and run hotter to dry clothes, leading to potential overheating issues.
  • Energy savings – A properly operating dryer uses less energy to get clothes dry. Less lint buildup improves airflow so the dryer doesn’t have to work as hard.
  • Extend dryer lifespan – Running with reduced airflow causes extra wear and tear that can lead to early failure. Keeping the ducts clean extends the dryer’s life.

Taking the time periodically to clean the outdoor dryer vent provides big benefits!

How to clean the outside dryer vent

Cleaning the outdoor dryer vent is usually a quick and simple process. Here are the basic steps involved:

  1. Disconnect the duct – Unplug the dryer and disconnect the duct at both ends. This gives you access to the full run of duct to clean.
  2. Vacuum the duct – Use a vacuum hose at one end to vacuum out any lint and debris inside the ductwork.
  3. Brush out remaining debris – Use a dryer vent brush to dislodge any stuck-on lint or clogs.
  4. Check the flapper – Make sure the outside vent flapper opens and closes freely. Clean or replace it if needed.
  5. Reconnect duct – Reattach the ductwork once fully cleaned out. Secure hose clamps as needed for a tight connection.
  6. Test dryer – Run a test load to confirm strong airflow and make sure vent flapper opens properly.

Vacuuming and brushing the inside of the ducts from both ends helps ensure you get it fully clean. Avoid using liquids or harsh chemicals inside ductwork. When reconnecting duct sections, secure with foil tape to prevent lint catching on edges.

Tips for easy outside dryer vent cleaning

  • Do cleaning in dry weather to avoid getting water inside ductwork.
  • Have a helper hold the vacuum hose at one end while you use the brush at the opposite end.
  • Straight duct runs are easiest to clean. Remove elbows and excess turns if possible.
  • Check for visible lint under the exterior vent hood. Vacuum this area too.
  • Consider detaching the duct from the dryer itself for complete access.
  • Inspect duct tape and clamps when reassembling. Replace as needed.

Signs of dryer vent clogs

Watch for these warning signs that may indicate a clogged up dryer vent that needs cleaning:

  • Drying cycles take longer than usual
  • Clothes come out hot and damp at the end of a cycle
  • The exterior vent flap does not open during drying
  • The dryer overheats and shuts off before clothes are fully dry
  • Lint is visible around the outdoor vent
  • A burning smell coming from the dryer area
  • The dryer duct feels hotter than normal

If you notice any of these, it’s definitely time to clean and inspect the full dryer vent ductwork.

Dryer vent cleaning kit

Having the right gear makes cleaning the outdoor dryer vent much easier. Here are some must-have items to assemble a useful dryer vent cleaning kit:

  • Dryer vent vacuum hose attachment – For lint removal
  • Dryer vent cleaning brush – Essential for dislodging clogs
  • Work gloves – Protect hands from sharp edges
  • Headlamp or flashlight – Allows seeing inside dark ducts
  • Duct tape and foil tape – For secure duct reconnections
  • Screwdrivers – For detaching duct sections
  • Utility knife – Helpful for freeing stuck ducts
  • Replacement vent flapper – For replacing damaged flappers
  • Trash bags – For containing removed lint
  • Face mask – Prevents lint inhalation

Putting together a customized dryer vent cleaning kit means you’ll have the right tools handy when needed. Include extras like duct tape, gloves, and trash bags for a full setup.

When to call a professional

In most cases, the do-it-yourself homeowner can handle cleaning the outdoor dryer vent. But there are some situations when it pays to call in a professional:

  • Ductwork is severely clogged or jammed with lint
  • The duct has damaged areas or holes
  • It connects to vent pipes inside the wall
  • The duct makes multiple turns that are hard to access
  • The duct terminates high off the ground and hard to reach
  • You are unable to identify the duct route or access point

Professionals have specialized tools and cameras to fully inspect duct systems and clean out tough clogs. They can also repair damaged ducts and provide duct modification if needed.

DIY vs professional cleaning

DIY Cleaning Professional Cleaning
Lower cost option Higher cost for service call
Good for straightforward ducts Better for complex duct systems
Provides basic lint removal Thorough cleaning of entire duct
Makes use of household tools Uses specialized equipment
No camera inspection Includes full duct inspection
No duct testing/sealing May test and seal ducts

For simple, accessible ducts, DIY cleaning may be sufficient. Professionals provide a more thorough cleaning and can handle tricky duct configurations.

Preventing future clogs

Regularly cleaning the outdoor dryer vent removes lint buildup, but it’s also helpful to take steps to prevent debris accumulation between cleanings:

  • Use rigid metal ductwork rather than plastic or foil
  • Ensure duct joints are well-sealed with foil tape
  • Avoid excess duct turns and elbows
  • Keep duct runs as short and straight as possible
  • Clean the lint filter before every load
  • Scrape lint from the drum seals frequently
  • Vacuum the dryer interior to remove hidden lint
  • Inspect ductwork for tearing or holes

Taking preventive measures reduces lint buildup over time, keeping your dryer running safely and efficiently.


Maintaining the outdoor dryer vent through regular DIY or professional cleaning is an important part of dryer maintenance. Allowing lint to accumulate causes safety hazards, reduces drying ability, and shortens the life of clothes dryers. Stay alert for signs of vent blockages and clean annually or more often if needed. Investing some periodic effort in dryer upkeep saves time, energy, clothing wear, and appliances in the long run.