The number one reason dryers break is failure to maintain them. Sure, we swipe the thick layer of lint from the filter, but there’s so much more that needs attention to keep your dryer running safely, and efficiently. Here are some professional tips for maintaining dryer filters, drums and vents. Not only will these tips maintain your dryer’s efficiency — but they will also help prevent your appliance from breaking down. Sometimes we don’t know what we have until it’s gone – don’t let that old saying apply to your dryer! Give your appliance a little TLC and it will go a long way.
We all know that dryer filters should be cleaned after each use. Did you know however, that a clean filter may still be clogged if you use fabric softener sheets in the dryer? Many people have no idea.
To test your dryer filter, first clear it of all lint. Next, pour a small amount of water onto the filter screen. If the water pools up instead of flowing through the screen, there is a residue from the dryer sheet that is blocking the flow. To fix this problem, wash the screen in warm soapy water and scrub it with a brush. Rinse the screen, and repeat this process until the water flows through without pooling.
The dryer drum doesn’t typically need to be cleaned unless you’re drying a load of fur-covered pet items (such as a dog bed or your dog’s favorite blanket) or play clothes coated in sand, dirt, or other gritty material. With items like these, always shake the fur and grit off the best you can before putting them in the dryer. Once the load is dry, be sure to wipe the drum clean with a damp cloth to remove pet hair and grit.
If your son’s favorite crayon he was keeping in his pocket, a lipstick, pack of gum, or other sticky candy accidentally end up in your dryer, it may feel like the end of the world. However, if you follow this advice from Debra Johnson, national home cleaning expert at Merry Maids, it will be okay (after the initial desire to scream wears off, of course). “Get the stuff off by warming the dryer a few minutes. Toss in a couple old towels or rags first. Remove the excess by scraping it off with a hard rubber spatula. Tackle the remaining residue by wiping the area with a cloth dampened with a small amount of laundry detergent and hot water. Use a dry cloth to remove any excess water or suds.”
Believe it or not, all of this was the easy part maintaining your dryer. Now for the hard stuff…Cleaning the dryer vent
Dryer exhaust vents should be inspected and cleaned at least once yearly depending on the size of the household and frequency of usage.
Dryer vents accumulate highly flammable lint, and failure to clean out lint is the leading cause of dryer fires. According to the National Fire Protection Agency, over 15, 000 dryer fires occurred in the U.S. in 2010. A plugged dryer vent can also burn out the heating element.
A major warning that your dryer vent needs cleaning is when clothes take longer and longer to dry. If it’s taking 2-3 cycles to get a load of towels dry, it’s time to get the exhaust vent inspected. Another red flag that your vent may be obstructed is if the exterior of the dryer is hotter than usual. If this happens, disconnect the dryer right away and check the vent.
Visually inspect the outside vent opening and remove any obstructions present. Typically, these include animal nests. Chipmunks, squirrels and rats love to create nests in vents at ground level. Upper level vents tend to attract birds.
Now that you’ve gotten rid of the squatters, you’ll need to remove the lint. There are multiple options for clearing lint build-up.
- A flexible brush with an extendible wand grabs the lint for easy removal
- An air compressor blows it out.
- A combination vacuum cleaner and brush sucks it out. (Be sure the vacuum hose is long enough.)
No matter the method you use, it’s important to remove the lint from the entire length of the vent. Clearing only as far as you can reach is not effective, and still leaves the air flow restricted, increasing chances of appliance break-down, and possible fire.
Are you overwhelmed yet? You’re not quite finished. After clearing the lint from the vent, you must also remove it from the area behind the dryer—the floor, under the dryer and the back of the cabinet. Why? The air being pulled into the dryer comes from behind the dryer. So, if there’s lint around that area, it will be sucked into the dryer, causing further build-up in the vent.
If all of this sounds a little too complicated, consider hiring a professional to do it. The average professional NJ dryer vent cleaning runs $89-$179.
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