As I turned the corner I immediately noticed straw hanging out of the vent. Bingo. I figured a bird had built a nice cozy home just inside a woman’s dryer ducting where it exited the building. This explained why it took hours for her laundry to dry. So I told the owner of the building about the situation and that he needed to have someone come back that day and clean out the duct. That didn’t happen. After five months had passed, I returned to deliver a refrigerator and clean all the dryer ducts in the complex. That is when I discovered the great nest.
The owner had contacted me again about three weeks ago to come replace a refrigerator, and while we were talking, I told him that we purchased the equipment to clean out dryer ducts. I gave him a price to do all the ducts in the 4-plex and he agreed to have us clean them out.
When Peter and I got to the lady’s dryer duct, what we discovered completely blew our minds. First of all, the nest was a full five feet long. It went from the exit of the vent straight back in one, long, impressive string of nest. We were able to get it out in two pieces, but that was just the beginning. Since the vent had been blocked by the nest, no lint had been allowed to exit for God knows how long. When I fished the air hose all the way in, and turned on the compressor, a mountain of wrath blew out! At least 6 bird eggs came flying out, feathers, straw, lint, you name it! This poor old woman could not have been using her dryer at all, or it had to have been taking half a day to dry a load.
This story is an extreme example of what happens when dryer ducts are not maintained and cleaned. Most people never clean their dryer ducting. If you are one of the guilty, here are the reasons why you need to clean your dryer ducting.
Blocked Dryer Ducting is a…
1. Fire Hazard
Clogged dryer ducts are the primary cause of most dryer fires each year. As a dryer duct gets clogged up, it reduces the airflow coming out of the dryer, causing dirt and lint to build up inside the dryer. Eventually the dryer could overheat, or something could melt, catching the lint on fire inside the dryer. So clogged dryer ducts lead to clogged dryers which cause fires. Remember that.
2. Waste of Money
I’ve talked to homeowners that would have to run their clothes for over 4 hours to get them dry. When I asked them how long they had been running the dryer like that they told me six months! A load of clothes in a dryer running for 40 minutes can cost anywhere from 50-60 cents on average. If you have to put your clothes in for 80 minutes, double the price. Then figure out how many loads of clothes you dry each day, or week and factor that over the course of a year. There are many people that are spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars each year in extra utility costs because of clogged ducting.
3. Waste of Time
Clogged ducting causes the dryer to work harder and longer to dry the clothes. This means that people often times waste a decent amount of time waiting for their clothes to dry. At least it can often mean an extra trip to the laundry room to turn the dryer back on. It can also cause other loads of laundry to backup.
4. Hazard to your dryer
The most common reason a dryer goes out is because of overheating issues which are often caused by venting issues. Also, because a dryer has to work harder and longer to get rid of the moist air, it can cause major parts like the motor to prematurely die. Then, unless you are able to diagnose and fix the problem yourself, you end up going out and purchasing another one. Great for people like me, unpleasant to the pocketbook for you. Save yourself from unnecessary repairs and replacement by having your duct cleaned out every year or two.
How much does it cost to have the ducting cleaned?
It costs anywhere from $40-$80, and will pay for itself very quickly.
What are the main signs that I need to have them cleaned?
Dry times over 50 minutes is the biggest one. Low air flow where the ducting goes outside is another one. Also, if your dryer won’t turn on at all, that’s often a sign that the thermal fuse has tripped because there was an air blockage. You should also be concerned if you see any straw hanging out of your vent.
Can I do the cleaning myself?
Yes. Depending on the length and type of your ducting will depend on what tools you will need. For shorter runs a dryer brush and a shop vac might be fine. If it’s a long run over 6 feet, you will probably need a dryer cleaning kit, or a professional tool like a duct cleaning air hose.
Should I replace my ducting?
If your ducting is exposed and is the flimsy tin foil type, you can replace it for pretty cheap. If you go this route, replace it with the solid metal “hard ducting” that allows air to travel more easily through, and reduces the amount of lint buildup inside. This is especially true for longer runs of over 6 feet, or anything that runs under a house, in the walls or attic space.
Should I clean out my dryer as well?
Dryer’s need to be cleaned out every year or two as well, and if you have had blocked ducting, then your dryer is probably ready to be cleaned as well. Go to Youtube and search how to clean your make of dryer.
I hope this was helpful for you. The reason I’m sharing about it is because of how much ignorance there is on the topic. It’s a huge problem and most people never have their ducting cleaned until something drastic happens.
For those of you interested, I’ve added dryer duct cleaning as a side component to my appliance business. It’s a much needed service for people and a great way to increase your income. If you have any questions about it, or you are interested in being taught how I earn my living on Craigslist, we can arrange a coaching.
Anyone have any crazy dryer stories? I’m not sure if I will ever run into someone else that would keep their clothes in for 4 hours, but I’d love to hear your stories!
Finally, if you’re still reading, click here to watch a video I made of us cleaning out a client’s dryer ducting.
A couple years ago, my sister had a fire in her dryer. (The family was out for a while, and the neighbor saw smoke and called 911.) The probable cause found by the insurance company was that there was an electrical problem. I wonder if her dryer duct was clogged as you say. There was so much smoke damage that they had to move out for 3 months while most of the home’s interior was gutted and repaired. I actually hang all my laundry in all seasons. Thanks for the good tips!
The thing about fires is that there has to be something to catch on fire. Dryers that are very well vented tend to not have very much lint inside. It takes a substantial amount of lint inside to catch fire, as almost everything inside a dryer is metal. I would guess possibly electrical, but what usually happens is that a wire will melt and drop down onto a nice bed of lint on the bottom of the dryer that then catches fire. Also, if the lint really builds up thick on the bottom of the dryer, especially on the style where the heating element is on inside/bottom) it will start accumulating on top of the heating element and eventually catch on fire, or smolder until it ignites. I’ve had many people sell me dryers, or have me replace their dryers just in time, as they had smelled smoke and turned the dryer off. When I took it apart I found the lint inside to have been charred black. It’s not something to neglect, it’s not worth the consequences!
We had pack rats in the dryer a few years ago. They built a nest in the bottom of the dryer and ate through the side of the flimsy vent tube to get into a cabinet where they found some towels and went to town. At least with birds they don’t drag dog shit and cactii into the nest.
So I was going to post this image in the post, but decided against it 🙂 Anyway, I got this dryer a few weeks back and this mouse/rat had chewed through a wire and electrocuted himself. It then set some of the lint on fire on the bottom of the dryer. Pretty crazy! Here’s the picture
How did you learn to work on appliances? Did you just watch videos on the internet?
With a lot of reluctance at first. I never wanted to touch them. It started when I started selling them to repair guys who would tell me how easy it was to repair them. Every now and then they would show me how to repair something while they were at my house picking one up. Then I just started taking them apart and watching youtube video’s. I really never had someone to teach me. Besides the video’s, it was a lot of trial and error, learning how to use a multimeter and how the electrical systems work in the dryers, and the mechanical side of the washers. Peter has been a big help as he’s gone past me as far as knowledge of washing machines repairs now.
If you’re willing to put in some work and learn how everything works, repairing appliances isn’t that hard. It will take a good bit of time though. If you can find someone to teach you, even if you have to pay them, it will save a lot of time and trouble. It can all be found on the internet for free, it’s just going to take a good bit longer to learn.
I recently had a friend who I do a lot of handyman type stuff for from time to time contact me to see if I would be interested in cleaning out dryer vents.
In her community they are about 8 feet off the ground (upstairs laundry rooms) and quite a few older folks live there and are unable to do it.
I told her I would clean hers for free as a test run to see what it entailed and in exchange for her putting me name in their community web site. I purchased a dryer brush and brought along my shop vac w/ a 4 foot hose and it took me about 20 minutes to get it done.
Shortly thereafter I was contacted by a woman who owned multiple units wanting to know if I would be interested in cleaning the dryer vents in those units.
I see real potential for this to be a nice side income and my question is if you think a backpack type vacuum cleaner would work well.
Thanks for sharing your experiences and take care.
That’s awesome, sounds like your well on your way to making it into at least a side business! I would probably recommend a medium sized shop vac at least if you are looking to catch most of the debris coming out of the venting. They are fairly light and you can get a longer hose so it will reach up to those higher vents. Keep us posted on how you do!
Ryan, thanks for the good descriptions and video. The confidence gained saved us a nice little expense when my husband was able to do a quick repair by himself. (A mouse exterminator had pulled the washer-dryer from the waall, tearing the dryer duct. Some heating-safe duct tape fixed it, plus a lot of vacuuming of dangerous quantities of lint.) Now the dryer has slowed down to the point of uselessness, so i’m guessing our twenty foot duct is clogged. What equipment do we need to get it cleaned? Will it require a snake?
You probably need to take the dryer apart and clean the lint/dirt out from inside the dryer. A clog in the vent will always cause lint/dirt to build up inside the dryer.