Monday, April 16, 2012

When was the last time you cleaned out your dryer?

I mean really cleaned out your clothes dryer? Why do I ask, you say? Consider this a public service announcement and/or another episode of "Let us all learn from my stupid mistake."

It was Sunday afternoon and I was in the midst of some serious spring cleaning in preparation for next weekend's guests. The washer and dryer were working as hard as I was, churning out the fifth load of the day. I noticed that the surfaces of these two appliances were particularly disgusting and proceeded to clean them.

I sprayed some cleaner on the dryer and it all but evaporated on contact. Hmmm. I placed my hand on the top, screamed a little, removed my hand before it burned, and realized I had a situation. The dryer was overheating in a big way.

Something similar had happened within a week of my moving into the house. I called the builder, who came out and discovered the dryer vent on the roof was installed incorrectly and stuck shut. From that experience, I deduced that something must be blocking the flow of air out of the dryer.

So I disconnected the power, pulled the dryer away from the wall, and wrestled with the silver vent hose for awhile. Once I got it removed, I took it outside and shook it - a little bit of lint fell out but nothing major.

I stuck my arm up the vent pipe going to the roof and into the pipe going into the dryer. Again, I pulled out a little lint but nothing major. Hmmm.

Then I stuck my head in the dryer and saw a couple of screws that would allow me to remove the plastic compartment where the lint filter sits. I took out the screws and the lint compartment, stuck my arm down the hole, and decided there was either: 1) a big hairy buffalo hiding in my dryer or 2) a whole lot of lint stuck where it didn't belong.

Dad, you raised me better and I know you're sitting there reading this and shaking your head. I'm sorry. I'll never let it happen again. And everybody else, don't be like me. Go forth now and clean out the lint that gets trapped where you can't see it. It's easy to do...just a little disgusting if you haven't done it in awhile. Or ever.


  1. I think that is a job you always think you'll do, but don't. Thanks for reminding me Carson!

  2. Wow! Pretty scary stuff! I know, statistically, lint in dryers cause many house fires! Glad you found it before you had a disaster on your hands!

  3. I use my vacuum hose with a paper towel roll stuck to the end of it to get in there and suck out the lint. That way I dont have to put my hand down there. Works great!!

  4. Can't wait to try this, and I reiterate your reminder to UNPLUG THE DRYER before you start!
    Thanks for the reminder!

  5. You know, I was just thinking about this the other day. I need one of those "lint lizard" things that are advertised on TV, or I'll have to do what you did...pull the dryer out away from the wall, unscrew the screws, and vacuum out all the lint. Our son has one of those RIGID vacuums...guess I'll need to borrow it! Yes, the lint DOES collect!

  6. Well... That looks like a fire waiting to happen. Rosebud looks like she's waiting for it to go whoosh... so she can alert Smooch security... to get Alan and George to bring the bucket..... Seriously.. I'm going to take mine apart before another load goes in.

  7. I love your descriptive photo! Good advice too.

  8. Hey, you could knit a sweater with stuff eh!!! ;-) thx for the laundry lesson....... I am also owned by 2 judgmental kitty cats.

  9. I have a combo washer/dryer and the vent is at the back side of the dryer, I take the LEAF blower about once a yr and PUT IT RIGHT up to that vent opening and BLOW, it really gets all the lint OUT of the vent and tube! Glad you found this before it really became a problem.

  10. I'm pretty diligent about scraping lint out of the filter each load, mainly because we live with two long-haired beasts that shed terribly, namely two Golden Retrievers...they are my babies...ANYHOW, I THOUGHT I was doing what I was supposed to do...then one day, I was outside washing windows; I looked down at the dryer vent because it had what appeared to be a dirt-dobber nest coming out of it. WELL, it was not a dirt-dobber nest. I got a stick and started poking at it...turns out it was CHARRED lint, and the outside vent was almost completely blocked. Even though the dryer vent was cleaned continually, and the 'exhaust' pipe was clear, the OUTSIDE vent was collecting lint, and was very near catching on fire. Public Service Announcement...check it out from machine to outside airspace. I was truly shocked to see it, but thankful I got to it before my house burned down!

  11. Wow! Good to know. I have a dryer with the same lint collecting location as you. Maybe I'll bet to that today. I do know I never leave the house with the dryer running. Had a friend whose house went up in flames because of their dryer. Luckily, the neighbors got the pets out of the house.

  12. Yikes. Thanks for the heads up. I think I need to do this with my dryer too, since I don't think I've ever taken any screws apart to reach lint.

  13. The household dryer is located under the main stairs - NOT against an inside wall AND it's below grade - TUCKED into a tight cubby with the washer.

    It's a major operation to pull it out remove the RIGID Aluminum tubing , remove another piece of 4-inch PVC with two 90deg Angles (Yes, I know PVC isn't code but if you saw this setup you wouldn't believe that professional contractors etc would have built this and passed code in the 1960s!!!) to get to the 9-foot run of steel tubing with the Sheet Metal screw protruding into the tube (that's a No-No too).

    I then take a big feather duster, duct-Taped to a 4-foot fiberglass Chimney cleaning rod and insert to push all the lint DOWN the tube, add the 2nd fiberglass chimney rod to the first, push to the END of the rod.

    Then I go outside, remove the vent cover and use my shopvac to clean out the lint ...however it is jury rigged to . I had to buy a piece of 3-foot 1&1/2 inch wide pool hose (its cheep and accordian bends every 12 inches) to add to my shopvac to insert into the opening and deal with the turns to read the feather duster.

    It doesn't take long to move the dryer and do the cleaning job.

    Takes twice as long to get the insde tubing and the dryer reconnected. It can take about 30 minutes on a nice day and I try to do it 4 times a year.

    Since the clothes line was retired/removed, we use the dryer a lot. Towels and sheets can't be hung to dry inside on hangers.

    Years ago I had to crawl into a cramped crawl-space under the outside steps to connect the 9-foot sheetmetal tubing to the outside vent. I replaced a saggy vinyl tube (still another no-no) with some short pieces of PVC tubing.

    However, I have never taken the dryer apart. Our lint collector pulls out from the top ... and I have wondered how much stuff might be inside that I can't reach with the inside vacuum.

    I do get a visual clue, when I see a lot of lint beside the front door (yes it is vented at the front door!) ... I know it's time to schedule a cleanout.

    I also purchased a 6-foot section of the pool tubing to use occasionally (from the outside) so that I don't have to pull the dryer out. That task requires a bit of gymnastics and yoga contortions. That allows the occasional quick cleanout from the outside with the shopvac.

    Don't know what I would do if the dryer vent were not accessible from the outside. Dryer fires are more common than you would think.

    I guess in the desert, you have more little varmints looking for a hidey hole to nest in, and the roof vent (plus your floorplan) is the best solution.

    M in NC

  14. To add to your PSA, you should also run water over your lint screen. If the water runs thru, you're OK, but if it collects on the screen it could also start a fire. Wash it with soap and water and a scrub brush. Dryer sheets cause a film to build up on the screen and block the air flow too.

  15. Cats are always there to give you a hand when you need them. They're good like that!
    Glad you twigged on that before a fire started.
    I love drying my clothes outside.
    Best always, Sandra

  16. When I bought my house, I thought the dryer ran a little long to be drying one load of laundry. So I did what you did but took it one step further. I took the front of the dryer OFF completely.

    There was 1" of lint ALL OVER the entire inside of the dryer.

    It was a fire bomb waiting to happen.

    So if it's not too much work to take off the front of the dryer, you might want to do that sometime...

  17. Glad you got the message! Love Ms. Kitty's supervision.

  18. Carol in N. Colorado4/16/12, 8:09 AM

    Mine is due for it's cleaning. I need hubby home as my dryer sits on a platform so I don't have to bend down to retrieve clothes.

    I also don't use my dryer much as I line dry as much as I can during the winter. Summer everything goes on the outside clothesline.

    Good thing you discovered the dryer top was hot and got it taken care.

  19. I think my honey do list just grew again. Thanks for the reminder.

  20. And if you have birdies nesting nearby, put the lint on a bush for them - they love to recycle it for cosy bedding in the nest!

  21. I have the EXACT same dryer here, I guess my to-do list just got a bit longer:)

  22. There was a fire in my townhome condo caused by this very thing - though I think the buildup was in the silver hose exiting the building.

    Thanks for the timely warning!

  23. I absolutely don't have time to do this today -- I was just checking your website to see what my buddy Alan was up to. Fine, fine. I'll go clean out my dryer vent -- I guess it's less hassle than calling the fire department and repairing the damage.

    At least tell Alan I checked on him, will you please? :)

  24. Or the time that the flap over the vent on the side of the house was stuck open and the Starlings built a nest in the pipe. This pipe went up and down over debris in my attic, collecting condensation in the dips. I took a total of five Starlings, two nests, fifteen gallons of water and enough lint to build a pony.

    My current home has an equally suspect method of evacuation but the pipe is only five feet long. The other one was 37 feet. YICK!!!

  25. Like Farmer Barb, I just pulled a big wad of Starling nest out of my dryer vent. Luckily I'd heard it scratching around in there and didn't run the dryer until the vent was clean. (There were no eggs or babies yet.)

  26. Good grief!!! You mean, you don't just have to remove lint from the little lint collector on the door or - if it's a top loader - on the top? I always thought that got it all! I'm not able to go through all the shenanigans you did, so next time I call for maintenance in my apt. I'll ask the guy about it! My cousin's house burned almost to the ground many years ago from a fire that started in the dryer, so I never leave home with it running. I'm so grateful you leaned on a hot spot and checked it out when you did!!!

    Nancy in Iowa

  27. I meant to tell you in my earlier comment...Rosebud looks like she has on a ruffly white blouse and a black mohair sweater. Such a pretty girl.