Introduction: How to Clean Out Long Dryer Vents
Purpose Of This Instructable
This Instructable is designed more from a maintenance aspect, rather than fixing an already plugged up dryer vent. If your dryer vent has no air blowing through it, it is time for more serious measures, which I will talk about later. Understand, too, that a totally plugged up vent is a MAJOR fire hazard. Fix it now, before it's too late. If a single fire is prevented by this Instructable, my time spent here will have been well worth it.
This is a simple and inexpensive device that I made to clean out longer runs (one I deal with is about 25 feet) quickly and easily. The vent clean out kits that you find in your home improvement stores are only ten to twelve feet. Or at least here in my neck of the woods. The dryers I service are in use almost 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I clean the vents monthly. It only takes a few minutes, and the peace of mind is well worth the minimal effort. Besides, sometimes I find some beer money in the vents, or under the dryers, and that makes me happy.
Step 1: Parts List
You will need the following:
- One small lightweight drink cup. I used a 5 fluid ounce paper Dixie style cup.
- One 4" ducting Tee fitting (found at your local home supplies store)
- One 4" cap (again, found at home supply store)
- One 4" plastic / nylon / soft vent brush head (mine came from an inexpensive kit that only had a ten foot wire handle on)
- A length of paracord a few feet longer than your longest vent run. Strong, braided fishing line would also work great, I think.
- Duct tape
- Tin snips
- A drill
Step 2: The Cap
Take your 4" cap, and with the tin snips, make a couple of cuts, as shown. Bend the tab back, and cover any sharp edges with some pieces of duct tape. You don't want your cord cut while it is still in the vent line.
Step 3: Build-A-Brush
Take your brush, and drill a hole large enough to accommodate the cord you will be using. In my case, I am using paracord that I "hollowed out" to make it lighter and more flexible, and just because taking the guts out of paracord is just kinda cathartic for me. You can do this by grabbing the center strands with a pair of pliers and sliding the outer portion of the cord back a few inches. When it is pulled back, you can tie an overhand knot in the inner strands and hook it over a doorknob or something to hold it in place while you pull the outer sheath off, a few inches at a time, from starting point to end. You'll get the hang of it quickly.
I used a couple of feet on the brush with a loop so I could remove it easily of I wanted to from the rest of the cord. After the cord goes through the brush, just tie an overhand knot and ensure that the cord will not come out if you yank hard on it.
Step 4: Raise Your Cup
Here is where your cup comes in.
In this image, I am using a short length of paracord inner strand line. See how I took a piece of duct tape, and split it halfway? Then I made a few loops in the cord, to give the tape something more to grip onto. My goal was to have the cord coming out of the inside center of the cup. Press the tape down tight. Note, a waxed cup might not work well. I don't think the tape would stick to it very well, especially if the vent gets really warm.
Step 5: Vent Hose to a Tee
Now you are going to pull your dryer away from the wall, enough to get in there behind it. Your goal is to attach one straight side of the Tee to the wall or floor vent, and one to the dryer outlet. In the photo above, the back of the dryer is on the right, and the wall bent on the left. This was held in place by the four inch worm drive hose clamps that were existing on the vent and dryer. If you turned the dryer on now, dryer exhaust would blow out of the Tee.
Step 6: Now Stick It Where the Sun Don't Shine
Tie the cup onto your longer cord. Then place the cup in the Tee, with the small end towards the outside. Be careful with sharp metal and cords.
Step 7: Put on Your Cap
The cap does two things for you. First and foremost, it will help increase airflow for the cup to ride on. Secondly, it will help prevent hot air and lint from blowing up on your face. What you want to do is to place your cap in the Tee, making sure that the line attached to your cup is in the slot of the cap. Got it? Good. Now, tape the cap in place with several short pieces of duct tape, tie off the end of your paracord so it won't all go flying into the Tee, and get ready for some fun.
Step 8: Fire the Dryer
Now, simply turn on the dryer, and feed the paracord through the slot a little at a time. When it stops pulling, the cup should be out the other side. Turn off the dryer now. While you are there with the dryer pulled out, see if you can find any beer money on the ground where it had been sitting. You found some? Lucky you!
Now go outside and see if you can see the cup hanging out of the vent, as shown.
Step 9: Time to Tie One On
Now, tie your brush onto the end of the paracord that is sticking out of the dryer, and place the brush into the Tee, pushing it back towards the exit.
Step 10: Pulling Paracord
Now go outside and gently but firmly start pulling the paracord and brush through the vent, as shown. When the brush comes through, pat yourself on the back for your ingenuity, and go have a beverage of your choice! (hint: Think of the beer money I helped you find)
Step 11: Other Ideas
What is this? A paint strainer bag? Yep. I use them to keep dryer lint off the side of the buildings. It rains a lot here, and as I mentioned these vents are almost constantly blowing. Lint gets stuck to the sides of buildings, and gets all over the place, and is hard to clean up. The strainer bag is held in place with three binder clips. NOTE: It needs to be checked on and emptied often, in my case every two to three weeks.
Step 12: Plugged Vents
This is bad. This is very bad. There was so much lint in this run that there was NO air coming through at all. This was the way I "inherited it", not because of my neglect. What happened was that the vent was not maintained, and the lint accumulated. What happened next was that the lint would collect moisture from the wet air coming through, and that would cause more lint to stick to the wet lint. When the tube was packed full, the lint was soaking wet. I really mean soaking. I could grab a handful of this stuff and squeeze it and water would drip out like a hippie's bandanna on a hot and humid day. That in turn caused water to collect in the lines, and rust out the vent pipes even though they were galvanized. Yes, I pulled out all the vent line and replaced it. (Yep, you guessed it. I had to give it up for lint. Sorry, I just had to say that corny joke!) Anyway, now I protect my investment by keeping it clean.
The dryer that caused this also had to be taken apart completely and cleaned. The entire inside was covered with buckets-full of lint. Much of it rested on the electric element, and was burned and charred around the edges. It was ready to burst into flames very soon. A bullet was dodged this day. Keep it clean and you won't have to worry.
Step 13: Thanks
Just a quick word of thanks to this wonderful community. Instructables is my favorite website, and I am proud to be a Pro Member. If you like what you see here, consider supporting them. It's a great value!
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Where can I purchase a 25 foot flexible dryer vent brush?
Any box store, like Home Depot or Lowe's or what have you.