How to Clean Out Long Dryer Vents




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:

  1. One small lightweight drink cup. I used a 5 fluid ounce paper Dixie style cup.
  2. One 4" ducting Tee fitting (found at your local home supplies store)
  3. One 4" cap (again, found at home supply store)
  4. One 4" plastic / nylon / soft vent brush head (mine came from an inexpensive kit that only had a ten foot wire handle on)
  5. A length of paracord a few feet longer than your longest vent run. Strong, braided fishing line would also work great, I think.
  6. Duct tape
  7. Tin snips
  8. 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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31 Discussions

Sorry for the possible ignorance. But do American dryers not have filters in the doors you clean after every cycle and therefore have very little lint in your ducts?

1 reply

Yes, they have the lint screen either in the door or in the top to intercept the majority of lint being produced. However, enough lint can still get past that the vent line should be cleaned at least once a year.

I have two 90 degree bends in my pipe will the cup with the string make the turns? And do you put a hole in the cup and tape on the side of the cup for more strength? My concern is loosing the cup in the middle of the pipe. Mine is a 32 foot run. Thanks in advance. It's a great idea!!

1 more answer

It should be OK. Mine had a couple of bends. Feel free to try it on a test long as the cup is pretty loose in the vent, you should be all right. It's just kind of acting as a "sail". Good success to you!

Most home improvement stores will have them.

Any box store, like Home Depot or Lowe's or what have you.

I had a dryer fire this weekend. Thank you for posting this because my laundry is an internal room so my dryer vents into a pipe that runs through a wall, into my garage, and out the other side, so I'm going to need to use your technique to do a good cleaning like this.

I'm also going to need a new fire extinguisher because after sitting around for years and years, in my hour of need my little fire extinguisher did what it's made to do.


My dryer vents right behind the wall it's up against so I don't have to do this but it was a really great and fun read, thanks for sharing!

1 reply

Really loved this. (Coincidentally, I just added this task to my to-do list earlier today.)

Three questions: Do you leave the tee in place and, if so, I'm guessing you don't need to cover the slot in the cap, correct? What about leaving the cord in the vent as a continuous loop so you could quickly and easily pull the attached brush through anytime?

Thanks for sharing.

1 reply

dwgrosso...No, I remove the Tee and use it for other dryers in the facility when I am done cleaning one of the lines. Covering the slot will allow more air flow to push the cup. Leaving the cord in might be a good idea, it might not. I am really scared of fire, and don't want anything in there that might melt or ignite. Not a bad idea though, if you can find something that won't cause that problem, though a fire marshal might disagree.


2 years ago

With over 35 feet to clean I hire a chimney sweep He comes out every year for a good clean. at my age I do not trust myself on the roof.

3 replies

Your dryer vents to your roof?

Like Ruth11, my dryer vent is in the roof. My dryer is on an inside wall in my kitchen and vents up the wall through the attic and out the roof. I've heard people call the vents "whirley birds." I have yet to figure out to clean out the dryer vent since it vents straight up, but from thanks to instructables such as yours, I will some day figure it out. ?


2 years ago

Mine vents to a crawl space under the house. It's difficult to get to. I'll put cleaning it on my list! I've never done it before.

2 replies

I've never done nit before either. Have been here 4.5 years- need to get at it- thanks for the little push! And NorthWind, I agree completely (and intend no insult to anyone/living thing. ) All Lives matter indeed! One of my biggest fears is that my furkids should be home alone and there be a fire, and they not be able to get out. Thus I never run the dryer when I'm not home. Regardless- cleaning it this summer is a must do!

Depending on your climate venting warm moist air to a crawl space is not a good idea and your crawlspace can potentially fill up with nice flammable lint (dryer lint is sometimes used as a firestarter).


2 years ago

What I have been doing for a few years now is unhooking the flexible duct from the dryer and then
sticking the electric leaf blower in the duct.
You wrap a towel, rag. etc. on the nozzle of the leaf blower to fill the
gap between the duct and the nozzle and hit the on switch and it’s pretty efficient
cleaning out that duct all the way to the
exhaust hood. You can shine a
flashlight up the duct and see what a good job it does with the blow job. This
is a child-free house so two/three times a year with a duct clean works for