It is recommended you have your dryer vent inspected and cleaned every year and the dryer itself should be pulled apart and cleaned every 1-3 years depending on use by an appliance service technician. We clean vents in Madison and the Dane County area.
Here are 5 indicators that it might be time for a dryer vent cleaning:
1. The drying time for clothes takes longer then it used to. A plugged vent line can double the time it takes for clothes to dry.
2. Your clothes and the outside of the dryer are very hot. If the vent is plugged the dryer builds up internal heat and the heat dissipates off the dryer surface resulting in a very hot surface.
3. You notice a burning smell when the dryer is running. Lint is very flammable and as the dryer has to run hotter with a plugged vent line the link can smolder until it catches fire, so the burning smell could be an early indicator.
4. You notice the exterior exhaust cover barely opens when the dryer is running. A dryer at full capacity will push the dryer vent wide open at the exterior of the home and you should feel a good amount of warm/hot air blowing out.
5. You can't remember the last time you had the dryer vent cleaned. It is recommend that it be done yearly, but it depends on usage, length of dryer vent pipe, type of pipe, condition of your dryer filter, number of people in your home, amount of use, and more. A house of 6 people with cats and dogs might need it done every 6 months, a single person with no pets might be every two years.
Some safety tips:
1. Do not use your dryer without the lint filter installed.
2. Use as much solid metal pipe as possible, no flimsy flexible vinyl/plastic piping. Flexible metal pipe is OK, but the grooves in the flex catches more lint than smooth pipe. Do not attached pipe sections with screws as these can catch lint.
3. Do not run the dryer when you go to bed or leave the home.
4. Keep the area around the dryer clean and free of obstructions.
5. Check and clean your lint filter after each use.
6. Be careful of the type of fabric softener sheets you use, some will actually create a wax film on the lint filter not allowing the dryer to run efficiently. You can test yours by running water on the lint filter. If the water flows through, no problem, if it pools on the filter, stop using the sheets and wash the filter gently with soap and a soft brush until the film is removed.