DIY: Clean out that dryer vent

If you’ve ever seen those photos of the nastiness that comes out of a dryer vent, and you love DIY projects, you’ll love knowing that it’s not that difficult of a job.

You don’t have to hire a vent cleaning company because it’s a simple (and satisfying) DIY project.

You’ll need some tools, but other than that, the job is a snap.

Why clean it?

All that stuff in the vent is a safety hazard. Between “… 2014-2018, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average …” of 13,820 home fires involving clothes dryers, according to Marty Ahrens with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

“One-third (32 percent) of dryer fires were caused by a failure to clean. This appears to be mainly lint build-up,” Ahrens concludes.

Aside from the safety issue, all that rubbish in the vent causes the dryer to work harder and, thus, less effectively, wasting energy.

Gather your tools and get to work

You will need a dryer vent cleaning brush and a vacuum cleaner with a crevice attachment.

  • Disconnect the dryer from the power supply or, for a gas dryer, turn off the gas supply.
  • Drag the dryer away from the wall to give yourself enough room to get behind it.
  • Disconnect the duct connected to the back of the dryer.
  • Insert a vent cleaning brush (available at, and into the opening at the back of the dryer and “… gently twist it around, pulling out any lint,” suggests Jenny McFarlane and Sarah Warwick at
  • By this point, you should have a nasty pile of lint on the floor which you can then vacuum up.

Next, move on to the vent duct (the part that connects to the wall).

  • Disconnect the duct from the wall.
  • Use your hands to remove the lint.
  • Use the vacuum with the crevice attachment to carefully clean inside the vent.

There may be some lint stuck in the dryer vent tubing. Insert the brush into the tubing and push it forward and pull backward. Repeat this several times, at both ends of the tubing,

Don’t neglect the exterior vent

Do you know where your dryer’s exterior vent is? “For most dryer models, you can’t run the exhaust duct more than 25 feet from the dryer to the exhaust port,” according to the experts at

They go on to suggest that if you can’t find it nearby, “… check the basement wall or the attic/roof.”

  • Remove the vent cover
  • Use the brush to loosen the lint inside the duct, and the vacuum to remove it.
  • Replace the cover and you’re finished!

Before you call it a day and a job well-done, check behind the dryer to ensure you’ve cleaned up all the lint off the floor. Otherwise, a fire hazard still exists.

Test your handiwork

  • Reconnect the dryer to the power outlet or turn the gas back on.
  • Push the dryer back into place.
  • Run the dryer for about 15 minutes on the air cycle (often called the “fluff” cycle) to ensure everything is working as it should.



Fall Is Here! Time to get to those home maintenance chores

Fall fell on us on September 22 and if you haven’t yet begun your fall home maintenance tasks, it’s time to get started. And, to help, we’ve gathered some tips.

Smoke alarms save lives

Fall and winter see an increase in home fires, according to the American Red Cross, and faulty smoke alarms were to blame for more than 20 percent of home fire deaths. Sadly, nearly 40 percent of the deaths occurred in homes that didn’t have smoke alarms, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

If you have smoke alarms in the home, now is the time to check that they’re working properly. Change the batteries if you can’t remember when they were last changed.

Also, ensure that you have enough smoke alarms in the home. They should be installed outside of each bedroom and on all levels of the home.

“If you and your family sleep with the doors closed, install smoke alarms inside sleeping areas, too,” suggests the NFPA.

NFPA also suggests the following:

  • Consider connecting your smoke alarms so that when one sounds, they all do.
  • Replace all smoke alarms when they are 10 years old
  • Use both ionization and photoelectric alarms throughout the home. The former detects flaming fires and the latter will warn you about smoldering fires.

Check the weather-stripping

Windows and doors are notoriously leaky, allowing our toasty indoor air out and that frosty stuff in. Not only is this tough on your utility bills but uncomfortable for the occupants of your home as well.

Weather-stripping is the way to stop the leaks, but it’s not something that lasts forever and periodically needs to be replaced.

Try rattling your windows. If you’re successful, you probably need to replace the weather-stripping.

If you can see daylight around the door frames you’ll need to strip there as well.

It’s an easy DIY project and Sal Vaglica of This Old House offers a handy walkthrough of how to choose the right product and you can get tips on installing weather stripping from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Yes, it’s a bit of a time-consuming task, but one well worth performing. Replacing worn-out weather-stripping can save 10 to 15 percent on your energy bills this winter, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Get a tune up

HVAC systems (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) last from 15 to 20 years, if properly maintained. Components within the system, however, have shorter life spans, according to the experts at The heat pump, for instance will die at around 16 years after installation.

Since we’re entering into that time of year when our heating systems will start getting heavy use, call in a professional to inspect yours.

If you have an oil heating system, inspect the entire system – tank, line, pipes, fittings and valves – for leaks. for leaks. The Massachusetts Environmental and Energy Affairs department claims that the cost of cleaning up a heating oil leak averages between $20,000 and $50,000.

Have your oil company service the furnace and replace any damaged parts.

Forced air systems require seasonal maintenance as well. At the very least, stock up on filters and change them monthly during fall and winter.

Don’t forget the home’s exterior

Step outside and inspect the exterior home from top to bottom.

  • Check the gutters and if they’re clogged, clean them out and then check for leaks. Ensure that the downspouts are still directing water away from the home.
  • If you have siding, check to see if it needs caulking.
  • Check the siding and caulk it, if needed. Also check the exterior corners, where two walls meet. Caulk there as well, if needed. For answers to questions about what should and should not be caulked, head to com and read their guide.
  • If you’ve been putting off blowing out the irrigation system, consider doing it soon and then wrap the pipes.
  • Check trees around the house and trim back any branches that might break during heavy winds.

Of course, there’s lots more you can add to your fall honey-do list, but these tasks will get you started and ensure that your home is safe and sealed from the elements.

What’s lurking in your home’s plumbing system?

While the surgeon general hasn’t taken up labeling water heaters as possibly harmful to your health, they may be. In fact, any of the many components that make up a home’s plumbing system are rife with the possibility of breeding Legionella pneumophila, the rod-shaped bacteria responsible for Legionnaires’ disease, according to a report at

The bacteria

Legionella is found naturally in freshwater environments, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It most often causes disease, however, when it grows in “human-made water systems,” such as hot tubs, swimming pools, ice-making machines, landscape water features, water heaters, showers and faucets.

Stagnant warm water (at a temperature between 68 and 120 degrees Fahrenheit), that contains sufficient biodegradable compounds, is the condition that most favors growth of the bacteria, according to a study by the American Society for Microbiology.

Furthermore, temperatures of 90 to 105 degrees are the ideal range for the bacteria’s growth. Rust, scale, “and the presence of other microorganisms can also promote the growth of LDB,” warns the experts at the U.S. Occupational and Safety Health Administration (OSHA).

“It will grow anywhere in the piping system where conditions are favorable for growth,” Ron L. George, president of Plumb-Tech Design & Consulting Services in Michigan tells, U.S. News’ Devon Thorsby.

The disease

Legionnaires’ disease, a lung disease and specific form of pneumonia, is tricky to diagnose because it presents with flu-like symptoms. It is particularly deadly to smokers, those with compromised immune systems and those in poor health. Although the large outbreaks get all the media attention, OSHA estimates that between 10,000 and 50,000 Americans are hospitalized each year for the disease.

Those who come down with Legionnaire’s disease were exposed to the bacteria by inhaling airborne water droplets that contain the bacteria (such as in the shower) or drinking water contaminated with it.

How the bacteria reaches your home

The water crisis in Flint, Michigan was a wakeup call to the entire country: don’t assume that your tap water is safe.

Thorsby warns that “Federal water conservation bills passed beginning in the 1990s have slowed the speed of water [to our homes], making travel time from a treatment plant to the end of the line longer. It went from as quickly as two days to as long as two weeks, in some cases . . .”

Why is this slowdown a problem? Municipal water systems purify water with chlorine, which decays quickly, diminishing by the time it reaches your home. If the chlorine content is negligible at this point, water in the lines “ . . . could become more vulnerable to picking up contaminants from pipe corrosion, interruptions like water main breaks and other incidents that could introduce toxins into the water,”  Thorsby cautions.

How to protect yourself

The best way to ensure that Legionella is destroyed is by controlling the temperature of your water heater, according to OSHA. Set and maintain the temperature at 140 degrees.

Of course, this temperature introduces the danger of scalding, which can be minimized with the use of thermostatic mixing valves, according to the experts at Plumbing and Mechanical magazine. “Replacing standard faucet and shower fixtures with thermostatic mixing valves may allow a homeowner to maintain hot water at 140-degree F from the water heater to the mixing valve, but deliver water at a lower temperature to reduce the risk of scalding.”

Next, you’ll need to eliminate the bacteria’s food sources, such as scale and sediment. Something as simple as replacing your electric water heater with a gas model takes care of this requirement, according to the magazine. Not only do electric water heaters tend to have lower temperatures than their gas counterparts, but their heating elements are typically located on the side of the unit. Gas heaters, on the other hand, heat the water from below the tank, where sediment builds up, thereby destroying the bacteria’s major food source.

If that doesn’t convince you to ditch the electric water heater, consider a Canadian study of 211 homes, 178 of which had electric water heaters. The study found that 69 of these homes, or 33 percent, harbored Legionella. None were found in the homes with gas water heaters.

Regardless of which type of water heater you have, it needs to be drained and fully cleaned (not just flushed out) once a year.

Buying a vacant home?

Foreclosure and other vacant homes are perfect breeding grounds for Legionella. Since the plumbing system hasn’t been used, the water in the heater has been stagnant and, most likely, not hot enough to prevent the bacteria’s reproduction. The same holds true for the pipes in the system.

NSF International, a product testing, inspection and certification organization in Michigan, recommends that vacant home buyers flush the plumbing system with “superheated” water. In fact, they recommend that all homeowners perform this flush once a month.

  • Set the water heater thermostat to its hottest setting.
  • Turn on the water at each tap and allow them to run for 30 minutes. “If your water heater doesn’t have the capacity to flush all taps simultaneously (most home water heaters don’t), flush one or two taps at a time for 15 minutes, beginning with those closest to the water heater and ending with the farthest taps,” the experts at NSF recommend.
  • Run the dishwasher and washing machine at their hottest settings.

Don’t forget to lower the temperature after the flush’s conclusion. NSF cautions that “only nonsmokers in generally good health” perform the flush, that children and those with compromised immune system leave the house during the procedure and that the flow from each faucet should be regulated to avoid splashing.