Have you noticed, lately, that your clothes dryer is taking longer to dry the clothing? If so, it may be time to clean out the duct.

There are two places dryer lint accumulates: in and around the lint trap, and in the ductwork leading out from the dryer to your exterior wall. At least once a year, make sure to clean out the lint if you want your dryer to operate efficiently and if you like not having your house catch on fire.

When you’ve got a tenant, you can expect your appliances to get more use. The more tenants you have, the harder your dryer has to work. Accordingly, it’s unwise to miss a maintenance cycle for your dryer.

You definitely don’t have to call in a professional to clean the dryer ductwork, but there are heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) companies and appliance companies that will do the work for a fee. But for the price it costs to hire a pro, you can afford to buy the necessary equipment yourself three or four times.

You need the following equipment:

  • A lint trap brush, which looks like a mascara wand that took too many steroids and then had a terrible accident in yoga class
  • A duct brush, which looks like a very long, flexible wand with a bristle pompom on the end
  • A screwdriver (maybe: it depends on how your duct attaches to your exterior pipe and to your dryer)

Everything you need can be bought from a hardware store or a discount department store such as Target or Wal-Mart.

Here’s how you go about cleaning your dryer duct.

Check outside your house to make sure nothing is blocking the exterior dryer duct vent

Go back into the room where the dryer is. Open your lint trap, take out the lint trap, and clean it the way you normally do before or after every load of laundry

Clean the lint trap by pulling the lint off

Jam the lint trap brush into the hole the lint trap came out of, and try to scrape out any lint that’s fallen or that isn’t attached to the trap. Pull the lint trap brush out a few times and pull the lint off. If you want to use it to make a little lint snowman, that’s fine

When nothing else is coming up, put the lint trap brush away and replace your lint trap. You can now close the dryer’s front door if it’s open

Move your dryer away from the wall. This is a great time to sweep and clean under where your dryer stands, because the broom and mop don’t ordinarily reach there

Disconnect the large, flexible hose from the dryer and preferably from the wall. Depending on how it’s attached, you may need to unscrew a circular band that clamps the duct on. Some ducts have a spring based mechanism you simply need to pinch. I prefer those but not all installations have them.

Using the duct wand, swab the inside of the dryer and get the lint out. Then, using a spinning motion, pass the duct wand through the duct and try to push the lint out the other end. If your duct is short and you can just shove any trapped lint outside, that’s best. Otherwise, pick it up and get it out of the way. Then make sure you can see outside through the dryer vent

When the duct, the exterior vent, and your dryer are free of lint, reattach your duct to the exterior wall and to the dryer, reversing the process you used two steps ago

Push your dryer back into place. There will be lint and bits of trash everywhere

Run the dryer for five minutes on an air-only cycle with no heat. This will flush any last pieces of lint out so that when you turn on the heat your laundry won’t smell like roasted lint because a small piece fell on or near the heating element or pilot light

Clean up the area around the dryer, and put away both brushes. Figure out what you’re going to do with the lint. It makes an outstanding tinder for starting fires, so if you go camping a lot or like a firepit in your backyard, you may be able to repurpose the lint.