How To Clean Dryer Vent From Outside? (8-Step Guide)

Licensed Inspector Arie Van Tuijl
Licensed Inspector Arie Van Tuijl

🕖Last Updated On May 10, 2022

Do you want to learn how to clean your dryer vent from the outside?

Dryer vents frequently get choked with lint and debris which can slow down the dryer and even become a fire hazard.

Fortunately, it is possible to clean the dryer vent from the exterior vent hood so that all of the lint gets pushed to the outside.

And you should actually turn on the dryer so that there is positive airflow,  making the cleaning so much easier.

how to clean dryer vent from outside

In this Home Inspector Secrets guide, I will go over…

  • Turning on the dryer or leaf blower for positive air pressure
  • Using a dryer vent cleaning tool to brush the duct
  • Why you may need to remove the exterior cover
  • Using a leaf blower to remove stubborn lint clogs

Read our step-by-step guide below to help you avoid common problems when cleaning dryer vents from the exterior! 

What You Need To Know About Dryer Vent Cleaning From The Outside?

Cleaning the dryer vent from the outside is an effective way to remove lint buildup and speed up your dryer. And since you are cleaning it from the exterior, all of the lint will get blown outside and won’t impact indoor air quality.

Probably the biggest thing to know is that there needs to be airflow inside the dryer vent for it to be cleaned properly.

The airflow can come from just having the dryer running, or it can even come from a leaf blower (for more power).

If you try to clean the dryer vent without positive air pressure, all of the lint won’t get blown out while cleaning it, making it a much more (if not impossible) job.

Supplies You’ll Need For Dryer Duct Cleaning From The Outside

  • Dryer Vent Cleaning Tool: The homeowner or DIY dryer vent cleaning tool is a series of plastic rods with a nylon 3-4 inch brush on the end. This tool is connected to a drill that spins the brush. The biggest hazard with this tool is that sometimes the rods get disconnected. I recommend that you give the joints additional strength by taping them together. The last thing you want is for these rods to get disconnected inside the dryer duct. (You can also try to get a pro version dryer vent cleaning tool)
  • Cordless Drill: A cordless (or corded) drill is required to use the dryer vent cleaning tool. A lightweight and cordless drill is preferable for ease of use. For power, you want at least a 12-volt cordless drill but 20-volt is better.
  • Mask And Eye Protection: When you are cleaning the dryer vent from the outside, all of that lint will get blown back towards you and may hit your face. Wearing a face mask and eye protection is recommended.

Read Also: How To Repair A Dryer Vent Hose?

How To Clean A Dryer Vent From The Outside? (8 Steps)

  1. Remove Exterior Vent Hood Cover For Access
  2. Turn On Dryer For Positive Air Pressure
  3. Insert Dryer Vent Cleaning Tool From Outside
  4. Re-install Exterior Cover
  5. Pull Back The Dryer For Access To Flex Duct
  6. Clean Flex Duct Behind The Dryer
  7. Re-install Flex Duct
  8. Push Back Dryer

Step 1. Remove Exterior Vent Hood Cover For Access

Remove the exterior dryer vent hood so you can have cleaning access from the outside.

Many exterior covers have plastic cages or louvers to keep out birds and it will prevent you from being able to insert the dryer vent cleaning tool.

The plastic cages are usually just held to the wall with one or two screws. If there are only louvers (and no cage) you should be able to just remove the louvers themselves.

how to clean dryer vent from outside (1)

Once you remove the exterior cover, I recommend taking a peek inside the duct with a flashlight to see if there are any obstructions. If there is a birds nest, you may be able to just reach in the duct with your hand and pull it out.

Read Also >> How Often Should You Clean A Dryer Vent?

Step 2. Turn On Dryer For Positive Air Pressure

Turn on your dryer so that there is positive airflow to the outside.

After you have removed the exterior vent cover (if needed) and the outside is ready for the dryer vent cleaning tool — you should turn on the dryer.

The dryer will put positive air pressure on the dryer duct, so that when you use the dryer vent cleaning tool — the lint will get blown to the outside.

If you don’t have the dryer on, then all of the lint will stay in the duct and you may even create a clog.

Read Also: How To Clean A Dryer Vent That Goes To The Roof?

Step 3 - Insert Dryer Vent Cleaning Tool From Outside

Insert the dryer vent cleaning tool from the outside and work it slowly into the duct.

You will need to apply power with the cordless drill so that the brush removes the lint on the duct wall.

As you brush out the duct, the lint should loosen and it will be blown back towards you. Take your time, and keep inserting the dryer vent cleaning tool deeper into the duct.

You will know the job is done when no more lint is blown to the outside.

You may also be able to ‘feel’ when the dryer vent cleaning tool has reached the wall because you will feel a thud. The thud means the dryer vent cleaning tool won’t go farther and it is probably hitting the flex duct.

The airflow should be stronger after cleaning the duct.

If there is very little airflow, you may have a duct disconnection or a very stubborn clog. Calling in a professional is recommended if there is little or no airflow because it can be a fire hazard.

Read Also: Why Is There Water In My Dryer Vent Hose?

Step 4 - Re-install Exterior Cover

Re-install the exterior hood cover which helps keep out birds and pests.

Make sure that the flap or louvers are working properly. 

The flaps open when the dryer is on, and close when the dryer is off.

Step 5 - Pull Back The Dryer For Access To Flex Duct

Pull back the dryer so you can get access to the flex duct.

The short flex duct goes from the dryer to the wall, and is usually just a few feet in length.

Step 6 - Clean Flex Duct Behind The Dryer

Clean the flex duct of all lint buildup and check for damage.

After cleaning the wall duct from the outside, you still need to clean the flex duct because it can get dirty with lint and lead to a clog. Sometimes these flex ducts also get crushed so check for damage.

how to clean dryer vent on roof (5)

The flex duct will likely have a clamp (and possibly metal tape) that connects to the wall elbow. Simply remove the clamp, and remove the duct from the wall. If it has been damaged or crushed, now is the time to replace it.

Step 7 - Re-install Flex Duct

Re-install the flex duct to the wall.

If you removed a clamp, put it back on, making sure it is tight. I also recommend putting aluminum/metal tape over the clamp to create a tight seal.

Step 8 - Push Back Dryer

Push back the dryer to it's original position.

It is really important that you don’t crush the flex vent when you push it back.

If you clean the dryer duct but crush the flex vent at the same time, all of that work will be for nothing. If you crush the flex duct, it will act like there is a clog in the system.

You may want to use the end of a broom to position the flex duct correctly behind the dryer so it doesn’t get crushed.

Read Also: How To Hook Up A Dryer Vent In A Tight Space?

Final Thoughts On Cleaning Dryer Vents From The Outside

Dryer vent cleaning can sometimes be very challenging, but it needs to get done.

A clogged dryer vent can lead to a fire, or at minimum, a long time to dry your clothes.

But if you can get your hands on a dryer vent cleaning tool (preferably a professional version), you can clean it from the outside as long as there is airflow. The lint should all get blown to the outside while you are doing the cleaning.

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