Laundry Room Lint

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Hi Heather,
Can you please post an article (or help me find it in your archives) about keeping that nasty linty space along the sides of the washer and dryer clean? Vacuuming with the extension works, sort of, but there’s always lint and stuff building up on the floor molding, and it just sticks there. My daughter and her husband and preschool age child live with us, so the laundry area is a busy place. The washer and dryer live in a space made ‘specially for them and just their size, so I can’t reach back there along the sides of the appliances to clean very well. Never mind behind them, that’s a lost cause I’m sure. Probably something nasty lives back there by now, I wouldn’t know. It’s scary in there!
Linty in Lincoln

reduce lint

Heather says:

This question gets a two part answer.

Part 1: Lint in the laundry room – the cosmetic aspect

Laundry rooms are tricky spaces. The magazine spreads always show pristine appliances, perfectly clean baseboards, and oddly, nary a lone sock in sight. I always wonder, where exactly IS the laundry when they take the pics? What the magazine spreads and laundry room do-overs do not show are laundry rooms that receive heavy use. You’re doing exactly what you should; regular cleaning is your best defense against lint build up. You have a busy household and I doubt anyone is going to come over and white-glove your laundry room. In cases like this, good enough is good enough.

Tips to reduce laundry room lint:

Reduce the humidity as much as possible.

The laundry room is almost always going to be more humid than other areas of the house, but leaving the door open can help. If you can’t bear to have the door open, consider a door with shutters, the view is still blocked, but air can still flow.

Sweep and vacuum often, top to bottom and left to right.

This way you don’t blow or push lint back onto already clean surfaces. For super tight areas, take a wire coat hanger and pull on the bottom of the triangle to make the loop as long and narrow as possible. Do not untwist the hook, this is your handle and the poky ends shouldn’t be jammed in anywhere. Take the leg of  an old nylon -pantyhose or whatever you want to call it and slip it over your wire loop. You can even use an old sock, whatever you do, hang on to it or you may just pull back only the hanger. You can use this to dust between the appliances or the appliances and the walls, if you really feel the need.  *NOTE* do this before you vacuum the rest of the room.

A note to those of you who use fabric softener.

Fabric softener can build up on your lint screen which makes your dryer less efficient. Every few months remove the lint screen from your dryer and give it a good scrub with a soft bristle brush and a little soap. Rinse the screen and allow it to dry completely before returning it to the dryer.

If a lot of lint is appearing in your laundry room check to make sure the ductwork that vents the dryer is securely attached. Any loose connections may allow the dryer to vent into the laundry room rather than outside where it belongs.

Part 2: A more serious look at lint in the laundry room.

An excessive build up of lint in the laundry room can be a signal of something far more serious than an apathetic attitude toward dusting.

Did you know that you are supposed to clean out your dryer vent at least twice a year?

I don’t make these things up. This is one chore, much like changing the batteries in your smoke detector, that cannot be ignored. A clogged dryer vent is a serious fire hazard.

The lint trap, which should be cleaned before every use, cannot catch all of the lint particles. If the mesh were any smaller, the air flow would be restricted and your dryer would take even longer to dry which is hard on the environment, your wallet, and your schedule.

Take a look at the duct behind the dryer. Is it the white vinyl and wire flexible duct? If so, replace it immediately, these are a fire hazard. Replace it with flexible ductwork meeting the UL 2158A standard. You can find this ductwork at any home-improvement store like Lowes, Home Depot, Ace, probably even Wal-Mart.

If you have the proper, flexible ductwork, you need to regularly ensure that it has not been crushed or kinked by household gremlins or maybe by someone trying to move the dryer to retrieve a pen, whichever. A kinked or crushed flexible duct can cause the airflow to be restricted, reducing the efficiency of your dryer and causing lint clogs.

If your dryer is on an outside wall, chances are it vents directly outside. Great, these are usually very easy to clear out and don’t have long, hidden lengths. If your dryer is on an inside wall, it may vent through the roof.

There are kits for cleaning the dryer vent that have a brush and a wire, that can significantly extend your reach, but they aren’t always long enough or able to get around sharp angles. These should work well for dryers on outside walls.

If your dryer has a long vent system your task a little more difficult. Before beginning you must remove the outside weather cover. If the cover is not accessible because the pitch of your roof is too steep, please hire a professional. Chimney sweepers often provide vent cleaning services.

If you want to try to tackle the problem yourself and a dryer vent kit was not enough, you may give this next tip a try, with caution and prudence.  The blow function on a shop vac or an electric leaf blower can clear out the lint in your ductwork. NEVER use a gas powered leaf blower in your house. You can say carbon monoxide poisoning, right? I knew you could.

guide to the laundry room
Click the picture for more tips!

Before using this technique, you MUST remove the external weather cover and check to be sure that each joint in duct work is secure. If you neglect this step, you may get to enjoy the fun, family bonding experience called “cleaning up lint for hours and hours.”

Attach the end of the electric leaf blower or shop vac to the duct -a towel can be wrapped around the juncture- and GENTLY force air through the duct. This does not mean rev the leaf blower to high. Use the lowest setting and have someone else watch the exit point, if no lint appears, stop immediately and call in a professional.  Continue blowing until the lint shower abates, then replace the weather cover and reattach the duct to the dryer.

Remember what I said in the beginning – regular cleaning is your best defense against lint build up and twice a year cleaning takes care of the worst.

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8 thoughts on “Laundry Room Lint”

  1. A while ago I noticed a lot of lint build up on the weather cover outside the house to the point that the little flappy things didn't open properly. After I cleaned it all out I noticed clothes were coming out a lot drier than they had been.

    I'll have to check out the ductwork to see how much buildup is going on now
    My recent post Charleston Eats- Hello- My Name is BBQ

  2. 1,100 words on lint is impressive, Douglas Adams would be proud.

    "Fluff is interesting stuff: a deadly poison on Bodega Minor, the diet staple of Frazelon V, the unit of currency on the moons of the Blurfoid System, and the major crop of the laundry supplies planet, Blastus III. One ancient legend claims that four pieces of fluff lie scattered around the Galaxy: each forming one quarter of the seedling of a tree with amazing properties, the sole survivor of the tropical planet Fuzzbol (Footnote 8). The ultimate source of fluff is still a mystery, with the scientific community divided between the Big Lint Bang theory and the White Lint Hole theory. (Footnote 8, should you care to check, informs you that it's not much of a legend really.)"

  3. Hm. After simonashton's post, this just looks pedestrian, but here goes anyway:

    For dusting baseboards and getting into crevices, I have a cheap bristle paint brush taped to the end of my broom. It's handy around the dryer.

  4. I read this last night at about 9 pm. We own a very OLD dryer but it is VERY efficient so I have no reason to get rid of it. After reading about old ductwork, I made my husband take a look, it was the old wire flexible duct and it was starting to clog. My husband immediately went to home depot and bought a new fire safe ductwork. THANK YOU!!! for helping keep my family safe. I sometime leave the dryer on overnight (I know I shouldn’t) and can’t believe that it could have cause a fire. I made a resolution to NEVER leave the dryer on while we sleep and clean the ducts regularly! Thanks again : D

  5. As a renter in a 6 unit apartment, all the dryers in the basement are individually owned. With 6 dryers to vent, they use individual indoor vent catches (boxes) at the end of 6′ hoses. Until last week I had no idea I should add water to this rectangular plastic box with a vent in it. Without the water, the lint just blows into the basement. An elderly lady on the top floor instructed me in her broken English on how I should pour a cup or so of water into it each time it gets low and told me she had been doing it for me for 9 months! At my previous apartment the dryer vented outside and the landlord took care of it. I learned something new at the age of 47.


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