Commercial dryer vent cleaning refers to the service when it pertains to businesses, such as salons, spas, and laundromats, or to multi-unit dwellings such as apartments or assisted-living facilities. Commercial services are typically more complex than residential, due to longer or multiple dryer vent lines serving a larger community than the shorter, individual vent line serving a single-family residence.
Why do commercial dryer vents need to be cleaned?
As with residential dryer vents, often the first indication that a commercial dryer vent needs to be cleaned is when the dryer stops drying efficiently. Residents or employees will complain that it takes a long time for the machine to dry laundry, and a maintenance supervisor will summon a dryer vent cleaning company (or sometimes they'll assume the machine is broken and mistakenly call a repair company). Such was the case for the below dryer vent, belonging to a spa in Edina, Minnesota. One glance at the photo below reveals why the dryer in question was losing efficiency: the exhaust was completely choked with lint, obstructing air flow.
This particular dryer vent line was over 100 feet long, initially running vertically for 10 feet, then making a 90-degree turn (and another) to run horizontally for over 100 feet, and finally making a last 90-degree turn to run another 10 feet vertically toward a booster fan before ending at the outside exhaust point. With all those turns and the extremely long run, it was no surprise to our commercial techs that the vent line needed a good cleaning from all of the built-up lint.
The "bird screen" pictured above is designed with holes large enough to allow for the escape of lint but small enough to prevent the entry of nesting birds. This one became severely choked with lint, not only decreasing efficiency but creating an extreme fire hazard. Before work began on this job, this screen was removed and thoroughly cleaned.
How are commercial dryer vent lines cleaned?
The process for commercial dryer vent cleaning will vary for each site, and an experienced commercial tech will fully assess the situation and lay out a detailed plan that utilizes the most appropriate tools and methods for the configuration of the vent line.
Because of the configuration of this particular dryer vent line, the commercial techs who planned the job had to do things a bit differently than a typical job. Since dryer vent cleaning air hoses (to which the cleaning tool is attached) are not generally utilized in lengths beyond 50 feet, this vent line would have to be partially disassembled in order to be effectively cleaned. Additionally, though the tools used (typically a skipper ball) have little trouble propelling themselves around 90-degree turns in vent lines, asking them to negotiate more than two of these turns is unrealistic.
To start, the technicians removed the first elbow and tested for air flow with the dryer running, which, not surprisingly, was poor. Then, after reconnecting this elbow and beginning from the portion of the vent line that immediately exits the dryer, they inserted a forward-blowing spinning skipper ball. This tool, when engaged, has a head that simultaneously spins and also thrusts air out from tiny holes on its surface, which propels the lint forward in the vent line, toward the exhaust point.
Proceeding with the tool in this manner, 25 feet at a time, the technicians would disassemble a portion of the vent line, insert the forward skipper and let it push the lint forward, with the help of the rooftop exhaust fan. Then they would disassemble a portion farther down the line, insert the skipper to repeat the process, then reassemble. In this manner the entire length of the vent line was cleaned and reassembled. The final step was to shut the power off to the fan and clean the fan blades, and then reattach the cleaned bird screen.
As you can see from the above photo after the job was complete, their efforts paid off, ridding the spa's dryer vent of a huge amount of combustible lint.
How often should commercial dryer vents be cleaned?
Dryer vents belonging to spas and salons will need to be cleaned more frequently than residential dryer vents for several reasons. The dryers at these establishments are often in use 8 hours a day all week long, as opposed to those in the home of a family of 4 who may use the dryer several times a week at most. Additionally, towels tend to create more lint than other laundry items, thereby building up in the vent line faster. Salons and spas also end up with a lot of hair in the vent lines, by nature of the work they do, which exacerbates clogs. And finally, commercial vent lines tend to be much longer than those of residential dryer vents, leading to more buildup. It's unclear exactly why, but short dryer vent runs have much less potential for lint buildup. The answer may have something to do with the inability of the dryer to produce enough air to propel lint 100 feet out the exhaust point, though doing so 5 to 10 feet is an easy feat.
Several of our commercial dryer vent cleaning clients that are in the salon or spa business have set up quarterly dryer vent cleanings. If you're a business owner and are unsure how often you should have yours cleaned, most HVAC cleaning companies offer free estimates for commercial work, providing an opportunity for you to have the system evaluated and a quote generated. If you are present during the estimate, you can ask questions of the project estimator to gain knowledge of the specific needs of your business's unique dryer vent system.
Wanna dig deeper? Our commercial dryer vent cleaning page contains detailed descriptions, before and after photos, and videos of our commercial dryer vent cleaning processes.
Many thanks to our commercial project manager Ben S for lending his expertise to this article.