Dryer vent cleaning is a critical part of home maintenance and fire safety, as the dryer vent line serves as the exitway for hot, humid air produced by your clothes dryer. When this line is obstructed, especially with combustible debris such as lint, it produces an extreme fire hazard. But as our technicians often observe, lint is not the only combustible debris to clog a dryer vent line and create trouble.
Why do birds build nests in dryer vents?
Birds (and other animals) are naturally drawn to dryer vent openings because of the warmth generated by the dryer and the relative safety and seclusion that the dryer vent would seem to offer. But that appearance of safety is deceptive. Birds, especially young ones, often become trapped inside, unable to escape the enclosed space. Further, the dry sticks and leaves that they skillfully place inside their "home" are easily combustible when combined with tiny bits of dryer lint and blasted with hot air from the dryer. Prompt and thorough removal of the obstruction is necessary to ensure the safe and effective operation of your dryer.
How do you clean a bird's nest from a dryer vent?
One of the most effective tools for cleaning a dryer vent line is a reverse spinning skipper ball, which is fed through the dryer vent via an air hose, all the way through to the dryer. The tool is easily pushed through soft dryer lint (unless heavily clogged). With nesting, however, the twigs and leaves tend to be tightly compacted, such that the tool cannot easily push past it and then be used to pull out the nest intact. For this reason, the technician will first reach in and manually pull as much of the debris out by hand as he can reach. Birds rarely build nests very deep within the vent, and almost never in the vertical run of the vent line but rather in the horizontal run, closer to the exit (or entrance, depending on whether you're a bird or hot air). Once the bulk of the debris, or at least the reachable bulk, has been removed, the tech will send in the skipper ball on the end of an air line. He pushes it in and pulls it out successively, as it spins around and reverse-blasts air from the tiny holes on its surface, removing the nest a bit at a time. The job is complete when he can send the tool all the way through to the dryer itself and pull it out without expelling any more debris, whether nest or lint.
How can I prevent birds from building nests in my dryer vent?
Your dryer vent should have a cover to prevent animal entry. There are many shapes and sizes of dryer vent covers available, but not all are equally suitable. The ideal cover for a dryer vent consists of a louvered flap. The flap swings open when hot air from the dryer forces it open, and then falls back into the closed position when the dryer stops. In this manner hot air can escape but animals cannot enter. An important point to remember is that a dryer vent should never have a screen over it, as soggy lint eventually clogs the tiny holes, obstructing airflow and creating an extreme fire hazard.
Dryer vent covers can be found at any home improvement store. You can install it yourself or ask your dryer vent cleaning technician to tackle the job. Mother Nature will thank you for protecting her feathered offspring, and your clothes dryer will thank you for letting it exhale unobstructed.
Wanna dig deeper? Download our free tipsheet: 5 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Dryer Vent Cleaning Company.
Many thanks to our technician Ben S for lending his expertise to this article.