What to do when they dryer stops drying: Or why DH spent some time on the roof

Our dryer was taking longer and longer to get clothes actually dry.  A regular load was starting to take upwards of 2 hours to finish.

We vacuumed out the inner workings of the lint trap (as one does on a somewhat regular basis).  That didn’t help.

We vacuumed out the vent tube and vent area behind the dryer (something we do about once a year, give or take).  It wasn’t particularly clogged. That didn’t help.

Then DH did something he has never done before, despite us having lived in this house for >10 years (give or take).  He followed the vent to where it spits out.  Growing up, our dryer vents had always vented somewhere on the first floor on the side of the house … I’d never thought about that being one floor up from where the dryer was (DH’s laundry room was in the basement, while ours was on the lower ground floor of our split-level).  Turns out our laundry vents out on the roof.

So DH went up to the roof and cleaned out that end of the vent.  It was completely clogged and he doubts that the previous owners ever cleaned it either.

One immediate side effect was that timed dry regular didn’t heat so hot as usual the first time we tried it (DH suspects the heat wasn’t blocked getting out at all).  So DH tried the sensor dry which has NEVER worked since we got the dryer 10+ years ago.  It worked way too well this time, with the clothes ending up hot and bone dry.  So then he tried sensor dry slightly damp and that was perfect.  A few weeks have passed (and the weather outside has gotten warmer) and we’re back to being able to used timed try again.

So yay not having to buy a new dryer because it was just the outside vent being clogged.

Do you have any appliance repair stories to share?  What’s your process when the dryer stops working so well?


33 Responses to “What to do when they dryer stops drying: Or why DH spent some time on the roof”

  1. Miser Mom Says:

    I’d never heard of a dryer venting through a roof either! I wonder why it was set up that way. But huzzah for figuring out the problem and fixing it.

    (From your title, I thought you were going to say the dryer stopped working so DH rigged up a clothes line on the roof. I guess the actual ending of your story is probably a lot more convenient than my ending!)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      In retrospect all our previous dryers have vented one floor up (to the ground floor). But we’re a single level with no basement, so maybe the roof is the only place to go?

      • chacha1 Says:

        Why not just through the wall on the same level? That’s the way it was in every house I ever lived in. (Our apartment building dryers vent up half a level since the machines are in a basement garage.) Some friends in a rented house have a dryer that vents INTO THEIR ATTIC, which seems like a profoundly stupid and dangerous thing to do. There is an exterior wall to the laundry room. A through-the-wall dryer vent kit costs $10 and I may send them one as a housewarming gift if/when they buy this house.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I have no idea! Maybe because heat rises? I’ve definitely always seen them venting up, usually about half a level.

        The attic does seem ridiculously dangerous since dryer lint in a clogged line could catch fire according to the internet.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        It is amazing what we keep discovering about this house we’ve been living in for 10+ years.

    • Leah Says:

      Dryers can’t vent out the roof in the midwest — that would be a bad combination with snow. A new dorm on our campus had some of the furnaces venting out the roof (short version of long story: modular unit built in another state to their code and not our state’s code), and the furnaces stopped working pretty quickly. The company had to come do an emergency re-route.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Fortunately, the midwest has basements!

        What is it with building dorms stupidly in the midwest? In our dorm, the heat was all water-based and they had the pipes running on the outside of the building meaning that when it got cold enough we’d have no heat and no water, except, of course, the flood water from burst pipes.

  2. delagar Says:

    I’m wondering if we have some sort of clog somewhere in our dryer line. Our dryer is taking about two hours to dry a normal load now too. And our dryer vent is just weird — the original house had no dryer connections, so when the w/d connections were put in, they were put into a closet, which now vents down under a floor, past another room (not via a basement, since we have no basement, or even a crawlspace, but under what I guess must be the slab of the house) and then out through the side of the house.

    The vent is a not especially large white plastic plumbing tube. So this looks like someone DIY’d it. And I imagine it would clog easily. :(

    I’d call our landlord, but from experience I know what his response would be. We’ll be on the hook for getting this fixed ourselves.

  3. Linda Says:

    Thankfully, my dryer vent is easily accessible. It’s on the outside of the garage and there are no plants or anything blocking it. (Having my washer & dryer in the garage is something I had to get used to. That would not happen in the Midwest!) I use the dryer so rarely that I’m not sure how often I’ll have to clean the vent. I’m lucky to not be in an HOA area and I hang my clothes to dry outside during dry weather and use an awesome drying rack for the days it’s raining. Only towels and sheets go in the dryer, and if I feel up to wrangling the sheets onto the umbrella clothes dryer then I don’t even have to run the dryer for sheets.

    You’re really lucky that DH likes to troubleshoot stuff like that. It’s not that easy to find someone for hire that will do the same. While I try to do my own handyman-type chores as much as possible, getting up on the roof is not something I would ever do. It’s hard enough for me to clean the gutters myself.

  4. Jenny F. Scientist Says:

    When the spouse was a poor postdoc we took apart the dryer three times – belt, heating element, and something I’ve mercifully forgotten. Last time the washer broke I just called someone to come fix it.

    (Also seriously, who vents to the roof?)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I’ve been pretty impressed with DH’s ability so far to keep our first major appliance purchases running. (Exception being the series of microwaves that bit the dust because replacing the vacuum tube or somesuch was more expensive than buying a new microwave. One of the parts suppliers who made most of the tubes for the industry wasn’t doing quality control and the microwave creators were just dealing with it by not having their warranties cover that part. Eventually we got lucky.)

      • Jenny F. Scientist Says:

        Those internet videos on how to fix stuff are magically helpful though! The one on carpet installation from TOH convinced me to hire someone but a different one also helped replacing the water valve mixer thing on the washer. And something else. Our first house had crappy appliances.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        They really are!

  5. Debbie M Says:

    No dryer stories except that I don’t have one because there are no dryer connections in my house.

    I have been able to google problems with appliances in the past, order a part, replace it, and have the appliance work again. It is awesome!

    My current boyfriend (of 15 years) loves to do this kind of detective work, so I haven’t fixed anything myself in a while, but I do act as a sounding board for him and brainstormer, so teamwork is often part of the solution. We also have an agreement that I will buy him any tool he needs for repairs. This generally saves me money over hiring a professional and fits in with my philosophy that since it’s my house, I have to pay for repairs. And he gets to live the fantasy of free tools!

    I also keep mesh strainer things in my drains to catch all the hair (bathtub and bathroom sink) and food (kitchen). It’s annoying to have to empty them out all the time and clean them (bathroom sink one has to be scrubbed weekly), but it sure saves on plumber bills!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      DH sometimes snakes the drains. So gross.

      • Debbie M Says:

        I have a $3 plastic strip of barbs thingy that can go down drains and get hairy gook out. Yes, pretty gross! I can handle it, though. (I’m not so good with, shall we say, large insects, though.)

      • Linda Says:

        This is an interesting side path to the original post, but I bought this hair catcher for my bathtub called a Tub Shroom and I love it. It catches everything: even the short hairs of my dog when I give her a bath. Highly recommended!

      • Rosa Says:

        A zip it!

        I used to snake the drains but the zip it is way better. For some reason our new redone sink clogs up ALL THE TIME and the new bathtub drain makes hair traps useless (it’s got a sticky-uppy nonremoveable plug). My husband likes to take off the u trap and clean it out but I usually just do the zip it.

      • Debbie M Says:

        Thanks for that term, Rosa! Supposedly the zip it is disposable, but it’s totally easy to clean and re-use if you just clean it the right direction and store it safely somewhere.

  6. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    Troubleshooting the dryer that doesn’t know when to stop anymore is my job and I haven’t done it yet.

    It does the usual timer countdown but then when it hits zero, it goes to a weird almost infinity symbol thing on the little LED screen and just keeps tumbling forever til you stop it.

    I’ve googled it several times but still haven’t found a good place to start fixing. Next up: why doesn’t the washer always correctly spin dry? There have been loads I’ve had to spin three times after the primary wash cycle. What gives? Also a to do on my list. So basically I have no ideas yet.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Any chance the weird symbol is an error code? Could you take a picture and contact the company?

    • Rosa Says:

      usually if it’s not spinning correctly it’s getting unbalanced and stopping. See if you can rock it, and if you can, adjust the little feet til it’s stable. Washers shake a lot and the little feet get loose and then it’s unbalanced.

  7. CG Says:

    We had this same problem! Only we hired someone to come and check it out. Our dryer vents through the roof because it’s on the second floor in the middle of the house. There’s a finished attic above. It turned out that the previous owners (who diy’d everything on the house) had neglected to remove the mesh at the end of the flap that keeps critters out. For a bath fan vent you leave that in, but for a dryer vent you have to take it out or over time it will completely clog and eventually I’d imagine it would cause a fire. Yikes! Dryer works way better now.

  8. rs Says:

    We do have a dryer, but I prefer to use clothes drying rack bought from Ikea more than 10 years ago. It works perfectly without clogging anything and is environmental friendly. In winter, it even provides additional humidity to otherwise dry apartment. I use dryer only for bedsheets and towel etc.

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