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Two cleaning jobs not to skip: Dryer vents and exhaust fans

Two cleaning jobs not to skip: Dryer vents and exhaust fans

Bathroom exhaust fan

Grime buildup in bathroom exhaust fans makes them less efficient and a breeding ground for mold or mildew.

Whether preparing your home for guests over the holidays or simply performing a deep clean on general principle, don't overlook these two cleaning tasks: Dryer vents and exhaust fans tend to get skipped, sometimes for years at a time, which can cause both inefficiency and fire risks.

Exhaust fans

Bathroom exhaust fans do a lot of important work. Obviously, they draw unpleasant odors out of the bathroom quickly. But they also remove moisture from the air, lowering the humidity and preventing mold or mildew risk to your paint and fixtures.

All this work takes a toll on the exhaust fans themselves, though. Debris, mildew and grime can build up on the vent and fan itself. That's why it's a good idea to clean your bathroom exhaust fans twice a year. Cleaning is a relatively easy DIY task in most cases; you can remove the vent grate, clean it by hand, and carefully wipe down the fan blades. As with any time you're dealing with electricity, flip the circuit breaker to stop power running to the fixture you're working with. You can also hire a handyperson to take care of this task.

Dryer vent cleaning

Dryer vent cleaning is an easily overlooked chore. But failure to clean your dryer vent can mean clogged ducts and potential fires, not to mention damage to your dryer, which adds up to expensive repairs or even the cost of buying a new appliance.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, you should hire a pro or do a DIY dryer vent cleaning at least once a year. This may be required more often, depending on how many people live in your house and how often you use your dryer. (This is also a great reason to clean out your lint filter after every load. Not only does a lint-covered filter make your dryer work less efficiently, but it also pushes more debris into the vents.)

Some dryer vent cleanings take about half an hour, though some could take two or three hours. On average, dryer vent cleaning will cost about $130.

If you have pets, your vents will likely become clogged with lint and pet hair even faster, and long ductwork with lots of twists and turns may also need more frequent cleaning. Prices may also go up if the dryer vents out at a particularly complicated location that requires technicians to go up on ladders or crawl under decks.

Birds, squirrels and other wildlife often attempt to create nests in dryer vents, especially ones that exit at the roof. At that point, debris from your clothes can quickly create a blockage as it catches on the nesting materials.

If you choose to do it yourself, dryer vent cleaning kits, which typically attach to a handheld drill, usually cost $20 to $50 depending on the rods' length and the kit's quality.

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