Laundry might be part of our weekly routine, but oftentimes, cleaning your dryer isn’t. Believe it or not, one-third of dryer fires are caused by an accumulation of lint within the vent system. Dryer fires are absolutely devastating, causing roughly 15,500 home structure fires, 29 deaths, 400 injuries and $192 million in direct property loss each year.
What Causes a Dryer Fire?
Dryer fires are usually caused by a failure to do a thorough cleaning. Most dryer fires occur during winter months as the type of clothing and bedding we use in the winter is much thicker, producing more lint. This lint gradually builds up and ignites in the heating element or the exhaust duct.
While lint is the primary culprit – installation of the unit can also add to the problem. Many homeowners now install dryers outside of their basements. Typically this means vent pipes are longer and must be twisted and turned to navigate the structure of the home – creating even more space for lint to collect.
10 Tips to Prevent Dryer Fires
- Clean the lint. You should be cleaning your dryer’s lint trap after every load. Not only will this help prevent a fire, it will help your clothes dry faster.
- Maintain the ducts. It is best practice to have your dryer ducts cleaned by a professional at least once a year.
- Installation is key. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when installing the vent pipe. Use a short, straight pipe that’s a suitable distance from the wall. By decreasing the bends of the dryer vent, you decrease opportunities for lint to gather. If your vent does have to travel a long distance to your dryer, consider installing a dryer vent fan to increase the circulation of lint. Dryer vent fans should always be installed by a licensed electrician.
- Check the label. Read your clothing care labels carefully. If a care label reads tumble dry low, don’t dry it on high heat. Also be cautious of certain items that may contain rubber which shouldn’t be exposed to high heat, such as bath mats, padded bras and bibs.
- Clear away combustibles. Relocate any flammable materials like cleaning supplies far away from your dryer. Sweeping dust regularly from the areas around and underneath your dryer is also recommended.
- Replace plastic or foil style ducts. Research shows that flexible foil or plastic ducts can sag and lead to lint buildup at low points. It’s best to replace this ductwork with a solid metal duct that is less likely to sag and more likely to contain any fires that might start.
- Be wary of flammable liquids on clothing. If you’ve washed clothing stained with dangerous chemicals more than once – opt for line drying them opposed to machine drying them.
- Pay attention to damp clothes. If your clothes don’t feel completely dry or they are extremely hot to the touch after a normal dry cycle, chances are something is wrong. Before throwing in the next load, check for a plugged vent and clean out any lint.
- Don’t dry and dash. If you have to leave the house, stop your dryer cycle. Never leave your dryer running while away from home.
- Check your outdoor vents. Make sure that the outdoor vent flap isn’t restricted by snow and/or debris.