Clothes dryer fires are an often overlooked possibility in the laundry room. According to FEMA, over 2,900 clothes dryer fires are reported each year. These fires cause an estimate of five deaths, 100 injuries, and cost $35 million in property loss.
Unfortunately, most dryer related fires can be prevented. An estimated 34 percent of these fires occur due to failure to clean the machines. Most dryer fires happen in the fall and winter months, peaking in January.
If dryer fires are relatively common, but preventable, what you can you do to make sure a fire doesn’t occur at your home? Here’s how to prevent an incident:
Clean the Lint Screen
The most common cause of a clothes dryer fire is lint build-up and reduced airflow. Lint is an extremely combustible material.
The built-up lint eventually sparks and catches fire. Usually lint will simply burn inside of a dryer and leave a burning smell along with damage to the dryer, but oftentimes the machine catches on fire. If the fire is severe enough or the flames spread, the fire can destroy an entire home.
The lint screen should be cleaned before and after each load, no matter how small the amount of lint is. This will also build the habit of constant cleaning.
Frequently Check the Vent Hose
For a dryer to work properly, efficient and meet safety protocols, the vent hose should never be clogged and they should remain in good shape. These hoses should be checked periodically.
If your dryer has a white plastic vent hose, it should be replaced. These hoses have been outlawed due to safety concerns, though they can still be found on older dryer models.
Other necessary features include aluminum vents that are the right length. The proper vent hose will be as short as possible with no signs of damage.
Clean the Vent Line
Cleaning should not only take place inside of vent hoses and inside of dryers, but also outside of the machines.
The vent line is the wall area that is behind the dryer and goes toward the outside flap of the dryer. This area should never be restricted or clogged up with lint. The chance of a dryer fire increases if this area is clogged.
If this area is too difficult for you to reach and clean yourself, reach out to a professional chimney sweep or cleaning service.
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Maintain a Clear Drying Space
The entire surrounding area near a dryer should be clean and free of debris. No clothes, towels, cleaning supplies, or other materials should be gathered outside of a dryer.
This extra clutter, especially if cleaning supplies or flammable materials are present, will enhance the chance of a fire spreading across the home if one sparks. Fires spread rapidly, and anything that can contribute to that spread should be removed.
If you’re home is equipped with a gas dryer—which is connected to a gas line—your source of gas must be reliable, and the line should be in good shape. If a gas line is old or damaged, replace it immediately. A damage or leaking gas line can lead to disaster.
How Do You Know a Dryer is Failing?
If your clothes are taking a longer than normal time to dry, are hotter than usual, or any other out of the ordinary issue occurs, your lint dryer needs to be checked. In order to check the dryer, reach out to maintenance professionals.
Preventing dryer fires is a matter of covering all variables and staying on top of safety measures. If you’re conscious of your device and stay on top of its maintenance, there should be no need to worry. These additional tips will help:
- Never use a dryer if the lint filter is missing, loose, or damaged.
- Avoid overloading the dryer.
- Never dry items if they have been in contact with alcohol, cooking oil, gasoline, or any flammable materials.
- If you’re away from home for an extended period of time, unplug or disconnect the dryer entirely.
- Frequently check that nests of animals or insects are not blocking vents.
- If your dryer is gas powered, it should be inspected by a professional once a year. The professional should ensure that gas lines are connected and no leaks are present.