Washing machines and clothes dryers are workhorses in most homes, especially those with children. Both, however, cause thousands of home fires each year, and dryers are responsible for a many of them. However, it is not difficult to ensure the safety of your dryer, and given the importance of doing so, there’s really no excuse not to. After you’ve made sure your dryer is properly installed (something a professional should take care of), the rest of it is simple.
Since dryers are appliances that heat, sparks can occur. In the case of gas dryers, an actual flame is present in your dryer, just like in a gas furnace. Most fires caused by clothes dryers occur when an item being dried ignites, or when built-up lint in either the lint screen or the dryer venting ignites. To avoid the first cause of fires, make sure that all items placed in the dryer are made of fabrics suitable for drying. Never dry items that contain combustible fluids such as painting solvents, certain household cleaners, or grease. If you washed greasy clothing and the grease didn’t come out, you have three choices: wash it again, air dry it, or throw it out.
Watch out for Lint
Lint is composed of tiny fibers that break off the fabric of your clothing. Many hikers and campers carry a little bag of dryer lint with them in a sealed plastic bag to use as tinder, to help start a fire in an emergency. It’s that flammable!
The easiest step in preventing a dryer fire is to clean the lint screen after each dryer load. Making this a regular practice will eliminate the flammable material, allow your dryer to function more efficiently, and also reduce lint buildup in the exhaust hose and vent. Regularly wiping down the inside of the dryer to remove any extraneous fibers can also help.
Make sure your dryer vents to outside the home and that it is kept clear. Keep leaves and grass away from the vent. Several times a year, go outside while the dryer is running and confirm that plenty of warm, moist air is coming out of the vent. If it’s not, the exhaust hose is probably clogged with lint. Also check if the vent itself is clogged. If you can’t disassemble the vent and detach the hose yourself to clear or replace them, call a professional.
The area around your dryer should also be kept clear. There are air intake vents on the back of your dryer which can accumulate lint and dust. If they are obstructed of become clogged, it can cause the motor to overheat, possibly resulting in a fire. Vacuuming the rear vents a couple times a year is a good precaution.
Consider a booster for dryer hoses longer than 10 feet to ensure all the lint and hot air are properly vented.
Simple Tips for Dryer Safety
Here’s a summary and some more tips to prevent dryer fires:
- Make sure your appliances are professionally installed and grounded. If your dryer is gas-fired, make sure the gas lines are intact.
- Do not overload the dryer with too many clothes, which can increase the heat levels.
- Never operate the dryer when you are sleeping or not at home.
- Clean the lint trap after every use.
- Check the exhaust hose and vent periodically for lint buildup, and clear them when necessary.
- Keep the intake vents clear.
- Get professional service for any problems you can’t handle yourself.
The heating professionals at Home Comfort Experts are available to inspect your dryer vent and use our professional grade equipment to clean out your dryer from the lint screen all the way to outside your home if necessary. We serve Northern Indiana and Southwestern Michigan from twelve locations. Give us a call at (574) 255-4600 to learn about our complete heating, cooling and plumbing services.