Preventing Fires with Proper Dryer Maintenance

These days, pretty much everyone has a washer and dryer in their home. You probably use your dryer on a weekly (or daily) basis, depending on the amount of laundry your family produces. However, have you ever considered the fire risks associated with your dryer? According to the National Fire Protection Association, more than 16,000 home fires in 2010 were caused by laundry units including dryers and washers. This is a pretty shocking number, right? But don’t worry﹣it isn’t time to give up your dryer quite yet. With proper maintenance and and cleaning you can greatly reduce and eliminate your chances of a home fire caused by dryer negligence.


Keep the lint trap clean!

The easiest and most obvious way to decrease your chance of a dryer-related fire is to ALWAYS clean out the lint filter before tossing a new load of freshly cleaned laundry in to dry. When removing built-up lint from the filter also be sure to remove any that has built up around the drum. On this same note, NEVER operate your dryer without a lint filter in place.

Regularly clean your ducts.

In addition to keeping the lint trap clean and free of build up, it is important to regularly inspect and clean your dryer’s vent. To make sure your dryer is functioning at its best and not a posing a fire hazard to you and your family, you should set aside time to check your vent several times throughout the year and thoroughly clean your vent at least once a year.

The first sign that you have a dryer venting issue is an increase in your dryer’s normal dry time. If your dryer is still getting hot but not drying, there is most likely an issue in one of two places: directly behind the dryer where the vent hose connects or outside of the house at the vent termination. If the problem is originating behind the dryer, the hose could be pinched or crushed against the wall causing a restriction. If the issue is with the vent outside of the house, the vent termination may be clogged﹣especially if it has a grate or screen over the end to prevent birds and rodents from entering.

Some amount of lint will always bypass your dryer’s filter and come out through your vent. If there is a screen or grate over the end of the vent, it will tend to clog frequently and cause problems. For this reason we do not recommend any vent termination with a screen or grate. Instead, we recommend using a vent hood with a flap or shutter that opens when the dryer comes on and drops closed when it shuts off. This style will not clog like a screen; however, it still requires regular cleaning to ensure that the flap drops closed to prevent wildlife from building a home in your vent.

If you are noticing longer drying times do not wait to have the issue checked out by a professional, as this could be a fire hazard. You can test your vent by turning on the dryer and checking the outside vent to feel how much air is coming out. It should be a strong flow. If you feel very little air or none at all, stop using your dryer until the restriction has been corrected. If you continue to run the dryer with a clogged or restricted vent, your dryer heating element will overheat﹣causing serious and expensive damage. This will also cause lint to build up inside the cabinet of your dryer as the back pressure on the vent causes lint and air to be forced out around the drum seals and build up around the heater and motor causing a dangerous condition that will still be there after the vent has been cleaned. If you do not correct the venting issue your heater or safety fuses in the dryer will eventually burn out﹣leading to costly repairs. In some cases the lint inside the cabinet of the dryer is able to ignite before the safety fuses are able to shut of the heating circuit causing a fire inside the dryer cabinet. Do not ignore what your dryer is telling you.

Take it a step further.

To avoid the risk of fire it is also important to keep the area surrounding your dryer clean and free of dust and lint. Never store anything on top of your dryer, check behind it for fallen clothing or cleaning supplies, and take a peek underneath to ensure you don’t have lint building up out of eyesight.

Be careful what you dry.

First of all, be cautious about using liquid fabric softeners with all-cotton clothing, as these substances were shown to accelerate fabric burning speeds when added to rinse water in flammability tests conducted by Consumer Reports. Stick to dryer sheets if you need a softener, and avoid liquid softeners when possible. It also important to consider the sources of stains on clothing that you are putting into the dryer. If a stain is from volatile or flammable chemicals such as gasoline, cooking oil or certain cleaning agents it is best to stick to air drying these laundry items.

As you can see, with common sense and regular maintenance you can greatly reduce the chance of a home fire caused by your dryer. If you are still concerned about the risk of fire posed by your current dryer, or if you have recently corrected a clogged vent, you can alway contact us to come out to inspect, disassemble and professionally clean your dryer unit.