When it comes to home fire hazards, you may think of electrical shorts or fireplace accidents. But home clothes dryers are the source of thousands of house fires each year. With more people at home during the coronavirus pandemic, the washer and dryer are working overtime, making safe dryer operation more important than ever. How do dryer fires happen? What can you do to prevent one?
Your lint trap can cause a dryer fire
Many dryer fires occur when accumulated lint ignites. These tiny fibers are highly flammable and, with enough heat, can flash into flame. Here are some tips for preventing lint fires.
- Pull and clean your dryer’s lint filter between every load of clothes.
- At the opposite end of the dryer vent’s path, check the duct where it exits through your home’s exterior wall. If your vent cover is a wire mesh screen, over time it will clog completely shut. (In many cities, screen covers are a building code violation.) Replace screen covers with a hinged flap vent that opens upward or outward when in use but closes afterward.
- Every couple of months, scoot your dryer away from the wall to check underneath and behind it for lint buildup.
- If the vent duct between your dryer and the outside exit is lengthy, have an electrician install a vent fan that will step up airflow to push lint completely out.
- If the dryer generates plenty of warmth during a cycle but clothes are not drying as they should, there is probably a lint blockage somewhere in the duct, usually in the dryer lint trap or at the exit on the outside wall.
- Replace flexible vent hoses from the dryer to the wall with a straight metal duct. Flexible hoses develop kinks and dips that can trap lint.
- Every couple of months, clean inside the ducting from each end by pulling the outside vent cover and disconnect the dryer inside. You can hire a professional to handle this job.
Additional safety measures
Here are some additional steps you can take to reduce the risk of a dryer fire.
- Do not dry floor mats, place mats or any item with rubber backing. Instead, lay these out to air dry.
- Do not dry rags that have been used with solvent cleaners or flammable chemicals, even if they’ve been washed.
- Store flammable materials and chemicals away from the dryer.
- Run the dryer only when you are home.
- To be extra safe, don’t use the high heat setting. Low heat takes longer to dry clothes but is safer.
- Make sure that a functioning smoke alarm is installed in or near your laundry room.
Related – Electricity: Your Home’s Risky Resource