Dry Safely - Preventing Dryer Fires

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Whether you have just started doing you own laundry, or have been washing and drying your family’s clothes for years, you should read the following information about clothes-dryer fires and safety tips to help prevent a dryer fire.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration’s statistics as of January 2007, clothes dryer fires account for more than 15,000 fires, 15 deaths and 400 injuries every year – with 80% of those fires occurring in residential structures.

Most newly constructed homes seem to place washer and dryers in more hazardous areas of the home, such as interior spaces away from exterior walls, thereby hindering the venting process.

How do dryer fires happen?

“Failure to clean” is sited as the most common reason for dryer fires – and that doesn’t just include the lint trap. A lot of lint is trapped by the dryer’s filter, but some lint still travels up the vent with the moist air, some of it sticking to the sides of the vent along the way. The build-up of this lint reduces the air flow and if not cleaned out regularly, can become a flammable source. Other ways that your dryer exhaust vent can become blocked include, crimping of the exhaust tubing, small nests from birds or animals.

A fire can occur when the blocked exhaust vent causes overheating to the point that lint, combustible items in the dryer or nearby ignite.

Other contributing factors besides “failure to clean” include electrical failure, mechanical failure and misuse of material or product. For dryers not located adjacent to an exterior wall where exhaust is vented directly outside, venting systems can become a contributing factor – especially those with flexible ducts.

How to prevent dryer fires

Many of us take our appliances for granted, until something stops working. Putting off simple maintenance until it is too late shortens the life of the device, wastes energy and endangers lives.  We would like to share some dryer tips to  make you aware of steps you can take to prevent those things from happening.

Proper dryer maintenance is essential in preventing fires. You should disconnect, inspect and clean your dryer’s duct and venting system on a yearly basis. This is especially important for older dryers that do not have safety features such as temperature limit controls or moisture sensors.

Check to be sure that the exhaust tube is as short as possible and is not bent or crimped, impeding air flow.

Clean your lint filter before each use. If the screen is ripped or torn, replace it immediately.

Clean out the exhaust pipe at the rear of the dryer on a regular basis.

Never put items that have been in contact with combustible substances in the dryer, even if they have been washed – line dry instead. This includes items such as mops, cleaning rags, or soiled clothing.

Do not place synthetic materials – rubber, plastic, foam - in the dryer. Examples include, but are not limited to pillows, bath mats, sneakers and athletic gear.

Never leave the house when the dryer is operating.

Don’t go to bed with the dryer running.

If you have a gas dryer, have it inspected yearly by a professional.

Keep the area around your dryer free of flammable materials, such as paper, boxes and cleaning fluids.

Wash the lint filter occasionally to remove residue left behind from fabric softeners and dryer sheets.

If you notice that your clothes are taking longer to dry than usual, you may have a problem with blockage. In order to prevent fires and save energy costs, you should address the problem immediately.

Woodeze 5GA-RLE202 LintEater Rotary Dryer Vent Cleaningcan make the job easier, however if you are uncomfortable with the do-it-yourself methods, there are professional dryer vent cleaning companies available to help if you are unsure of what to do.

A great resource to guide you in the direction of a qualified professional is the Chimney Safety Institute of America website, where they have a list of Certified Dryer Exhaust Technicians across the country.