Housekeeping tips to prevent dryer fires

dryer-lint-filterCould you live without your clothes dryer? For many people, the clothes dryer is indispensable, but an improperly installed appliance could easily catch on fire.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, fire departments respond to roughly 2,900 clothes dryer fires each year, with an estimated $35 million in property damage. The leading cause of these fires was the failure to properly clean the dryers (34 percent), followed by dust, fiber and lint (28 percent) and clothing (27 percent.)

Try these easy tips to keep your dryer in good shape:

  • Have your clothes dryer professionally installed
  • Clean the lint filter before and after each load of laundry
  • Clean lint out of the vent pipe every six months
  • Replace coiled-wire foil or plastic venting with rigid, non-ribbed metal duct
  • Inspect the venting system behind your dryer for restrictions, and make sure the outdoor vent flap opens when the dryer is operating
  • Keep the area around the dryer free of items that can burn
  • Don’t overload the dryer
  • Don’t dry items made of foam, rubber or plastic
  • Have a professional inspect gas dryers annually to assure that supply lines and connections are intact and free of leaks

A clothes dryer that is not working properly has an increased risk of catching fire. Signs your dryer might need service:

  • Clothes are taking longer than one cycle to dry
  • Clothes come out hotter than usual
  • There is no visible lint on the lint trap
  • Dryer repeatedly stops during a cycle
  • The top of the dryer is hot to the touch while running

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15 Responses to “Housekeeping tips to prevent dryer fires”

  1. Stephen Schwaller Jr

    I Owen the company The Dryer Vent Dude Inc. These are all great things to watch out for. I offer free inspections for Lincoln Ne. And surrounding areas. There are 3 times you should have your dryer vent inspected. annually is one,any time you buy a previously owned home, as well as when you get a new dryer.

  2. maria smith

    Yes. It’s so important to make sure to clean out the dryer. Don’t rely on a deep cleaning for that one. Do it yourself every time!

  3. Rob

    How does one ‘clean’ the clohes dryer?

  4. Ken

    To clean the dryer, here are the steps that I perform:
    1. disconnect from electric power and/or gas connection.
    Note: if you are unfamiliar with disconnecting the gas connection, call a professional to perform that task.
    2. move the dryer away from the wall,
    3. disconnect the dryer vent tube from the back of the dryer
    4. remove the dryer back panel, usually about 10 or 12 hex-head sheet metal screws (don’t loose the screws!)
    5. lift the back panel off of the dryer
    6. Using a heavy duty vacuum cleaner with a flexible wand, vacuum out all visible areas of lint, making sure to get the lint/dust in the heater box, located on right side of dryer back as you look at the back of the dryer.
    7. For the more adventurous, remove the vent to blower panel (usually on left hand side of dryer back, this is what the lint filter is connected to on top access filters), and vacuum out the corresponding duct.
    8. For front mounted lint filters, your best access is to remove the front panel and continue vacuuming out the areas.
    9. Now that the dryer lint has been remove, start on the vent duct, using a vent brush to knock loose the lint and vacuum out.
    10. Reconnect all pieces in reverse order.
    11. For more detailed instructions on cleaning the dryer, try the following website, http://www.repairclinic.com/

  5. Grace

    I also scrub the lint trap with dish soap and a brush every month. This will clear up those little holes so that the air circulates without obstruction. This is extra important if you use softener in the dryer because it causes more buildup.

  6. Ross

    Lint will not free burn!

    • Ken

      Dryer lint will free burn if you use dryer sheets (static cling release sheets). The oils in the dryer sheets contain oils and paraffin which is flammable and impregnates the dryer lint. My son’s Boy Scout troop proved out this theory by collecting cotton dryer lint from 2 dryers, one using dryer sheets and the other with no dryer sheets. The dryer sheet lint would free burn, while the non-dryer sheets only smouldered. The experiment was to explain why some of the lint firestarters worked and others only smouldered.

  7. Tony

    How do you clean the filter BEFORE and AFTER each load?

    • AliceB

      I always check the lint trap before I dry a load of clothes, to make sure no one else has left it full of lint. I clean it out after every load that I dry – that’s how you “clean” it before and after each load!

  8. Lindy Lou

    My dryer vent pipe to the outside is 15 feet long.
    How do i clean it out! Thanks

    • Ken

      Try a chimney flue brush with about 15 feet of extension rods. Remember to disconnect the dryer vent from the dust before your do this to keep from pushing the lint back into the cleaned dryer.

      The other option assumes that the dust is a straight run, get a wooden disc just smaller than the duct diameter, wrap a soft rag around it and attach a long cord to it and snake the cord to the outside. You might have better luck getting the cord outside by using an electricians fishing tape and connect the free end to the wooden disk and then pull the disk outside.

  9. Craig

    They left off the most important point…
    Never run ANY appliance when it cannot be monitored. This includes leaving the house and going to sleep while the dryer is on.

  10. Kevin

    Pretty basic stuff, but important.

  11. Robert

    A neat trick we learned to clean an inaccessible pipe is to hook up a big shop vac to the pipe and suck out as much as you can, and then hook up the vacuum to blow air out the pipe (from inside out to the yard)
    The first time we did this, it looked like a bomb went off, the lint cloud was so big!
    The neighborhood smelled like laundry for half an hour while the lint settled.

  12. Nance

    I take my dryer apart to clean as well and I wash every part. I clean my lint filter after every cycle with a brush.

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