Did you know that according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), every 24 seconds a fire department responds to a fire in the United States? Thousands of these fires were started in homes by clothes dryers which result in deaths, injuries and property damage in the millions.
Most of these fires could be prevented by proper maintenance of your clothes dryer. The leading cause of fires initiating in a clothes dryer was a buildup of dust, fiber or lint due to failure to clean the vent. Here are a few signs that it is time to clean your dryer vent (please note that best practice is to clean your dryer vent annually, regardless of the presence of these symptoms).
Clothes smelling musty after removal from the dryer
Clothes remaining damp after a dryer cycle
Clothes feeling unusually hot to the touch
The laundry room itself feeling warmer than usual
Exorbitant amounts of lint found in your lint trap
The dryer vent flap on the exterior of your home not opening properly
A visual check of the exterior dryer vent flap showing debris stuck inside it
Understanding the signs is only half of the battle. Here are 10 tips on how to prevent dryer fires and keep your dryer clean.
1) Clean the dryer lint filter before and after each load of laundry. I find a soft bristled brush removes more than you would with just your fingertips.
2) Use a brush or vacuum attachment to clean out the portal of the lint filter. For a more thorough cleaning, try using 14” surgical clamps, which act like giant tweezers to pick out clumps of lint.
3) Be sure to replace your accordion style duct-work with rigid metal duct-work. The accordion style duct-work has a tendency to trap lint in the ridges or low points if they sag or twist. Rigid metal ducts have smooth walls allowing good air flow and reduction of build-up. Be sure to use metal clamps or foil tape to join sections rather than sheet metal screws which can also catch lint.
4) Check the exterior dryer vent flap to be sure that it is free of debris and opens freely.
5) Don’t always trust lint build-up indicator lights on your dryer. It has been noted that they are not effective for detecting partial blockages of vent duct-work according to Consumer Reports.
6) Be sure to clean your dryer duct annually, by disconnecting your dryer from the power source, and if a gas dryer – turn off the gas valve near the dryer. Slide your dryer away from the wall to access the vent (again being mindful of any gas line connection). Disconnect the duct pipe from the dryer and vacuum the dryer and duct, re-assemble, check joints, return dryer to its position and reconnect power/turn on the gas valve. Finally, take this time to clean the floor under the dryer where lint and dust accumulate.
7) If you have any clothing that you have washed that were stained with flammable substances such as gas, cooking oil, or cleaning agents, wash them more than once and hang them to dry. If you must use a dryer, select the lowest heat setting and a drying cycle that contains a cool-down period.
8) If a fire does start – DO NOT OPEN THE DRYER DOOR. Leave the premises immediately and call the fire department.
9) Be sure to turn off the dryer if you are leaving your home. Never leave the dryer running when you are not home.