According to the National Fire Protection Association, one out of every 22 home fires in the US between 2006 and 2010 was caused by a washer or dryer, with 92% of those fires caused by dryers alone. The same organization stated that of the fires caused by washer and dryers, the leading cause of fire was failure to properly clean the dryer (32%) followed by mechanical malfunction (22%). While mechanical malfunction and other unknown causes aren’t things you can actively foresee, there are some things you can do to reduce your risk of a dryer fire occurring.
Proper Installation of Dryers
Whether gas or electric, your dryer must be installed properly. If you have purchased an electric dryer, make sure you have an electrician check your system to make sure it is up to code and able to support the power the dryer needs. Gas dryers should always be installed by a professional who can ensure the gas lines are connected properly and check to make sure there are no leaks. Even a gas dryer needs electricity for power, so you’ll still need to be sure you’re using the correct connection and outlet type.
Be Aware of Lint
Lint is one of the most common causes of dryer fires because it builds up, blocks vents, and is often not cleaned out of the dryer properly or often enough. Lint is considered a highly combustible substance and can catch on fire easily. Lint that isn’t cleaned up can cover your vents and ultimately begin to build up on the heating element inside the dryer. This ultimately leads to a scenario where the dryer overheats and catches on fire. You can avoid this type of fire by cleaning your lint filters between every load of laundry.
Maintenance and Venting
Improper general maintenance is a major contributing factor to dryer fires. A clothes dryer needs to vent properly so that exhaust can leave the house. When the exhaust is unable to vent away from the dryer, the inside temperature of the dryer can raise and cause overheating, which can ultimately lead to a fire.
The venting system should be checked during the installation process to be sure the exhaust can escape the dryer and house properly. Make sure the vents aren’t damaged or crushed and make sure the ventilation tubes are made out of rigid corrugated semi-rigid metal materials – not plastic, vinyl, or aluminum. Make sure the vents and ducts are cleaned on a regular basis – generally monthly.
A few other preventative measures will ensure dryer safety. This includes taking special care when drying clothing that have been exposed to oils or flammable materials. To remove as much of the flammable material from the fabric, wash those clothing items more than once before drying. It’s preferable to line-dry those clothing items, but if you must use the dryer you should use the lowest heat setting possible.
Finally, never run your clothes dryer while you are not home. Considering the quick damage a dryer fire can cause, you’ll always want to be home to take action if there is some sort of malfunction.