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Fire & Water - Cleanup & Restoration

3 Causes of Dryer Fires & 5 Ways To Prevent Them

11/17/2020 (Permalink)

photo of after a dryer fire in the basement of connecticut home. debris on floor from dryer vent fire Taking steps to prevent a dryer vent fire in your Connecticut home should be a part of your regular maintenance plan.

Most households do multiple loads of laundry per week in Connecticut, resulting in high use of their clothes dryer. But when was the last time the lint trap, dryer vent, or the exhaust duct was cleaned out? 

With an estimated 15,970 home dryer fires occurring each year, it's important to take steps to prevent clothing or dryer vent fires. Here, we will go over dryer fire causes and how to help prevent them.

Causes of Clothes Dryer Fires

A fire in your dryer can be caused by many things, which fall into the following three categories:

  1. Failure to Clean
  2. Improper Dryer Use
  3. Mechanical Problems

1.  Failure to Clean

The leading cause of these home fires is the failure to clean dirty lint filters and dryer vents. Over time, lint will get past the filter in your dryer and build up in the vent system. It's also possible for other debris like dirt, grass, or other items not washed away in your washing machine to build up in the vent system.

When the dryer vents are not cleaned, this may also cause lint or debris buildup in the outdoor vent. This buildup can be clearly seen from the outside of your home and is a major sign your system should be cleaned as soon as possible. It's also possible for pests to make a nest in the exterior dryer vent of your home and cause a fire.

2.  Improper Dryer Use

Another common cause of dryer fires is using the appliance outside of recommended guidelines. Putting items that cannot go in a dryer, overstuffing, or drying items at the incorrect temperature all fall under improper use. When you do not follow recommended guidelines, you are putting the dryer at risk for a fire.

3.  Mechanical Problems

As with any appliance, mechanical problems always pose a risk for a fire hazard. Faulty wiring, damage to electrical components, or improper installation could cause heating elements to malfunction and cause a dryer fire. Installing dryer vent ducts that cannot withstand high heat can also cause a dryer vent fire.

Preventing Dryer Fires in Connecticut

1.  Clean the lint filter after every single use.

This one simple action can help prevent the leading cause of dryer fires - lint buildup. A single load of laundry can leave a surprising amount of lint behind in the filter. When this filter isn't cleaned, the lint can build up and create the perfect fire starter when using the dryer on high heat. You should also never use your dryer without a lint filter or one that is loose, damaged, or clogged.

2.  Clean out the vent pipe and outdoor vent regularly.

Its recommended to perform this cleaning about every three months in your home to best prevent lint buildup and a possible fire. Similar to the need to clean the lint filter, buildup of lint in the vent system causes a huge risk of a dryer vent fire.

Signs your dryer vent system needs to be cleaned are:

  • Clothing taking longer and longer to dry over time
  • Clothing not fully drying
  • Clothing is hotter than normal when taken out of the dryer
  • Outside vent doesn't open much or at all
  • Outside of the dryer is very hot
  • Laundry room is more humid than usual (Lack of airflow)
  • Burning smell

3.  Don't forget to clean under and behind your dyer.

Over time, lint can buildup in places that it really shouldn't, such as behind or underneath the dryer. This accumulation takes place over a few years, as most lint gets trapped in the filter or exits through the dryer duct system. This cleaning may be best performed by a professional that knows all the places lint may hide in your dryer and pose a fire hazard.

4.  Install the proper dryer duct.

Many recommend the use of a metal dryer duct opposed to flexible foil or plastic ducts. This is because flexible and plastic ducts may sag, have corners and turns, or have ribs that make it easier for lint to get stuck and buildup. The best dryer duct would be a straight, metal vent that directs debris right outside with little room for getting stuck. Metal ducts are also favorable to aluminum or plastic, as they can better contain a dryer vent fire if one occurs.

5.  Don't put flammable items in the dryer.

This may seem obvious, but many more items can become flammable in a dryer than you may think. Do not put the following items in your dryer to prevent a fire:

  • Foam
  • Rubber
  • Plastic
  • Items which state "Dry away from heat"
  • Items that have been in flammable liquids, such as rags soaked with alcohol, cooking oils, or gasoline

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