Can Clothes Dryers Cause Fires? Yes, if Not Properly Maintained
Here are fast facts about fires caused by a home appliance almost every household has – clothes dryers.
- Nearly 3,000 blazes break out annually started by clothes dryers
- Due to those blazes, an approximate $35 million in property damages are reported each year along with 100 injuries and a handful of deaths.
- The No. 1 reason for fires in clothes dryers is failure to clean the lint filter
- The bulk of clothes dryer fires occur between September and March.
Fall can help serve as reminder to consumers to check their clothes dryers and make sure they are running safely.
“Doing laundry is most likely part of your every day routine,” according to the National Fire Protection Association. “But did you know how important taking care of your clothes dryer is to the safety of your home? With a few simple safety tips you can help prevent a clothes dryer fire.”
Among those safety tips is to ensure the clothes dryer was – or is – installed by a professional and that it is electrically grounded using the correct plug and outlet. The duct on the back of the clothes dryer should be cleaned regularly by a company that specializes in such work. A clogged duct is almost as bad as a full lint filter and will result in flames.
“If you notice that your dryer takes longer to dry laundry than it used to, that’s a clue that there may be a blockage in the dryer vent system,” Consumer Reports write in an article titled “How to Prevent Dryer Fires.” “When you’re drying a load, go outside and look at the vent. Do you see or feel exhaust air? If not, the vent or exhaust duct may be blocked with lint.”
It is recommended that the duct should be cleaned at least every year. As for the lint filter, consumers should clean it before and after every load of laundry. The lint filter’s is to collect lint. However, the anatomy of the clothes dryer is such that the lint filter sits near the heating element, where temperatures soar to 500 degrees.
“A good habit to adopt during your laundry routine would be to clean the lint screen before and after every drying cycle,” according to CompactAlliance.com. “This is an obvious first line of defense of dryer fire prevention. In addition, wiping down the interior of the dryer will remove excess lint buildup that the screen fails to catch. This is a less obvious step that most people neglect to do, but is important all the same. It is crucial that you never run a dryer without a lint filter either, as this is removing this built-in defense against hazardous lint buildup. This may seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised how often it happens.”
Another safety tip is to keep the clothes dryer’s perimeter free of items such as cardboard, chemicals, rags, etc., that can combust.
“Dryer lint is not the only flammable that should be considered and kept clear of the heat of the dryer unit,” according to CompactAlliance.com. “Anything flammable should be swept up and disposed of before it piles up and becomes a fire hazard. Cleaning up dust and lint may be a hassle, but vacuuming it up is easier than dealing with the aftermath of a fire. On the same note, do not store cleaning products, boxes and baskets of clothing around the dryer because they may also cause a fire to start, which could spread quickly. While this is an extreme situation, keeping the area free of clutter is a vital step toward fire prevention.”
Experts not only suggest disconnecting the clothes dryers if homeowners will be away for long periods of time, they also want against running the clothes dryer before leaving the house to do errands or pick up the children from school, for example.
“For you own safety, consider running the dryer only when you are home and awake,” according to CompactAlliance.com. “It is also a good idea to keep a fire extinguisher in your laundry room, just in case something does go wrong.”
As Fire Safety Prevention Week nears (it is Oct. 3 through 9, 2021, and this year’s theme is “Learn the Sounds of Fire Safety!”), it is a good time for the entire family to know the risks of clothes dryer fires and remain diligent. Says Sparky, “In a fire, mere seconds can mean the difference between a safe escape and a tragedy. Fire safety education isn’t just for school children. Teenagers, adults, and the elderly are also at risk in fires, making it important for every member of the community to take some time every October during Fire Prevention Week to make sure they understand how to stay safe in case of a fire.”