Dryer Fire Facts
Clothes dryer fires are the cause of more than 15,000 fires every year in the United States, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. People die and get hurt because of fires started while doing laundry. In addition, several hundred people a year are exposed to carbon monoxide poisoning because dryer vents are set up improperly. Many fires occur in dryers that function perfectly. However, they might be neglected and not cleaned properly, which can lead to tragic results.
- 1. History
- A buildup of lint and reduced airflow is the perfect recipe for a clothes dryer fire. Lint catches fire easily. Dryer fires are a growing problem because many modern laundry rooms are on the upper floors. In the past, they were mostly in the basement and were situated against an outside wall. Now, they are in bathrooms, bedrooms, kitchens, and closets. That means they have vented much longer distances, with curves or sharp turns in them. Dryer vents are harder to get to and there are more areas for lint to accumulate. The best way to prevent dryer fires is to have a short, direct duct system.
- You can prevent dryer fires by properly installing the dryer in the first place. The duct should be made of solid metallic material. Foil and vinyl are combustible and the ducts that are rigid and often catch lint. The duct should be vented to the exterior, definitely not to the crawlspace or attic. Don’t crush or kink the duct to make it fit in tight spaces because this will limit airflow and increase the likelihood of fires. Keep the duct as short as possible and use a 4-inch diameter vent pipe, along with exterior exhaust hoods if possible. This will allow for even better airflow. Avoid using screws to hold the vent pipe together because they will catch extra lint and cause a buildup.
- It’s imperative to clean the lint filter before or after every load of clothes. If the load takes longer to dry than normal, that might be a hint that there is a buildup on the screen or in the exhaust duct. By keeping your dryer as lint-free as possible, you’ll limit the fire hazard and experience energy cost savings. In addition to removing lint by hand, use a vacuum or lint brush to remove lint from under the trap and other areas. Have the dryer dismantled and cleaned every one to three years by a qualified technician. Check the outside dryer vent while the dryer is on, as well, to make sure the air is escaping. If there is a blockage, you’ll need to disconnect the exhaust duct from the dryer. Also, check behind the dryer where lint can build up. Make sure it’s clean and clutter-free.
- Some older dryers come with foil or plastic, accordion-style ducting material. This is inferior to what most manufacturers now require–a corrugated semi-rigid or rigid metal duct. Plastic and foil trap lint more easily and are more likely to become crushed or kinked. Metal ducts allow for the best airflow to prevent dryer fires.
Drying clothes with chemicals on them can cause a dryer fire. Clothes soiled with volatile chemicals such as cleaning agents, cooking oil, gasoline, stains or finishing oils can ignite while under the heat of a dryer. The best bet is to wash the clothing a few times to remove as much of it as possible. Dry it on a clothesline if possible. If not, use the lowest heat setting on the dryer and make sure the cycle has a cool-down period at the end. It’s possible for the clothes to ignite after being dried, so don’t leave them sitting in the clothes dryer or piled in a laundry basket.