Home fires caused by clothes dryers are often preventable, and sadly not uncommon. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, there are 2,900 dryer fires annually, causing 5 deaths, 100 injuries, and $35 million in damaged and destroyed property. Most of these fires occur during fall and winter; the top month is January. Failing to clean the dryer properly is the cause of over a third of these fires.
Pay attention to the dryer. If it is taking longer to dry your clothes, or they are still damp after finishing a drying cycle, there may be a problem. Here are some Do’s and Don’t's for clothes dryer safety.
• Have the dryer installed by a professional. This is not a DIY opportunity. Ask the installer to check that the electrical plug and outlet are appropriate.
• Read the manual that comes with your new dryer. If you inherit a dryer, you may be able to find the manual for that make and model online.
• Clean the lint filter both before and after each load. Scrub the lint filter with a nylon brush twice a year or more often if it gets clogged.
• Clean out the exhaust duct and dryer vent every three months. The duct is the large tube from the back of the dryer that sends hot air outside. The vent is the hole in the wall through which the duct empties. Both can become clogged with lint, which can send dirty air back into the house, overheat, or start a fire. You may need to disconnect the exhaust duct from the dryer and the vent in order to clean it out inside. Or you can call a professional to do this cleaning.
• Sweep behind and under the dryer regularly.
• Be sure there is a covering on the outside of the vent, to keep out dirt and weather. Check that the vent covering opens when the dryer is running. Look for insect and bird nests that may have been constructed in the vent opening.
• Keep the area around the dryer, indoors and outside, free of items that are flammable.
• Unplug or disconnect the dryer if you will be gone for an extended time.
• If the exhaust duct on your dryer is made of plastic or foil, replace it with either a rigid or semirigid corrugated metal duct. Plastic and foil ducts are too flexible; they trap lint easily and can crush, which prevents proper air flow.
• If the dryer is gas-powered, have it professionally inspected annually to ensure that the gas line and connections are secure and free of leaks.
Don’t's for the Dryer:
• Don’t overload the dryer.
• Don’t dry any item which states “dry away from heat” on the care label.
• Don’t dry anything containing foam, rubber, or plastic.
• Don’t dry fabrics that contain flammable materials (alcohol, gasoline, oil). Instead, dry them outside or in a well-ventilated room away from heat.
• Never run the dryer without a lint filter. If the lint filter is loose or damaged, replace it. If it is clogged, clean it.
• Don’t use cloth or wire to cover the vent opening. It can become clogged with lint.
• Don’t leave the dryer running if you go to bed or leave the house.
Treat your dryer well and it will last between ten and 25 years.