How to prevent a clothes dryer fire in your home
You might be starting your spring cleaning at your home now that we are in the middle of April, and one part of that cleaning should include something you probably haven't thought about: cleaning out your dryer to prevent a fire.
Annually, 2,900 dryer fires are reported in the U.S. They are estimated to cause five deaths, 100 injuries and $35 million in property loss.
The leading cause of home dryer fires is the failure to clean the dryer, resulting in flammable lint build up.
Dryers will normally run well with no issues when properly maintained.
First, you should always clean the lint filter after every use, especially if you are washing thick clothing, towels or blankets.
To prevent a fire, you need to check and clean behind the dryer, too.
"Check the hose that leads to the outside of the building and make sure that it is not kinked. It is free and clear from kinks. That it has a smooth bend if it does have a bend in it. That way the dryer lint does not get caught up in there and just build up over time," Captain Chuck Hartung, with the Chattanooga Fire Department, explained.
Eventually, lint will collect on the air exhaust vent pipe from the back of your dryer to the outside of your home. It can remain fluffy, or it will sweat and turn into a lint sludge.
This vent pipe should be cleaned at least once a year.
"If it's within their ability, it's a fairly simple operation to clean it out. You just take the hose loose from the back of the dryer, take the hose loose from the discharge that goes outside the building and clean it out. You can use a shop vacuum. You can use a broom. There are appliances that are sold in the market," Hartung said.
If you are not comfortable cleaning it yourself, you should consult a professional, especially since some vent pipes can extend for 20 to 40 feet.
"It either goes up a wall and out an attic, or it goes under the crawl space and shoots across probably another 30 feet," Emmit Gibbs of Ductz, with Indoor Air Professionals, said.
Professionals use a tool like a chimney sweep to thoroughly remove any build up. A cable spins through the pipe and pushes out the lint.
If you don't know where your outdoor vent is, try to find it on an outside wall or your roof to make sure it is not clogged. Some may be in unconventional places.
"A particular case that I am dealing with now, it was vented into a soffit, so they never even knew that they had one. It was just blowing into one area. It clogged up, and basically eventually it led to the fire that they had with their dryer," Gibbs said.
Fortunately, this home's dryer fire was contained to the dryer only, which is the case for the majority of fires in a clothes dryer.
Signs of a clogged dryer vent that needs to be cleaned are if your clothes are taking longer than usual to dry or your dryer is very hot to the touch.
Also, you should never start your dryer and then leave your home with it on.
Like with all fires, make sure you have a working smoke detector in your home to alert you. You should always immediately exit and then call 911 for help.