Is Your Clothes Dryer a Potential Fire Hazard? A Message From The Geneva Fire Department

Is Your Clothes Dryer a Potential Fire Hazard?

Every year thousands of fires are caused by clothes dryers in the United States.  According to the U.S. Fire Administration, there are about 2,900 dryer fires across the U.S. each year which result in an estimated five deaths 100 injuries, and $35 million in property loss.  An important safety measure is to get your dryer vent cleaned and inspected annually.

The dangerous situation with clothes dryers is that lint and debris tend to gradually build up in the dryer vent, which causes less efficient venting, and which causes your dryer to heat up more than it’s designed to.  Gas clothes dryers have an additional hazard in that a clogged vent can result in a release of potentially deadly carbon monoxide into the home.

A clothes dryer cannot run efficiently when the vent is clogged.  The dryer will run at higher temperatures that it’s supposed to, which decreases the lifespan of the appliance.  The heating element could burn out and the safety controls could be overworked, both situations could cause a fire to ignite.

The leading factor in clothes dryer fires which take place in residential buildings is the failure to clean the exhaust ducts.  In addition to the accumulation of lint, blockage in dryer exhaust ducts also can occur from the nests of small birds, other animals, or from damages to the venting system itself.  Many people are simply unaware of the potential hazard caused by clogged ducts and that a dryer vent cleaning can prevent them from taking place.

Top 9 Tips to Prevent Clothes Dryer Fires:
1. Clean out the lint.  Clean out the lint trap after each use and once a year hire a professional to clean out the vent pipes.

2. Install with care.  Follow the manufacturer’s instructions when installing the vent pipe.  Use a short, straight pipe that is an adequate distance from the wall.  Reducing the bends in the dryer vent pipe creates fewer opportunities for lint to gather.  Invest in a dryer vent fan if you have to vent your dryer over a long distance.  Dryer vent fans increase the airflow through the duct every time you turn on your dryer forcing debris out.

3. Remove combustibles.  Cleaning supplies and other flammable liquids should not be kept near the dryer.  In addition, sweep out dust in the areas around and underneath your dryer regularly.

4. Use a metal dryer duct.  Metal ducts are better than foil or plastic ducts for two key reasons.  First, unlike foil or plastic ducts, metal ducts do not sag.  This is important because sagging ducts contribute to lint build up at low points.  Second, metal ducts are more likely to contain any fires that would start.

5. Read clothing tags and labels.  Always use caution when you are drying bath mats, padded bras, and bibs because they may contain rubber that should not be exposed to hot temperatures.  Also, if the label instructs you to tumble dry an item, follow the advice and do not dry at hotter temperatures.

6. Do not dry items that have been stained with volatile chemicals.  Wash clothing stained with flammable chemicals more than once and do not use the dryer to dry these items, opting for a clothes line dryer.

7. After each dryer use, check your clothes.  If your clothes do not feel dry or are extra hot after a normal drying cycle, then this may indicate that something is wrong.  Before using the dryer again, check for a plugged vent and clean out any lint.

8. Don’t leave your dryer unattended.  Do not leave a clothes dryer running if you leave home or when you go to bed.

9.Inspect your outdoor vent.  Check to make sure that your outdoor vent flap is not covered by snow or debris.

Dedicated to Our Community,
Chief Dale S. Arkenburg