Thanks to Smokey the Bear, we all know who can prevent forest fires. The same is true for dryer fires — only you can stop these potentially deadly disasters from happening in your home. Here’s a quick (but important) refresher on dryer safety.
Clean the Lint Filter
This one might seem obvious, but lint accumulation is all too commonly a cause of dryer fires — particularly in the cooler months. The lint trap should be emptied before and after each load. Unfortunately, not everyone makes a habit of doing this.
“The most common mistake people make is that they don’t clean them,” Lorraine Carli of the National Fire Protection Association told Patch. “The majority of fires happen from buildup of lint. The easiest way to avoid it is to keep your lint filter and dryer exhaust vents clean on a regular basis.”
Clean the Dryer Vent
In addition to emptying the lint filter, homeowners need to check regularly that the dryer vent is clog-free. When debris begins to clog the dryer vent, the exhaust gases produced by the dryer begin to back up and create a potential fire hazard. Clogged dryer vents can also lead to short-circuiting and cause major electrical problems.
Some homeowners opt to clean dryer vents themselves, but doing so can be a time-consuming process that isn’t always effective. Calling in a professional can help prevent future clogs and eliminate any existing ones. Rather than just using a handyman, it’s best to bring in a dryer exhaust technician that is certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America. According to HomeAdvisor’s True Cost Guide, the average cost for professional dryer vent cleaning is $130.
Take Safety Precautions
Homeowners can also take these additional steps to prevent dryer fires:
Have the dryer installed and serviced by a professional: He or she should make sure the right plug and outlet are used and that the dryer is connected properly. The air exhaust vent pipe should not be restricted and the outdoor vent flap should open when the dryer is operating.
Plastic vinyl dryer vent hoses should not be utilized. Instead, steel tubes and an aluminum hose should be used to cut down on lint buildup and provide a barrier between a lint fire and the rest of the home.
Be smart about dryer usage: Never use the dryer without a lint filter. Don’t overload the dryer, and instead of running back-to-back cycles, let it cool down for 15-20 minutes between loads. Turn the dryer off when you’re sleeping or not at home.
Recognize Signs of Trouble
Dryer vents need to be cleaned before they reach the point of being a fire hazard. These are all signs the dryer vent needs to be cleaned:
- Clothing comes out of the dryer much hotter than normal
- Drying cycle takes longer than usual or clothing is still damp after running a normal cycle
- Laundry room feels much hotter than normal
- Lint filter fills up more quickly than usual
- Utility bills rise seemingly without reason
- Clothes from the dryer take on a musty smell
- Dryer sheets smell odd or break down more than usual