Washing and drying clothes is normally part of our daily or weekly routine. However, it is crucial to keep your clothes dryer in proper working condition to maintain the safety of your home and your family. Ensuring that you avoid these specific bad habits can help you avoid a potentially tragic house fire.
1. Professional Installation
Professional technicians can ensure the proper and careful installation of your dryer. These professionals should be knowledgeable about all different kinds of units–from gas and electric dryers to washer/dryer combos. These technicians are familiar with most manufacturer recommendations, such as the proper installation of the vent pipe.
A technician would explain how reducing bends in the pipe is important because it creates few opportunities for lint to gather. If the distance from the vent to your dryer is substantial, they can install a dryer vent fan for you. This is an automatic electric device that speeds up airflow through the duct each time the dryer runs. Having a professions install and service your dryer unit for you can help ensure that any potential hazard is handled properly.
2. Regular Servicing
Experts suggest that the primary cause of clothes dryer fires is failure to clean and maintain them. Check behind the dryer where lint has a tendency to build up. You should clean your dryer annually and perform inspections of the hose and vent for any blockages twice a year.
It is a good idea to consider scheduling a qualified service person to clean the interior of the dryer chassis annually. This will minimize the amount of lint that accumulates as well as give you a professional opinion of the safety status of your unit. A professional can also inspect the venting and exhaust system. To ensure that that this procedure is done correctly, employ only certified dryer exhaust technicians.
3. Keep the Surrounding Area Free of Flammables
Dryer lint is not the only flammable that should be considered and kept clear of the heat of the dryer unit. Anything flammable should be swept up and disposed of before it piles up and becomes a fire hazard. Cleaning up dust and lint may be a hassle, but vacuuming it up is easier than dealing with the aftermath of a fire.
On the same note, do not store cleaning products, boxes and baskets of clothing around the dryer because they may also cause a fire to start, which could spread quickly. While this is an extreme situation, keeping the area free of clutter is a vital step toward fire prevention.
4. Clean the Lint Filter Before and After Each Load of Laundry
The most common sources of ignition in dryer fires are household dust and lint. They collect within the dryer cavity, which sits closely to the heating elements. Here, temperatures can reach 550°, which can easily start a fire. Neglecting to clean our your lint filter is something that you should never do.
A good habit to adopt during your laundry routine would be to clean the lint screen before and after every drying cycle. This is an obvious first line of defense of dryer fire prevention. In addition, wiping down the interior of the dryer will remove excess lint buildup that the screen fails to catch. This is a less obvious step that most people neglect to do, but is important all the same.
It is crucial that you never run a dryer without a lint filter either, as this is removing this built-in defense against hazardous lint buildup. This may seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised how often it happens.
5. Use Only Rigid or Flexible Metal Venting Material
Most clothes dryer makers specify the use of flexible or rigid metal venting material for sustaining proper drying time and airflow. Accordion-type ductwork can trap lint, create clogs and increase blockages. Any plastic or coiled wire foil dryer venting should be replaced immediately with rigid non-ribbed metal ducts. Buying from a reputable vendor is key to ensure that your unit is up to the required safety standards.
As always, it is a great idea to do your research on any major appliance before purchase. Looking at the website of the unit to ensure it is coming from a trustworthy source,as well as researching customer reviews can help you make an educated decision.
6. Ensure Air Exhaust Vent Pipe is Unrestricted
Blocked dryer vents are one of the leading causes of dryer fires. It is challenging to discern when the vents are clogged. Some people are completely unaware that the vents require regular cleaning. However, it is vital to understand that lint accumulates on a grand scale within the hoses, and when it compounds it can create a serious problem. The buildup restricts airflow, which may cause overheating and fire.
In between professional inspections, clean the outside exhaust vent regularly. It is best to check this when your dryer is running by making sure that the exhaust air is escaping properly. If you cannot feel any air, it is likely that there is a lint accumulation clogging the vent outlet. This might require you to disconnect the exhaust vent from the dryer to remove the clog. Remember to reconnect the ducting to the outside vent and dryer before you use the dryer again. If you are unsure of how to do this, it is always recommended that you contact the manufacturer for help or hire a professional.
7. Do Not Overload
It’s easy to procrastinate on laundry, especially when you have a busy schedule. However, this can lead to you saving all of your dirty laundry to be cleaned on the same day, and it’s easy to use this as an excuse to overload your dryer, which can potentially be a safety hazard.
A heavy load is too hard on the dryer and is the most common cause of it breaking down. In addition to downtime and repair costs, an overloaded dryer can cause the drum belt, spindle bearings and pulleys to work overtime, producing higher than average temperatures. When this happens, the friction can ignite a spark and cause a fire.
This might be the easiest cause of dryer fires and malfunctions to avoid. Keep organized and space your laundry loads out to a few times a week. If your schedule makes this difficult or unreasonable, it might be a better idea to simply take the time to split your laundry load into two or three loads instead, and just take a slightly longer (albeit safer) time to take care of this necessary chore.
8. Inspect Gas Lines
Qualified professionals should inspect the gas line and connection to ensure that they are free of leaks and intact. Gas leaks are incredibly dangerous and can cause many problems apart from a dryer fire. If you observe a burning smell when you run your dryer, immediately discontinue use of your unit and call the manufacturer as soon as possible. Avoid the area of the suspected gas leak at all times.
9. Use the Correct Plug & Outlet
Accurate grounding of dryers is essential to proper functioning. Verify that you are using the correct electrical plug and outlet according to the manufacturer’s instructions. A good way to ensure that you are doing this is by having a licensed professional install your dryer unit for you.
Be sure to double-check all connections regularly and observe any changes. Immediately discontinue use if anything looks wrong, loose or discolored. Overloaded electrical sockets often result in tripped circuit breakers or blown fuses, which may lead to a house fire.
10. Never Run the Dryer When You Leave Home or Are Sleeping
We all have probably caved to convenience and thrown a load of clothes into the dryer before heading to work or running errands. However, if a fire starts while you are gone, you cannot stop it early. In addition, if you are asleep, it may be too late before you realize that your house has caught fire. For you own safety, consider running the dryer only when you are home and awake. It is also a good idea to keep a fire extinguisher in your laundry room, just in case something does go wrong.
A clothes dryer that is not working correctly increases the risk of fire. Look for signs that your clothes dryer is not working correctly and any potential increases in the risk of fire. Indicators to keep an eye out for are things like a lack of visible lint on the lint trap, the top of the dryer being hot to the touch while running and clothes take longer than one cycle to dry. Other indications of potential trouble are clothes that come out hotter than usual and the dryer stopping repeatedly during a cycle.
Do not forget to clean the heat vents on the back of your clothes dryer. Once a year, pull your dryer out and clean the vents in the back with your vacuum. Lint likes to accumulate back there, and if it gets too hot, it can quickly start a house fire. Do not take the risk of losing your home or family members and keep your clothes dryer serviced, maintained and clean.