In 1999 the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (USCPC) developed a report called the “Report on Electric and Gas Clothes Dryers.” In that report they determined that of the 15,000 fires studied in one year, electric dryers were over 2.5 times more likely to be the cause of the fire than gas dryers. Fires originated most frequently from two places: dryer venting and the lint trap.
What are the warning signs that dangerous lint build up is occurring in your dryer and venting system? Well, the symptoms may include:
- Clothes take longer and longer to dry;
- Clothes don’t fully dry;
- Clothes are hotter than normal at the end of the drying cycle;
- The outside of dryer gets very hot;
- The outside exhaust vent flapper does not open very much indicating low exhaust velocity;
- Laundry room becomes more humid than it is usually;
- Burnt smell is evident in the laundry room.
To help prevent fires:
- Clean the lint screen/filter before or after drying each load of clothes. If clothing is still damp at the end of a typical drying cycle or drying requires longer times than normal, this may be a sign that the lint screen or the exhaust duct is blocked.
- Clean the dryer vent and exhaust duct periodically. Check the outside dryer vent while the dryer is operating to make sure exhaust air is escaping. If it is not, the vent or the exhaust duct may be blocked. To remove a blockage in the exhaust path, it may be necessary to disconnect the exhaust duct from the dryer. Remember to reconnect the ducting to the dryer and outside vent before using the dryer again.
- Clean behind the dryer, where lint can build up. Have a qualified service person clean the interior of the dryer chassis periodically to minimize the amount of lint accumulation. Keep the area around the dryer clean and free of clutter.
- Replace plastic or foil, accordion-type ducting material with rigid or corrugated semi-rigid metal duct. Most manufacturers specify the use of a rigid or corrugated semi-rigid metal duct, which provides maximum airflow. The flexible plastic or foil type duct can more easily trap lint and is more susceptible to kinks or crushing, which can greatly reduce the airflow.
- Take special care when drying clothes that have been soiled with volatile chemicals such as gasoline, cooking oils, cleaning agents, or finishing oils and stains. If possible, wash the clothing more than once to minimize the amount of volatile chemicals on the clothes and, preferably, hang the clothes to dry. If using a dryer, use the lowest heat setting and a drying cycle that has a cool-down period at the end of the cycle. To prevent clothes from igniting after drying, do not leave the dried clothes in the dryer or piled in a laundry basket.
You should clean your dryer hose and around it once a year, and inspect the vent and hose for any blockages at least every 6 months. If your dryer exhaust hose tube is longer than 10′ this may be a bit more difficult. And if it is longer than 10′, did you know that your dryer may be working extra hard to dry your clothes? Worse yet is if you have a long tube that goes up into the attic (or the eaves) and then out the roof. The warm moist air from the dryer enters the cold attic, and condensation forms in the exhaust tube. Do you know where this little story is going? Well, at first your dryer can’t dry as quickly because the tube is blocked by water. Eventually it will fill with enough water to cause the exhaust tube to split and guess where all that water goes? Through your ceiling, that is where! Trust me on this one, it happened to us in our old house. So why sit and allow this to happen to you.