The dryer vent is a hidden source of fire hazard in every home containing this appliance. There are many potential causes of fires in the dryer, but there are also many steps you can take towards preventing dryer fires.
Common Causes of Dryer Fires
While most people assume that their lint traps catch all the lint, this is not entirely true. In fact, a substantial amount of lint does not get caught in the lint trap, but collects in other places instead. This can be especially true if dryer vents are too long, have too many bends, or if the dryer duct uses flimsy plastic or foil duct extenders.
A combination of lint accumulation and reduced airflow can create the ideal conditions for starting a fire. Lint, by itself, is a highly combustible material. When paired with an obstructed airflow, lint can quickly become an incendiary problem.
Placing Unsuitable Materials in the Dryer
Another reason can be placing unsuitable or combustible materials in the washer dryer. These can include clothes smeared with volatile chemicals such as cleaning agents, cooking oils, or finishing oils and stains. To minimize the potential for disaster, wash such clothing more than once to neutralize the amount of chemicals before putting them in the dryer. Or better still, line dry them to avoid the risk of combustion altogether.
If the exhaust vent gets crushed or suffers from improper installation, the end result may be a dryer fire. Both these problems can result in an insufficient airflow thus raising the operating temperature of the dryer. It is also crucial to consider adequate clearance space between the dryer and the wall. If the dryer is placed too close to the wall, then there is the possibility of crushing the venting materials, causing problems with airflow.
This is considered one of the major causes of dryer fires. To function safely, clothes dryers need to emit hot air outside the house. But when the dryer vent fills with lint that sneaks by the dryer’s filter, it fills in the exhaust duct. This blockage traps the air flow, causing excessive heat buildup.
Preventing Dryer Fires
Preventing dryer fires takes some vigilance, but is worthwhile in the long run. Take the following steps for clothes dryer maintenance to help in preventing fires:
- Check the lint filter or screen before and after each dryer cycle runs. If clothes are still damp when the cycle ends, it could be an indication of a dirty exhaust duct. A clean lint screen and filter will also dry clothes faster. As an added bonus, the dryer will use less energy.
- Inspect the exhaust duct and dryer vent frequently. It is important to monitor the outside dryer vent when the dryer is running to ensure that the exhaust air escapes properly. If this does not happen, then either the duct or the vent may be choked. To remove the blockage, you can disconnect the duct from the appliance and clear out the blockage. Just don’t forget to reconnect it back before running the dryer next time.
- Keep the surrounding area clean to prevent lint buildup. If you cannot see any buildup visually, call in a professional service provider to clean the chassis. Such periodic cleaning will help in keeping lint accumulation to a minimal. Also, it is recommended to clean the area around the dryer regularly and keep it clutter free.
- Use metal dryer ducts; these are more effective in preventing dryer fires. Experts say that flexible dryer ducts made from plastic or foil can be problematic since they can sag and permit lint deposits to build up at low points. Likewise, ridges can also trap lint. On the other hand, metal ducts whether solid or flexible, are considered safer since they do not sag. And should a fire start, a metal duct has a better chance of containing it.
- Practice dryer fire safety tips such as turning off the dryer when leaving home. It is advised to never leave the dryer running when not at home in case it malfunctions. Also, plug the appliance in a suitable outlet where its electrical requirements are met. Electrical outlets that are overloaded can trigger tripped circuits or blow fuses.
- Have the dryer installed by a professional. To minimize clothes dryer fire hazards, the dryer duct should vent to the exterior and installed in a place where only a minimal length of the exhaust duct is required. This practice prevents having too long a duct or too many bends in it.