Photo of hand removing dirty lint screen of dryer while doing laundry

Chicago Home and Lifestyles –  Clothes dryer fires

Photo of hand removing dirty lint screen of dryer while doing laundry

I stay up to date with the goings-on in my neighborhood, and last week I was sad to learn that a nearby neighbor lost his home due to a fire that started in his clothes dryer! Thankfully, no one was hurt, but the home was completely lost.  Dryer fires are the most preventable type of fire, but are also the most prevalent this time of year. Here’s why:

Dryers work by forcing hot air through a drum to dry the clothes. It is possible to have as much as a gallon of water in a full load of wet clothes. Lint, consisting of small fibers from the clothes, is created as the clothes tumble in the drum. Much of the lint will be trapped by the lint screen but some is also carried further into the system by the moist air. Lint is highly combustible and leads to reduced airflow, making it a fire hazard. Other blockages can occur as well, such as birds or small animal nests and damage to the vent itself. Reduced airflow of any kind can be a serious hazard. 

So, what can we do to prevent these fires? 

Always clean the removable lint screen after every load. Buy a dryer vent brush, found at your local hardware store. They are long and flexible to reach in and pull-out lint. Every few months remove the cover from the dryer to expose the drum, and vacuum out any visible lint and debris.

 Always use the correct type of vent. Dryer vents should be made of metal and smooth on the inside. They should vent directly to the outside, not the attic, eaves, soffits or crawl spaces. Flexible vents are not recommended even if they are made from foil (which is not much better than plastic). These vents are not sturdy, they can twist and bend giving hot air a place to condense and attract lint. Plastic vents can pull up a fire in the dryer to engulf the entire house! Many homes do still have these flexible vents as they are inexpensive and easy to install. If you have one of these, I recommend you check and clean it every three months. 

Don’t dry materials not recommended, like foam backed rugs and athletic shoes. Notice when clothes seem to take longer than usual to dry, it could mean there is a blockage.

 Do not operate your dryer at night while sleeping. No appliance should be used at night, especially one that generates heat. While dryer fire fatalities are low, most happen when we are asleep!

No matter what kind we have, we all should check and clean our dryer and vent often, and do whatever else we can to prevent a fire.

Kathleen Weaver-Zech and Dean’s Team Chicago