The dryer is among the most dangerous appliances in your home. Failure to clean and maintain the dryer is a leading cause of fire. In fact, one out of every 22 house fires is caused by a dirty, neglected dryer. In 2010, this amounted to nearly 17,000 fires, resulting in 51 civilian deaths, 380 civilian injuries and $236 million in property damage. These numbers remain on the rise as people continually fail to stay on top of proper dryer maintenance, which is the number one reason dryer fires start.
Imagine a neglected dryer with exhaust hoses blocked by years of accumulated lint, dust and clothing fibers. The high temperatures inside the dryer get even hotter when air fails to circulate properly. This overheating can be enough to ignite the very lint that blocks airflow in the first place. You can prevent this by cleaning and maintaining your dryer!
In addition to stopping a fire in its tracks, proper dryer maintenance and cleaning can also help you save on operating costs. A clean dryer functions much more efficiently than a dirty one, helping your clothes dry faster and with lower energy consumption. Follow these dryer maintenance and cleaning tips to prevent a fire and save every month on clothes drying costs.
mAINTAIN YOUR DRYER
Empty the lint filter
Also called a lint trap or lint screen, this component found in every dryer collects much of the lint your clothes produce as they dry. You should remove lint from the filter between every cycle to promote proper airflow and help prevent overheating.
Vacuum out the dryer
Every six months to one year, take the time to vacuum around the lint filter area to remove stray clumps of lint that have gotten past the filter. Pull the dryer away from the wall a few feet so you can vacuum the wall and floor behind the dryer as well. Any stray lint here can act as additional kindling if a fire starts. Also, detach the vent hose connected to the back of your dryer and vacuum out the inside of this hose.
Upgrade your dryer vent hose if necessary
If the hose behind your dryer is constructed of white vinyl, you should replace it with an aluminum hose. Vinyl hoses are too restrictive and don’t meet current US federal fire safety standards.
Clean the dryer’s interior
If it’s easy to open up your dryer, do so every one to three years and vacuum out the internal workings. Be sure to unplug the dryer before completing this step to prevent electrocution.
Ensure the dryer vents outside
Your dryer should vent to the exterior of your home. If you discover it vents to the attic or other interior location, hire a professional to reroute the dryer vent.
Check the exterior exhaust vent
Every few months, step outside and examine the exhaust vent while the dryer is running. Air should easily escape the vent. If airflow is restricted, first make sure no visible debris is clogging the exhaust vent. If airflow remains restricted with no apparent cause, the clog could be deep within the exhaust ductwork. You should hire a professional to disassemble and clean the ductwork.
Pay attention to drying time
If your clothes start taking longer than usual to dry, that’s a sign your dryer vent is becoming clogged. If this happens, clean the lint filter and the rest of the venting system as soon as possible to prevent a potential fire. If the problem doesn’t stop, it may be time to replace your dryer.
When to call for help?
Your dryer is one of those appliances where routine maintenance is essential. You should get your dryer vents professionally cleaned about once a year.
If you have a bigger family or use your dryer often, it's possible that you should get it cleaned roughly three times a year.