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Dryer Fires And How To Avoid Them

Dryer Fire

More than a quarter of house fires are caused by dryer fires causing millions of dollars in damages.  And most dryer fires start in one of two ways.  The first type of dryer fire occurs when the lint screen isn’t cleaned out properly.  The second type of dryer fire occurs when lint builds up in the dryer vent and catches fire.  (Dryers can also catch fire due to malfunctioning electrical systems so if it doesn’t appear to be working correctly, call a repairman to take a look!)  Here are some ways that you can prevent dryer fires!

Clean the lint screen.  Not only should you clean out excess lint after every load of laundry you dry, you should also wash it every 4-6 months.  If you pull your lint screen out and run water over it, water should be able to get through the screen.  If it just sits there making a little lint puddle, it’s definitely time to clean it.  This is the easy part.  Take it out, use a small brush or toothbrush, squirt some dish soap on it and give it a gentle scrub under warm water.  You’ll be able to see which parts still have lingering lint and need more work.  Once it’s completely clear and water runs through it easily, allow it to dry.

Your dryer vent is a little more complicated to clean out.  If you have any qualms about it, feel free to contact a professional to clean it out for you.  It isn’t too expensive – runs around $50-$100.  I say this because it involves shutting the gas off if you have a gas dryer – and I’m always a little nervous about messing with the gas line.  I realize people turn them on and off every day, but it still makes me skittish.  Maybe I had a run in with the gas company over inflated gas prices in a prior life..  I digress!

So, first things first, turn the gas off if you have a gas dryer and unplug your dryer.  You’ll likely need to pull the dryer away from the wall to unplug it, but they’re relatively light so that shouldn’t be a problem.  (If I can move a dryer, you can!  But, hey, if you can’t, call a neighbor over to help!)

Next, remove the vent behind the dryer.  That’s the hose that the air exits through.  It’s usually plastic or foil and it is held by a clamp to the back of your dryer.  It should exit the house through a vent at the other end of the hose.  To remove the vent, you’ll need a screwdriver to loosen the screws in the clamp.  Once the vent is off, get out your vacuum cleaner.

Using your vacuum cleaner’s hose and whatever attachment suits your fancy, suck out the lint from the back of the dryer where the vent hose was clamped.  You can also use a wet-dry vacuum for this process.  They tend to have a little more suction than your average vacuum cleaner, but either will work.  Make sure to get all the lint you can reach inside, behind and underneath your dryer.   All of this lint can cause a fire.  Use the vacuum or wet-dry vac to clean out the vent hose as well.  It’s circumference is wider than your vacuum or wet-dry vac’s hose so you can reach right in and clean it out from each end.  The foil hoses stretch like an accordion so you should be able to reach all the way through.   Replace the dryer vent hose when you are finished.

Lastly, you should go outside and clean out the vent that allows the air to escape from the dryer to outside your house.   Some vents are enclosed and need to be removed with a screwdriver, but most are open.  You can use your vacuum or wet-dry vac here or you can just use a rag to wipe it off – reaching in to clean out any lint that is present.  Replace the outside vent when you are complete with this step.

You can now plug your dryer back in and turn the gas back on if you had to turn it off in the first step.

Congratulations!  You have successfully cleaned out your dryer and made your house a safer place to be!

A little note here:  If you have the opportunity to replace a plastic or foil vent hose with a metal vent hose, you should take advantage of it.  Metal vent hoses are much safer than the plastic or foil vent hoses because they don’t sag.  When the plastic or foil vent hoses sag, lint builds up where the sagging occurs.   This is often where the fire starts.

And again – clean your dryer vents frequently.  The dryer vent doesn’t need to be done as often, but it should be done at least once if not twice a year.





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