According to statistics from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), dryers and washing machines were involved in one out of every 22 home structure fires reported to U.S. fire departments in 2006-2010. In 2010 alone, an estimated 16,800 reported U.S. home structure fires involving clothes dryers or washing machines resulted in 51 civilian deaths, 380 civilian injuries and $236 million in direct property damage. Clothes dryers accounted for 92% of the fires. The leading cause of home clothes dryer and washer fires was failure to clean (32%).
I regularly encounter dryer vents and/or pipes clogged with lint during my home inspections. Unfortunately, this situation may be a tragedy waiting to happen if the dryer overheats and the lint, which is very flammable, catches on fire. The good news is that this type of fire can be prevented with a modest amount of effort and little, if any expense.
Here are some tips from the NFPA on what you can do to prevent a dryer fire:
- Do not use a dryer without a lint trap.
- Clean the lint filter before or after each load of laundry and remove any lint which has collected around the drum.
- Use a rigid or flexible metal vent pipe instead of plastic.
- Make sure the exhaust vent pipe is not restricted and the vent flap operates when the dryer is on.
- At least once a year, and more often if it is taking longer than normal to dry your clothes, clean the lint from the vent pipe and the exhaust vent, or have a lint removal service do it for you.
- Turn the dryer off if you leave home or when you go to bed.