Clothes dryer fire safety

July 10, 2021 | SECURA Risk Management

Clothes dryers are a major workhorse appliance in America. In most homes, families run their dryers seven days a week just to keep up with the burgeoning baskets of dirty laundry. What many don't realize is that poor installation and maintenance of this common household appliance results in more than $2,900 fires, hundreds of deaths and injuries, and nearly $35 million in property losses every year, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. 

The following recommendations contribute to safer dryer use: 

  • Clean the lint filter before drying each load of clothing. Adding heat to a clogged filter can lead to a fire. Disassemble the vent pipe and clean it periodically. Lint is combustible and build-up will occur, which can act as fuel for a fire or cause your machine to overheat. 
  • Never use a plastic vent or accordian-style foil piping. Instead, use a rigid aluminum metal duct. Using the wrong type of piping is one of the most common dryer installation errors and a code violation. 
  • Do not place your dryer right against the wall. Many people put dryers as close to the wall as possible, crushing the vent pipe and leaving no room for manufacturer-recommended clearances. If the vent pipe is crushed, lint buildup is increased and heated exhaust from the dryer cannot escape. 
  • Keep your dryer and the area around it as clean as possible. Clean behind and under the dryer where lint can build. If a fire reaches lint, you risk a more serious fire, or at the least, smoke damage. 
  • Do not use a dryer to dry clothes or rags that have been soaked with volatiles like gas, turpentine, stains, or finishing oils. Wash the items twice and line-dry them. 
  • Do not leave the house or go to bed with the dryer running. 
  • Mount an all-purpose fire extinguisher on a wall in your laundry room. 

Avoid becoming another statistic. Use common sense when installing and maintaining your clothes dryer. Follow the manufacturer's installation instructions, and keep your machine as lint free as possible.