When we talk of fire dangers in the home, the usual suspects that come to mind are careless smoking, leaving the stove or a hot clothing iron on, or storing combustible materials indoors.
Did you know one of the leading causes of house fires is the electric clothes dryer?
In fact, in Canada, it is estimated nearly 92% of appliance-related fires involve clothes dryers. Here’s what you need to know about how to prevent dryer fires.
5 tips to help you prevent dryer fires.
There are several steps homeowners can take to prevent dryer fires.
1. Regularly clean the lint trap in the dryer: 27% of dryer fires are caused by an accumulation of lint in the dryer and/or dryer vent. Lint is made up of super tiny and highly combustible fibres of cotton and synthetic fibres (from dryer sheets).
If it builds up in the dryer or ducting, the hot air and metal can actually cause the lint to ignite. This is why you should always clean your dryer filter after each load.
It’s also not a bad idea to pull out the dryer to sweep or vacuum underneath. This should be done at least once a year.
2. Get your laundry vents cleaned regularly: Not all lint is captured by the dryer filter. Some of it sneaks through. It can accumulate in your dryer and within the dryer exhaust. As we mentioned above, this material is flammable, and you don’t want to take chances.
It is recommended that dryer vents be cleaned every two years. The best place to clean these vents is from outside of your home, through the exhaust vent hood (located on the side of the home at the main or second level, or on the roof). This is because lint accumulates at the vent exit point or in the dryer vent flex hose at the back of the dryer.
This service should be conducted by a professional duct and furnace cleaning company, usually as a separate service or as part of a duct cleaning package. Not all duct cleaning companies are equipped to work on steep roofs, so ask before you book.
Using high-pressure air and a specialized dryer vent cleaning tool, they will remove the lint deep within the dryer and the dryer venting, as well as any buildup at the exhaust vent hood on the outside of your home.
3. Replace accordion-style plastic dryer hoses: It is advised that you replace the bendable plastic “accordion-style” flex hoses that connect your dryer to the vent with a flexible metal connection. The flexible plastic hoses are prone to blockages where it sags, which can pose a fire risk if lint accumulates. Over time these hoses can degrade and break. Flexible metal dryer vent hoses will better hold their shape and resist sagging over time. Regular dryer vent cleanings can help remove any accumulated lint in the dryer vent exhaust venting.
4. Avoid overloading your dryer with clothing: Wet clothes are heavy. If you overload the dryer, it can put stress on the motor and potentially cause it to overheat.
5. Don’t run your dryer when you’re away or at night: This is one we are probably all guilty of. As we’ve learned, dryers are a key cause of residential fires. To be safe you should only use your dryer (or any appliance, really) when you’re at home and able to supervise it.
6. Don’t install mesh screens to keep out animals: Sometimes, birds will build their nest in a warm dryer vent. As you can imagine, the nest is flammable. Mesh screens can trap lint, replacing one potential fire hazard with another. If you’re worried about animals, your furnace company can install built-to-purpose bird blockers or a different type of exhaust louvre designed to keep birds out.