Friday, January 28, 2022

Could Your Dryer Cause a Fire? Let's talk dryer fire facts.

~ Beth Anne Nesselt
Manager, Community Risk Reduction Section

 For Spanish click here

Over the last several weeks, MCFRS has responded to a number of clothes dryer-related fires. A lack of maintenance, buildup of lint, placing inappropriate items in the dryer and inadequate venting are frequently cited as contributing factors.
Fires can occur when lint builds up in the dryer or in the exhaust duct. Lint can block the flow of air, cause excessive heat build-up, and result in a fire in some dryers. Some important safety tips:

Clean behind the dryer, where lint can build up. Clean around your dryer to minimize the amount of lint accumulation. Keep the area around the dryer clean and free of clutter.

Don't leave a clothes dryer running if you leave the house or go to bed. Like anything with moving parts and electronic components, faulty wiring and damaged machinery can potentially cause dryer fires. For example, a "heat sensor" that fails to turn off your dryer when the clothes are dry or a roommate that forgot to clean the lint filter... again. 

Clean the lint screen/filter before or after drying each load of clothes. If clothing is still damp at the end of a typical drying cycle or drying requires longer times than normal, this may be a sign that the lint screen or the exhaust duct is blocked. 

Clean the dryer vent and exhaust duct annually. Check the outside dryer vent while the dryer is operating to make sure exhaust air is escaping. If it is not, the vent or the exhaust duct may be blocked. To remove a blockage in the exhaust path, it may be necessary to disconnect the exhaust duct from the dryer. Remember to reconnect the ducting to the dryer and outside vent before using the dryer again. MCFRS recommends having a qualified service technician clean the dryer vent and exhaust duct annually.

Replace plastic or foil, accordion-type ducting material with rigid or corrugated semi-rigid metal duct. Most manufacturers specify the use of a rigid or corrugated semi-rigid metal duct, which provides maximum airflow. The flexible plastic or foil type duct can more easily trap lint and is more susceptible to kinks or crushing, which can greatly reduce the airflow.

Take special care when drying clothes that have been soiled with volatile chemicals such as gasoline, cooking oils, cleaning agents, or finishing oils and stains. If possible, wash the clothing more than once to minimize the amount of volatile chemicals on the clothes and, preferably, hang the clothes to dry. 

There are several warning signs that dangerous lint buildup has occurred in your dryer and venting system, indicating that it needs a thorough cleaning: 
- Clothes take longer to dry or don't dry fully
- Clothes are hotter than normal at the end of the drying cycle
- Outside of dryer gets very hot
- Outside exhaust vent flapper does not open very much, indicating       low exhaust velocity
- Laundry room becomes more humid than usual
- Burnt smell is evident in the laundry room

Maintenance Tips:
- Inspect the venting system behind the dryer to ensure it is not damaged or restricted.
Make sure the outdoor vent covering opens when the dryer is on. 
- Replace coiled-wire foil or plastic venting with rigid, non-ribbed metal duct.
- Have gas-powered dryers inspected every year by a professional to inspect the dryer and the gas line connection. 
- Check regularly to make sure nests of small animals and insects are not blocking the outside vent.

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