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Why do clothes dryers catch on fire?

The main cause of dryer vent fires is the negligence of getting them cleaned. When was the last time you had your dryer vent cleaned? Not only is it important to clean the lint filter between each load but also getting the dryer duct cleaned annually can eliminate other risks such as:

  • Carbon monoxide intruding back into your home
  • Moisture getting trapped in the vent causing damage to drywall, wallpaper, ceilings and other building materials
  • Plastic dryer vent hoses- remove and replace with semi-rigid aluminum
  • The dryer taking twice as long to dry clothes as it should thus resources and time and money are all being wasted because your appliance works too hard and runs longer than necessaryDryer lint back of residential dryer, midtown chimney sweeps, Midtown Chimney Sweeps and Dryer Vent Cleaning

As the dryer runs at higher than designed temperatures, the life cycle of your clothes dryer decreases. This can lead to the heating element burning out or the possibly of a fire igniting as a result of overworked heater elements. You also want to make sure that your clothes dryer vent is separate of all other systems and exhausts directly to the outdoors, not into a chimney, crawl space or attic.

You want to make sure that your vent hose is in good condition too, if you have a white plastic hose you definitely want to consider replacing it as soon as possible. These have actually been outlawed due to their lack of safety. You’ll want to replace it with an aluminum vent hose and make sure the length is as short as possible and not crushed or kinked. It’s important to make sure the air exhaust vent pipe is not restricted and that the outdoor vent flap will open when the dryer is running.

It’s important to limit the use of dryer sheets and only operate your dryer for cycles of 30 to 40 minutes per load to allow more air circulation within the dryer and less lint build up from occurring.

The risk of dryer vent fires begin to spike in the winter months due to drying heavier clothes such as sweaters and thick blankets that shed more lint and increase your chances of creating a fire hazard. Take special care when drying clothes that have been soiled with volatile chemicals such as gasoline, cooking oils, cleaning agents, finishing oils and stains. If possible, wash them more than once to minimize the amount of chemicals in the clothes.

In conclusion an estimated 2,900 clothes dryer fires in residential buildings are reported to U.S. fire departments each year and have caused about 5 deaths, 100 injuries, and $35 million in property loss.

Cleaning the lint trap will help in this but nothing is more critical than having a professional come to your home and clean your clothes dryer vent pipe to assure the safety of your home and family with this appliance.

Although there are at home cleaning kits, they are typically not going to be as effective as the tools used by the professionals. Having an experience and qualified and trusted professional clean your system is also going to be more efficient, since they have seen just about every make and model but they will get the job done safely and correctly. By having a professional do this for you, you reduce the risk of a fire hazard but you will also be increasing your dryer’s efficiency and lifespan.

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