How to Prevent Dryer Vent Clogging and Potential Fire Hazards

Sometimes, it’s the most innocuous things that can spell disaster for households. One of these is the humble air dryer, a commonplace piece of laundry equipment in millions of homes. Across the U.S., more than 15,000 fires a year have been said to be caused by laundry dryers. Most of these fires are attributed to poor dryer vent cleaning. See how to prevent dryer vent clogging (and potential fire hazards) and keep your home safe.

Why Do Laundry Clothes Dryers Catch Fire?

Laundry dryers move and roll wet clothes around inside a dryer drum like the action of a washing machine. However, instead of water, air is drawn into the equipment through vents located on the outside of the machine. Heated and blown through the dryer by fan action, hot air soon dries out the clothing items. During the drying cycle, air continuously flows into the machine, is blown through a lint screen, and vented outside through a rear duct.

Lint, dirt, and fibers are forced from the clothes during the drying process due to the tumbling action and the blowing hot air. As a result, grime and material specks build up within the lint trap and the rear vent duct and, when dry, are highly flammable. As debris builds up, it clogs up the vents, reducing airflow. At best, this buildup slows the time to dry clothes properly. At worst, overheating of the dryer can occur with the lint sparking a fire.

While there are variations, for example, there are ventless dryers, overall, this is the process resulting in a very high percentage of home fires.

How Often Should You Clean the Clothes Dryer?

The National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) provides some startling statistics, showing that up to 92% of home fires have been associated with clothes dryers. Furthermore, the leading cause of these fires has been identified as inadequate dryer vent cleaning.

So how often should the dryer be cleaned? According to Consumer Reports, a non-profit organization that provides independent product reviews, there are two cleaning tasks with dryers:

  1. Clean the lint filter after every clothes load is finished, and
  2. Clean the vents and the rear exhaust duct at least once a year.

Aside from preventing fires, regular maintenance cleaning will minimize clothes drying time and subsequently keep your energy costs lower. 

How to Properly Carry Out Dryer Vent Cleaning

Cleaning the rear exhaust duct thoroughly every year can be a little tricky due to the location. First, after disconnecting the power, the dryer usually must be moved away from the wall. Next, you must manually disconnect the duct from the back of the machine and then use a vacuum to remove as much lint and debris as possible. Finally, you must reconnect the duct, tighten the clamps or other fasteners, and move the dryer back against the wall.

Contact your local service provider if it looks like you’ll need help with dryer vent cleaning.

Some Tips for Preventing Dryer Fires

Aside from regular cleaning, here are a few extra tips to help reduce the odds of a dryer fire in your laundry.

  1.     If you have to go out, don’t leave the dryer on at home while you’re gone. Many dryer fires have happened when the owner has stepped out, causing significant damage before being noticed.
  2.     Never place clothing items that contain plastic or rubber pieces in the dryer. These substances can melt in the heat of the machine and combust.
  3.     Keep drying loads within recommended limits. Overloading dryers puts strain on the motor and may cause overheating.
  4.     Ensure the dryer vents are kept clear of items that may restrict airflow. Again, this may cause overheating and a potential fire to start.
  5.     Pay attention to any burnt smells coming from the dryer when it’s operating. The motor may have overheated, or lint be in a state ready to combust.
  6.     Be extra careful with any clothing soiled with flammable elements, such as gasoline, grease, or oil. It’s best to wash these a couple of times if necessary and hang them on a line to dry. These are substances you don’t want to get into the dryer.

Expert Dryer Vent Cleaning in North Virginia

At Six Penny Chimney, we provide the highest quality cleaning services for chimneys, fireplaces, and clothes dryers. So, if you haven’t checked the dryer lint trap or exhaust duct for some time, it’s probably time to call us in. If you reside in North Virginia, let us give you a free no-obligation quote on our cleaning services.