Our clothes dryers are one of the most innovative modern inventions of this era. They could be combined with our washing machines or they could be a stand-alone unit. Most people would never guess that these simple appliances could be a “ticking time bomb”. According to the US Municipal Fire Department, there have been over 14,000 clothes dryer related fires, approximately 15 deaths, and over 400 injuries each year from 2010-2014. Although these facts are scary, routine dryer maintenance eliminates this probability. It’s up to you to make sure your dryer is safe.
Do you know what the main cause of these fires is? Lint. That’s right. The clump of fabric and dirt is the major reason for most dryer related fires. It’s highly flammable and easily clumps together to create blockages. The high heat from your dryer can potentially ignite this link and lead to a disaster.
Here are some things you could do to protect your home from dryer related fires:
1. Clean Lint Filter: Since lint is the major culprit of dryer related fires, before and after every laundry load, make sure to properly clean out your lint filters. Most importantly, do not use a dryer without a lint filter or with a damaged lint filter.
2. Proper Home Installation: Make sure your dryer is installed by a licensed professional. And if you must install it yourself, follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.
3. Make sure exhaust vents are not clogged: If your clothes are taking longer than usual to dry, there may be a problem with your vents. When your exhaust vents are blocked, it prevents hot air from leaving the system which could lead to a buildup of dangerous gasses. While your dryer is running, check the dryer vent at the back of the unit. Do you feel air coming out of it? If not, your vent system is probably clogged with dirt or lint. Disconnect your dryer then use a vacuum to remove any lint or debris in the vent. Your dryer vent should be cleaned at least once a year.
4. Do not overload the dryer: Putting all your laundry into the dryer at once may seem like an easy way to save time, however, this is a potential safety hazard. Not only will it increase the amount of lint build-up, but it can also cause components (e.g. drum belt and pulleys) to work harder to compensate for the excess load. This could cause difficulties with ventilation which leads to overheating. The friction produced could create a spark that could lead to a fire.
5. Regular maintenance: It is a good idea to have an expert perform routine check-ups on your dryer regularly. You should also get your filters and vents professionally cleaned periodically to ensure the integrity of your unit.
6. Keep the area around your dryer free from flammable objects: Do not dry items that have been in contact with flammable substances such as gasoline, alcohol, cooking oil, etc. Opt for air-drying instead. Also, do not store highly flammable objects near your dryer. Due to the extreme heat your dryer produces, surrounding objects can easily catch on fire.
7. Use flexible or rigid metal vent material: Most manufacturers opt for plastic exhaust hoses to save money on production costs, however, these are more prone to a build-up of lint and dirt. A more durable solution is metal exhaust hoses.
8. Proper grounding and use right plugs: A good way to ensure your appliance is properly grounded and is using the right plugs and sockets is to have it professionally installed. Regularly check your sockets for discoloration and signs of damage.
9. Do not run the dryer when you are asleep: It may seem very convenient to just dump your clothes in the dryer and take a quick nap or head out to run a few errands. However, in the case of a fire, you may not be there or awake to notice it before it’s too late. For safety purposes, we advise using your dryer only when you are at home and awake.
10. Inspection of Gas Lines: If you use a gas dryer, have a professional inspect the pipes for leaks or any irregularities.
SIGNS TO LOOK OUT FOR
A fault dryer shows common symptoms that anyone can notice. Early detection of these signs could go a long way in preventing a fire.
- Dryer constantly produces excess heat.
- Clothes take longer than usual to dry
- The flapper on the vent is closed while the dryer is running
- Strange smell coming from inside the dryer
- Clothes feel too hot after drying
- Weird sounds while the dryer is running
IN THE CASE OF A FIRE
If by any chance a fire breaks out, do not panic, here is what you should do:
- Remain calm
- Stay low
- Evacuate the premises safely
- Call 911
If the fire is not very serious and you are certain of your ability to control it, then you could do the following;
1. Extinguish the fire using the P.A.S.S. method
P-Pull out the extinguisher pin
A-Aim the extinguisher at the bottom of the fire
S-Squeeze the lever to release the contents of the extinguisher
S-Sweep from side to side around the base of the fire
2. Once the fire has been extinguished, unplug the dryer, but if you feel that the cause of the fire may have been faulty wiring, do not disconnect.
3. Exit the building safely
It may feel unnecessary to learn these safety measures in case of a fire, but it can save your life. It is better to spend a few minutes and learn what to do in case of an emergency. Remember, dryer vents are common sources of house fires and professional cleaning can eliminate that chance.