4 ways to prevent dryer fires in your home

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Getty Images | Eli Kaplan

A home fire can be devastating. It may surprise you to learn that a common cause of  fires in homes stems from an appliance that is likely lurking in your basement or laundry room: the clothes dryer.

In fact, according to the National Fire Protection Association, between 2010 and 2014, US municipal fire departments responded to an estimated 15,970 home fires involving clothes dryers or washing machines each year. Of those fires, dryers accounted for 92 percent, while washing machines accounted for 4 percent and the remaining 5 percent were caused by washer and dryer combinations. The toll these fire took was enormous. Annually, these fires resulted in an estimated 13 civilian deaths, 440 civilian injuries and $238 million in direct property damage.

dryer photo
Getty Images | Scott Olson

To help consumers avoid these types of fires, experts at Consumer Reports compiled a list of top safety recommendations:

1. Clean Your Filters After Every Use

While you may know you should clean your filters at some point, you might not realize that it’s imperative to do it every single time you use your dryer. A bonus is that your laundry will actually dry faster. While some dryers have sensors that alert you when lint has built up and blocked the vent, tests by Consumer Reports showed that LG’s FlowSense, Samsung’s Vent Sensor as well as the feature on Whirlpool and Maytag dryers wasn’t as effective at detecting only partially blocked vents, so relying on them is not foolproof.

MORE: Best Dryer Vent Cleaner Kits

2. Use Metal Ducts

If your dryer has a plastic or foil accordion-style duct that connects the dryer to the vent, you should probably swap it out for a metal duct. It will not sag, leaving it less vulnerable to accumulating lint.

3. Double-Check The Vent And Duct’s Functioning From Time To Time

If your laundry is taking longer to dry, it may be a sign that there’s a blockage. Similarly, if you check your vent from the outside and can’t see or feel air coming out, that is another clue lint has built up and air cannot flow through. If this is the case, you should disconnect the duct from the dryer and clean it out before reconnecting it.

4. Be Careful When Treating Stains

Stains can do more than just ruin your favorite clothing. If the stain is caused with something flammable like cooking oil, gas or cleaning agents, then combining those with the heat of the dryer can cause a fire. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends washing the stained item more than once and avoiding the dryer altogether if you can. If you do use it, make sure to use the lowest heat setting and a cycle that ends with a cool-down period.

clothes line photo
Getty Images | Joe Raedle

In addition to the tips laid out by Consumer Reports, here are some additional guidelines from the US Fire Administration:

  • Have your dryer installed by a professional.
  • In addition to regularly cleaning the dryer yourself, consider having it cleaned by a professional.
  • Do not leave the dryer running while you are not home, and if you will be gone for an extended time period, such as on vacation, unplug or disconnect the dryer.
  • Do not overload the dryer.
  • Check labels before putting an item in the dryer if you’re unsure if it’s safe.

[h/t Consumer Reports]






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About the Author
Kate Streit
Kate Streit lives in Chicago. She enjoys stand-up comedy, mystery novels, memoirs, summer and pumpkin spice anything. Visit Scripps News to see more of Kate's work.

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