Is Your Clothes Dryer Vent a Fire Hazard?

Dryer

Here’s a question for you. What happens to over 15,000 homes, resulting in an average of fifteen deaths and four hundred injuries each year in the US? The answer: fire in your clothes dryer vent. With use, the exhaust duct to your dryer can clog with lint. Lint blocks the flow of air, and if this lint overheats, the result could be a catastrophic fire in your dryer with tragic consequences.

Dryer vent fires are most often caused by the lint you can’t see…

How can you check to see if your dryer vent is working properly? There are a couple easy things for you to check. First, check the outside duct while your dryer is running, and make sure air through the line is coming through unobstructed. Second, monitor your drying cycle. If your clothes aren’t drying as quickly as they used to, it may indicate a blocked exhaust vent. Blocked air flow or longer drying times are pretty good indicators that you need to clean out your dryer vent clean dryer duct.

You may be able to clean your dryer vent

If your outside duct is accessible and connects to your dryer with a straight run of no more than a few feet, then you can probably clean out the duct yourself. Simply pull your dryer out from the wall, and disconnect the flex tube that runs from your dryer to your inner wall. Then use a long-handled duster, or a small broom head on a pole, and gently dust out the inside of your inside-to-outside vent. This should only take a couple minutes. Then re-assemble, and you’re done.

Or you may need a dryer vent contractor

Many newer homes have their dryers in the home, with longer, winding dryer ducts leading to the outside, oftentimes the roof. These dryer lines need a different cleaning approach and most home owners simply do not have the proper equipment to clean through long sections of ducting. So you’ll be glad to know that there are professional dryer vent cleaners, with specialized equipment, that can affordably remove dust and debris from your vent. Check Angie’s List, or your yellow pages.

Simple, important tips to maintain your dryer vent

Before and after drying each load of clothes, clean the lint screen. Periodically clean behind your dryer where lint can build up. If you’re drying clothes that were dirtied with gas, stains, cooking oils or chemicals, use the lowest heat setting there is. There may still be some volatile compounds in the clothes that could ignite while drying. Last but not least, try to keep the area around your dryer clear of rags and other clutter.

A Consumer Reports recommendation

If your dryer has the flexible, plastic or foil type of duct, Consumer Reports suggests that you change that out for rigid, metal ducting. CR recommends metal for two reasons, (1) metal is safer and may contain an accidental lint fire, and (2) metal ducting provides a larger maximum airflow. Folks, don’t get burned… take a look at your dryer vent… why not now? It could be the most valuable five minutes you spend today.