That was the average toll taken by fires caused by clothes dryers between 2008 and 2010, according to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA). 

Many homeowners consider their clothes dryer a necessity. However, improper installation or maintenance of this appliance can pose a serious fire risk to families. The leading factor contributing to dryer fires is failure to clean lint from traps, vents and areas surrounding the dryer. 

Clothes Dryer Do’s

  • Have your clothes dryer installed by qualified personnel.
  • Clean the lint filter before and after each cycle.
  • Clean the back of the dryer where lint can build up. 
  • Inspect the venting system behind the dryer to ensure it is not damaged, crushed, or restricted.
  • Outside wall dampers should have a covering that will keep out rain, snow, and dirt. 
  • Make sure the outdoor vent covering opens when the dryer is operating.
  • The interior of the dryer and venting system should be serviced and cleaned periodically by qualified service personnel, especially if it is taking longer than normal for clothes to dry. 
  • Replace coiled-wire foil or plastic venting with rigid, non-ribbed metal duct.
  • Have gas-powered dryers inspected by a professional annually to ensure that the gas line and connection are intact and free of leaks. 
  • Check periodically to make sure nests of small animals and insects are not blocking the outside vent.
  • Make sure the correct electrical plug and outlet are used and that the dryer is connected properly.
  • Read manufacturers’ instructions and warnings in use and care manuals that accompany new dryers.
  • Keep the area around the clothes dryer free of items that can burn. 
  • If you will be away from home for an extended time, unplug or disconnect the dryer.

Clothes Dryer Don’ts

  • Do not operate a clothes dryer without a lint filter or with a lint filter that is loose, damaged, or clogged.
  • Do not dry anything containing foam, rubber, or plastic (i.e., bathroom rugs).
  • Do not dry any item for which manufacturers’ instructions state “dry away from heat.”
  • Do not dry glass fiber materials (unless manufacturer’s instructions allow).
  • Do not dry materials that have come into contact with anything flammable (e.g., alcohol, cooking oils, gasoline, etc.). These should be dried outdoors or in a well-ventilated room, away from heat.
  • Do not leave a clothes dryer running if you leave home or when you go to bed.

Signs of a Blocked Dryer Vent

  • Lengthy drying times.
  • Clothes are hotter than normal at the end of the dry cycle.
  • Dryer deactivation due to high temperatures
  • Increased heat and humidity in the area of the dryer.