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.