The National Fire Prevention Association reports over 15,000 clothes dryer fires annually; most of them could have been prevented with proper dryer vent maintenance. There are many warning signs that indicate a possible fire hazard:
- Clothes taking several cycles to dry: A lot of people think this just means the dryer is old or the heat element is wearing out. This is rarely the case. There is usually an air flow problem caused by the vent being obstructed with lint build up
- Clothes smell moldy or they are unusually hot when they come out of the dryer
- No visible lint on the lint screen
- Dryer repeatedly stops during a cycle
All of these symptoms indicate a venting problem with your clothes dryer. You need to disconnect, clean and inspect the dryer vent tubing regularly, or hire a professional dryer vent cleaning specialist to do the job. This will greatly reduce the risk of fire and increase the dryer's efficiency, saving on energy costs and increasing the life of the dryer.
Tips to keeping the dryer vents lint free:
- Use a vacuum to remove lint that accumulates under the lint trap on a regular basis
- Check outside, when the dryer is running, to be sure the lint and heat is escaping
- Have a qualified service technician inspect and professionally clean the dryer vent yearly
- Clean the lint trap after each load of laundry
- Wash the lint trap with warm soapy water every few months to remove residue from dryer sheets and fabric softeners
It is also important that the dryer vent be properly installed and be of rigid material. It should not be the crushable, foil type material people have commonly used in the past. It should be installed as straight as possible, with few turns and bends, and be as short a possible. If there are several pieces joined together, they should be done so that the inside of the vent is smooth, with no screws for lint to catch on and accumulate.
Other safety tips include:
- Never leave the house or go to sleep when the clothes dryer is running
- Avoid drying items that have been soaked with combustible chemicals
- Avoid storing combustible chemicals, cleaning products or chemical laden rags near the clothes dryer
- Be sure the outside vent cover is not blocked (or frozen shut in the winter)
- Have your system inspected by a qualified professional to be sure it meets city, state and manufacturers codes
A five year old child can easily and safely operate a clothes dryer, however, an adult needs to be sure it is properly maintained and fire safe. Fire prevention and safety begins at home; go to http://www.dryerventwizard.com/ventcheck_request.htm for a free dryer vent safety check kit. Tell your friends, loved ones, and neighbors, especially if you live in an apartment building, to do the same.
This article was written by The Dryer Vent Wizard, who wants all consumers to be aware of how dangerous their seemingly innocent clothes dryer can be. The Wizard provides more fire safety tips and easy, preventative measures for preventing a clothes dryer fire at http://www.dryerventwizard.com