Most people don’t think about their clothes dryer as being a potentially dangerous appliance in their home. Unfortunately, dryers are the source of thousands of house fires each year as well as some household mold issues. With just a little regular cleaning and maintenance, you can protect your family and home from these dangers.
It doesn’t matter if you have an electric or gas clothes dryer. The problem is lint. Lint builds up in the lint trap, inside the vent hose and duct work, and inside the vent. Whenever this happens, there is a reduction in air flow resulting in reduced drying efficiency. Lint is also responsible for causing humidity levels to increase around vents and duct work which in turn can cause mildew and mold to develop in walls and insulation. And most importantly, lint is combustible and causes fires. Failure to clean the dryer is the leading cause of home dryer fires.
Here’s some tips for keeping your dryer, duct work, and vent as lint free as possible.
- Clean the lint trap after every load or at the very least, at the end of a laundry cycle. If you use fabric softener sheets, check the screen for clogging as some sheets will emit enough residue that the screen becomes clouded and tacky. Should the screen be clogged, submerge the lint screen in hot water, soapy water and clean the screen with a bristle brush to get rid of the residue.
- Invest in a dryer lint brush. These long-handled flexible brushes are available at most hardware stores and allow one to clean areas that cannot be reached by hand down inside of the dryer, hoses, and ducts. You may be surprised by the chunks of lint that the brush pulls out. After removing the lint filter and cleaning with the brush, run the dryer on “air only” after using the dryer brush. This will bring up any lint that might have been dislodged but didn’t cling to the brush.
- Unplug and pull the dryer out at least once a year and vacuum any dust and lint that might have accumulated around the dryer, back of the dryer, floor, cabinets, etc. While the dryer is out, remove the duct hose or duct. You may need a screwdriver or pliers to remove the connecting clip or steel clamp. Use the dryer brush inside the dryer opening to remove the lint accumulation. Do the same with the hose or duct. If you have a long duct to the outside as I do, you will have to rig a longer handle onto the brush.
- Replace the duct hose if you have a white or silver vinyl duct hose. All building codes now require metal or aluminum ducting for clothes dryers. The ducting may be rigid or flexible. If flexible aluminum ducting is used, it should be cleaned more often as it tends to collect more lint along the ridges.
- Lastly, clean the exterior vent. This is usually done from the outside of the home by lifting the flaps. Using your hands or a brush, removed as much lint as possible. Most of the flaps on the exterior vent can be removed to make cleaning easier. Replace the flaps if they have been removed and make sure that they open properly.
A little dryer cleaning in a timely manner will greatly reduce the risk of fire. Further, avoid starting the dryer before going to bed and running it while no one is at home.
For more information see the safety alert from the Consumer Products Commission, https://www.cpsc.gov/PageFiles/118931/5022.pdf
Additional flyers like the one at the beginning of the blog are public domain publications and available for download from FEMA at https://www.usfa.fema.gov/prevention/outreach/clothes_dryers.html