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Clothes dryers are convenient as well as necessary for most of us, but they can also be fire hazards if they are not properly maintained. In addition to regular dryer vent cleaning, there are some other things you can do to make sure your clothes dryer remains safe.

Quick facts

  • Eight percent of U.S. homes have a clothes dryer.
  • A full load of wet clothes put in a dryer contains about a half gallon of water. As the dryer removes water from those clothes, lint is created.
  • A clothes dryer is one of the most expensive appliances to operate. The longer it runs, the more it costs.
  • According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 15,500 clothes dryers catch on fire annually, accounting for 10 deaths, 310 injuries and nearly $85 million in damage.
  • That number has dropped significantly from the average of 24,000 fires per year in the late 1970s.

When people do not clean lint traps as often as they should, or check and clean their vent systems regularly, fires can occur as a result. Lint buildup causes reduced airflow, which can lead to inefficient operation and possible overheating. Also, problems can result when people put items in the dryer that it is not designed to handle, such as athletic shoes and foam backed rugs. Plastic and vinyl exhaust vents can also lead to major problems.

Warning signs that your dryer may have problems

  • Jeans and towels take more than one cycle to dry.
  • Dryer repeated stops during a drying cycle.
  • After a drying cycle, clothes have a moldy smell.
  • Clothes are exceedingly hot after a cycle.
  • The top of the dryer is hot to the touch while running.
  • Your clothes have excess lint left on them.

Maintenance tips

  • Clean the lint filter before or after each load, and remember to clean the back of the dryer of lint as well.
  • Have a professional clean both the interior of the dryer and the venting system on a regular basis. Call a dryer vent cleaning company to find out the vent cleaning schedule most appropriate for your size of dryer.
  • Take out plastic or vinyl hoses and replace them with metal vents.
  • Do not dry clothing or fabric if there is anything flammable on them, such as alcohol, gas, cooking oils or spot removers. These substances can emit vapors that could ignite or explode.
  • Read the manufacturers warnings as well as warning markings that are typically found on the lid of the dryer.