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Residential Dryer Safety

Every year, fire departments across the United States respond to more than 2,000 fires that involve clothes dryers. While there can be different reasons for clothes dryer fires, the most common cause is overheating, typically caused by excess lint build up. While most people realize they need to clean the lint screen after drying a load of laundry, most donít realize that lint can build up in other parts of the dryer. Lint is combustible and can ignite very easily. Maintenance should be conducted to ensure that your dryer and area around the dryer are free of any lint build up.

One of the most common areas of lint build up can be in the exhaust vent piping that runs from the dryer to the exterior of the house. Also, the type of exhaust venting material used can contribute to the build up of lint. Listed below are the most common types of venting material used and some of their hazards.

Clothes Dryer Venting Types

  • Plastic, vinyl or foil flexible vent hose. These types of venting materials are very common, inexpensive, and are sold at most hardware and home improvement stores. They are constructed of metal wire and a plastic, vinyl, or a shiny foil covering and are very flexible and can crush or tear easily. Lint can get trapped and build up in this type of venting material, especially where the vent piping sags or in the numerous ridges along the interior of the vent. If a fire occurs in this type of venting material, the venting material itself can start on fire and spread to combustible items around the dryer. Most, if not all, dryer manufacturers have warnings about the use of these types of venting materials, due to their potential for fire. If your dryer has this type of venting material, it is recommended that it be replaced with a rigid metal vent pipe that is Underwriters Laboratories (UL) listed and that is recommended by the dryer manufacturer. Please be aware that there are some flexible foil venting materials that are UL listed; refer to your manufacturer to see if use of these products is recommended.
  • Flexible semi-rigid pipe. This type of product is constructed of flexible semi-rigid metal. It offers better protection than the plastic or foil exhaust hose. Please refer to your manufactures recommendations on using this type of vent pipe with your dryer.
  • Rigid vent pipe. This pipe is recommended for dryer exhaust installations. It is constructed of a non-flexible metal that is smooth on the inside to help prevent lint build up. Its construction also offers some protection in the event of a fire starting in the vent pipe.

Dryer Safety Tips

  1. Always clean the lint screen after each load.
  2. Never run the dryer when you are not home or are sleeping.
  3. Never dry materials that have flammable substances on them (gasoline, cooking oils, etc.), the heat produced by the dryer can ignite these substances.
  4. Make sure to clean under and on the back side of the dryer to prevent lint build up around the dryer.
  5. If your dryer has flexible plastic, vinyl or foil vent exhaust hose, replace it with rigid metal exhaust pipe that is listed for dryer venting applications.
  6. Never vent the dryer into an attic or concealed space; the dryer should vent to the exterior of the building.
  7. The dryer exhaust venting system for the dryer, and the interior of the dryer, should be inspected and cleaned periodically by a qualified service person. Refer to your service manual for recommended cleaning procedures.
  8. Make sure that your dryer is plugged directly into an appropriate electrical outlet. Appliances should never be plugged into an extension cord, or electrical outlet splitters for power.
  9. Always follow the safety warnings provided by the appliance manufacture.

Stay safe and enjoy life!

Tony Myers
Deputy Fire Marshal