Your clogged dryer vent could start a house fire. Here's how to keep it clean and your family safe.
Tumble dryers are a home appliance that many of us take for granted. We toss damp clothes in, and we get dry clothes out. End of story. But that’s not where the tale ends for some unfortunate homeowners, as tumble dryers can be life-changing. Home dryers are the second leading cause of house fires in the U.S. Each year, they result in multiple deaths and injuries, and around $35 million dollars-worth of property damage. Unfortunately, roughly a third of these fires are preventable, with some 34 percent of home dryer fires resulting from failing to properly clean the dryer regularly.
What causes tumble dryer fires?
While electrical and mechanical issues account for some of the annual tumble dryer blazes, by far the leading cause of these fires is a build-up of lint. Lint, which is just a collection of tiny fabric fibers, is created by friction on your clothes during the drying process. Some of the lint is caught by the dryer’s lint trap, but some gets into the dryer’s exhaust system and dryer vent. Lint is highly flammable, and if it’s allowed to accumulate and works its way into the heating element, then Houston, we have a problem.
How to clean your tumble dryer
Cleaning your dryer is obviously a chore. But, when it comes to safety, it’s non-negotiable.
Clean the lint trap after every single use and encourage your family to do likewise. It’s not complicated. For most dryers, it’s a case of removing the lint trap from an easily accessible slot, scraping the fluff off the mesh, and sliding the filter back in.
Clean the vent duct behind your dryer using a vacuum cleaner hose. If you can’t get behind your dryer easily, there are vent cleaning accessories that can help.
Vacuum up the lint around the back of the dryer, which can also be a fire hazard.
How often should I clean my dryer vent?
Depending on how often you use your dryer and how much laundry you do each time, it’s worth cleaning your dryer’s vent duct at least once a year, whether you do it yourself or have it professionally cleaned.
Spring is a great time to clean your dryer because fall and winter are usually when the dryer has had the most use, consequently the most lint build-up. But of course, any time is a good time to get the job done, because the price of neglecting your dryer can be costly and tragic.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Dryer vent cleaning: How to clean your own dryer vent to prevent fires