Dryer Lint Hazards

Washers & Dryers
Over the course of a year, the average washer and dryer handles about 477 loads of laundry, or about nine loads per week. These machines are designed to handle this type of activity and they will do it efficiently if they are properly maintained.

Lint that builds up is significant fire hazard. Preventative maintenance is simple and effective. Most people clean out the lint trap before drying the next load - a good habit to get into. However, more maintenance is needed to minimize the fire hazard.

During the lint screen cleaning, some of the lint becomes air borne and settles in the surrounding area. This lint, along with those lint particles that happen to escape the lint trap in the normal drying process, can accumulate and build up, increasing the fire hazard. The areas behind and under the dryer are typical areas where this build-up can occur unnoticed.

Manufacturer's Recommendations
Although dryer manufacturers typically recommend the use of rigid aluminum duct venting systems with a minimum of direction changes and not longer than 15' to the outside, many people have dryer ventilation systems, which utilize flexible vent tubes. This is another area where lint collects. All these areas need to be cleaned on an annual basis.

One area that most people do not clean or even think about is the inside of the dryer cabinet. Removal of the back service panel is best left to the professional, however, so call a service specialist to thoroughly clean your dryer. To see a video on dryer safety from the Today and the Home Safety Council Click here....

Dryer Safety Tips
  • Clean the lint screen after every load. Your clothes will dry quicker, your dryer will operate more efficiently and you will reduce the fire hazard.
  • Softener sheets can cause a waxy build-up on the lint screen. Wash the lint screen in warm soapy water and dry it completely before replacing it in the dryer.
  • Have the interior of the dryer, lint screen and exhaust duct cleaned by a qualified service technician every 18 months.
  • Do not operate the dryer if the lint screen is clogged or missing.
  • Do not block the flow of ventilating air. Keep the area around machine and the exhaust opening clutter free.
Environmental Tips
  • The best time to do laundry is during the early morning or late evening. There is usually less demand on the energy resources making it less expensive to operate washers and dryers
  • To reduce drying times, use a wash cycle with a fast spin speed to remove water from heavy items
  • Choose the automatic drying cycle for accurate drying time to save energy and time
  • Do not exhaust the dryer into any vent connection, gas vent, chimney or crawl space. This could create a fire hazard from expelled lint
Preventative Maintenance Safety Tips
  • Keep the area around the dryer clear of combustible items.
  • Inspect the gas line for corrosion or "kinks."

Do Not Leave Wet Clothes Inside Your Dryer
Leaving damp clothes inside the drum may have adverse effects. A chemical chain reaction may occur when and if the conditions are right. Spontaneous ignition has proved to be the source of numerous laundry fires. The damp cloth plus the hot dry environment creates the conditions that support unassisted combustion. Once a fire starts inside the clothes drum, it has the opportunity to grow and consume everything that is combustible.

Lint in the trap, around the outside of the drum, under and behind the machine is fuel that ignites easily. When the fire reaches the outside of the machine, it is free and will search for more fuel. Any clothing piled up on the floor in front of the washer and dryer becomes that fuel. Unchecked fire will double its' size every minute, and will quickly reach ceiling temperatures of 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit.

This information is provided by the Buffalo Grove Fire Department as a public service. Questions? Call the Buffalo Grove Fire Prevention Bureau at 847-537-0995.