How to Remove Lint and Avoid a Dryer Fire
Clothes Dryer Ducts Should Be Cleaned Often
The clothes dryer is a common cause of house fires. These home fires are easy to prevent with proper care and some basic maintenance. Not all dryer ducts are easily accessible and you could hire a professional. You could also DIY, which is my preference.
I'm a Do-It-Yourself kind of person when it comes to maintaining my home. If I'm able to get 'er done while saving a few bucks, I'm all for it.
Recently my clothes dryer was misbehaving and taking too long to dry a load of clothing. A normal load for my dryer takes about 45-50 minutes, not 3 hours. I knew there must be a problem.
I normally clean out the duct hose every 3-4 months and I was on schedule. But we had been doing more laundry lately so I checked out the duct hose and WOW I had quite a surprise. I hit the mother lode with lint.
The same day on the other side of town my niece's clothes dryer had caught fire, luckily she was home and caught the fire in time. Ida's dryer fire happened very quickly, but she was able to catch it even before the smoke alarms went off by using a fire extinguisher. She did call 911 and the firemen did come evaluate the situation. Her dryer was sent out for repairs and returned a week later. Being without a dryer was a hassle, but nothing compared to a full blown fire.
I thought I would share what both my niece and I learned from our experiences, to help save your dryer, power bill and most importantly your life and home.
Prevent Dryer Fires by Being Vigilant
Just like any home appliance treat it right and it will take care of your needs. Just like humans need occasional maintenance so do your appliances. A bit of lube, some elbow grease, a dusting of coils, checking of circuits...just some simple tasks to do.
If your dryer duct goes out the back of the dryer towards the roof, chances are you will have more issues with lint being backed up. It takes a lot of work from the dryer to push that lint upwards. If your dryer's duct goes straight to the side of your house, chances are the lint won't be that much of an issue. In my previous house, the laundry room was in the garage, and the duct was behind the dryer but the vent went straight outside...I was in that house for 13 years and never had a lint issue. I didn't get that lucky in my present house. I have learned a lesson for my next house: Check the ventilation system for the dryer before proceeding with the purchase.
There could also be a trap at the end of the vent on the roof that lint could get trapped in, especially if it rains and the lint gets wet...wet lint tends to not move as quickly or at all. Also small animals could become trapped. So at least 3-4 times a year check the vent on the roof to make sure it's free-flowing.
Most fires happen when people are sleeping or not home. It's better to be safe than sorry. Do not run the clothes dryer on your way to sleep or on your way out the door. Be vigilant to prevent dryer fires.
Do you regularly clean your dryer duct?
How to Self Clean Your Dryer Duct/Vent
- Clean the lint trap before each load of laundry is placed in the dryer. Granted, there won't be much lint, but by getting in the practice of doing this, you will never forget to clean the lint trap again.
- You could purchase a lint brush to go deeper into the trap area which is usually located on top of the dryer. This brush helps to remove lint the trap missed.
- Have a fire extinguisher handy, just in case. They do have expiration dates, so be sure you replace them as needed.
- When the dryer begins to get sluggish, not drying as fast as it usually does it's time to clean out the duct hose. Pull out the dryer, remove the duct hose from the back of the dryer and the wall. Clean out or replace the duct hose, it should be replaced every 1-2 years.
- I then use a leaf blower and insert it into the wall vent. A word of caution with a leaf blower. I use an electric one which is safe to use indoors. If you have a gas blower, use caution using it indoors. I have used one because my laundry room is very close to an outside door so I was able to air out the area quickly. I tightly place a small towel around the top of the blower to avoid a blast of lint in my face. Blow! Keep blowing! My wall vent goes up and the lint comes out on the roof. After you have done enough blowing, which is about 10-15 minutes off and on, securely replace the duct hose.
- Never, ever push your dryer up to the wall and bend the duct hose (see aluminum tube above in my photo). By cutting off the air supply to the duct hose the lint gets backed up and re-enters the dryer which causes a fire.
- The duct hose must be open wide enough for the air and lint to freely flow through.
- Small pieces of lint can build up inside your dryer. It usually burns itself out and never causes a problem. But, at times it could cause a problem. Periodically have a licensed professional vacuum out the inside of your dryer. Or DIY.
- Do not store items on top of your dryer. Do not store paper items or cleaning products near your dryer.
UPDATE: Two weeks after my lint incident, while mowing the lawn I noticed clusters of lint underneath the drain spouts. While blowing the lint out through the roof vent, lint must have landed in the gutter. We had a few days of rain and presto...the lint was washed downwards.
Many of my neighbors use the leaf blower for self-cleaning of the dryer ducts. Some use a wet/dry vac. If you are not comfortable with the self-clean method, call a professional.
Just say no to dryer fires.
Dryer Fire Alerts!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2015 Linda Bilyeu