Why Does a Dryer Catch on Fire and How to Prevent It

There’s no place more important to keep safe than your home. Many people don’t realize the danger of clothes dryer fires. Today, the clothes dryer is one of the most indispensable appliances, but many people don’t know that dryers are one of the leading causes of fires in residential homes.

3.5 cu.ft. Compact Short Dryer With Digital Controls, White

Browse more dryers on Houzz

How Clothes Dryer Fires Occur

1. In fact, one of the most common causes of dryer fires is lack of maintenance. Lint accumulation and reduced airflow feed on each other to provide conditions ripe for a fire.

Lint is a highly combustible material and when lint traps aren’t cleaned as often as they should be the resulting build-up in the screen or other areas can cause the dryer to perform poorly, operate at elevated temperatures and possibly overheat with dangerous consequences.

Vent systems must also be checked and cleaned to maintain proper air flow for the same reasons.

2. Problems may also occur if consumers place improper items in their dryers, such as foam backed rugs or athletic shoes, or vent their appliances with plastic or vinyl exhaust materials. Only metal vents should be used, which is what most manufacturers specify. Metal vents also resist crushing better than plastic and foil, which allows the air and lint to be carried out of the system.

3. Inadequate clearance space between dryer and wall. Many people create problems by putting their dryer right against the wall, crushing the venting material in the process. The cumulative effect of reduced airflow and the resulting lint build-up prevent the dryer from drying at the normal rate.

Laundry Room Organizing | How To Build A House (howtobuildahouseblog.com)

You Can Prevent Clothes Dryer Fires

1. Clean your lint screen. Always clean your lint screen right before you push the start button for every load, even if there is just a small amount of lint on the screen.

However, keeping your dryer clean, not only will you significantly reduce the fire hazard, you will also save money as your dryer will run more efficiently and last longer.

2. Keep the dryer duct in good condition. Disconnect, clean and inspect the dryer duct run on a regular basis, or hire a professional company to clean the dryer duct. This will reduce the fire hazard, increase the dryer’s efficiency and increase its lifespan. In addition, you are less likely to experience water damage.

Minimize the length of the exhaust duct and avoid kinking or crushing the dryer duct to make up for installation in tight quarters -this further restricts airflow.

Don’t use screws to put your vent pipe together – the screw shafts inside the piping collect lint and cause additional friction.

3.  Keep the area around the dryer clean. In the event that your dryer does have a lint fire, don’t give it more fuel to destroy your home. Make sure there are no articles of clothing, boxes, cleaning supplies, or anything else behind or around the dryer. You should also keep things off the top of the dryer.

4. Dry fabrics with volatile chemicals on them outside, not in your dryer. Do not dry clothing/fabric on which there is anything flammable (alcohol, cooking oils, gasoline, spot removers, dry-cleaning solvents, etc.). Flammable substances give off vapors that could ignite or explode.

5. Alternative solutions. Use a condensing dryer. Unlike conventional clothes dryers, condensing dryers do require external clothes dryer venting. This significantly reduces the risk of a dryer fire. 

Use a spin dryer, which uses an extremely fast spin speed to extract water from the clothes. They extract significantly more water from the clothes than a washing machine spin cycle does.