How to Avoid a Clothes Dryer Vent Fire Hazard

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Fires in clothes dryers are a threat to any home that has a dryer. Neglecting to take even small measures to prevent this fire hazard can result in devastating to damage to your home and anything in it.

Clothes dryer fires occur when lint accumulates and airflow is reduced, creating conditions that are dangerously conducive to sparking a fire. Lint as a material is extremely flammable, so much so that it’s actually a common ingredient in some recipes for home-made fire starters. Think about that next time you don’t feel like pulling the lint out of the vent before drying a new load of clothes.

Lint is by far the most notorious repeat offender when it comes to dryer fires. You’ve seen how quickly it accumulates- after one typical load of laundry there is enough lint to grab a small handful out of the lint trap. It’s a common misconception that the lint trap catches all of the lint, but it doesn’t. Lint builds up inside of the dryer- just look below the screen of the lint trap. You might find this slightly unnerving, but it’s good to be aware. These clumps of lint can spark into fire if the dryer heats up more than it’s supposed to. Almost all dryer fires start from a spark inside of the machine. A spark can turn into a full fire quickly if there is enough combustible material nearby to ignite.

The combination of restricted airflow and lint buildup is generally what causes a fire to spark. Improper dryer vent practices such as making dryer vents too long or bend too often can lay the groundwork for a hazard. Lint can build up in bends in the vents, and the bends can restrict airflow. If enough heat comes through those vents, it can be the perfect storm. Dryer vents should be kept as short as reasonably possible, and an excess of bends should be avoided. Using flimsy, flammable foil or duct extenders is asking for a tragedy. Metal vents are best to use because they aren’t flammable. Many manufacturers will specify this, and a growing number of local and state municipalities have set requirements to mandate the exclusive use of metal dryer venting in new building and remodeling projects.
Improper spacing between the dryer and the wall can create problems. If the dryer is pushed up directly against the wall it can crush the venting material, reducing the airflow and allowing lint to build up. This can also cripple the dryer’s ability to run at its normal rate.

A great way to make sure that your clothes dryer isn’t headed for an inferno is to have a professional team come in and clean your vents. Professional dryer vent cleaning services are readily available for less than a hundred dollars in most areas. The cost is actually quite small when compared to the peace of mind you can get knowing that you’ve taken the appropriate measures to protect your family and your home.

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