I dislike doing laundry… a lot. It feels like a never ending cycle of washing, drying, and folding, but thankfully we have the convenience of automatic washers and dryers to make this every day routine a little more bearable. Because I am a new homeowner and because I’ve been getting pretty good use out of my clothes dryer, I wanted to learn more about dryer safety. Of course, I turned to my favorite source for safety information, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and lo and behold they have some great tips for preventing a clothes dryer fire in your home.

Get professional help. When installing or servicing your dryer, make sure you have a professional do it. Doing so can make sure everything is hooked up correctly and in proper working order.

Clean the lint filter before or after each load of laundry. This is obvious, but so many people forget to do it. In fact, the leading cause of home clothes dryer fires is failure to clean them! Also, remove any lint that has collected around the drum, and don’t forget to put the lint filter back in.

Don’t overload your dryer. If you’re like me, you want to get your laundry done as quickly as possible. Why do I need to do two separate loads when I can just squeeze it all into one? Well, for this reason exactly. Overloading your dryer can affect its ability to operate. Check your user manual and follow the manufacturer’s operating instructions.

Make sure dryer vents aren’t restricted and are operating properly. Routinely clean lint out of your vent pipe or you can have a dryer lint removal service do it for you. Also, check to make sure the outdoor vent flap opens when the dryer is operating.

Dryers and washing machine fires

Between 2010-2014, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 15,970 home fires involving clothes dryers or washing machines each year. These fires resulted in annual losses estimated at 13 deaths, 440 injuries, and $238 million in property damage.

Facts and figures
  • Clothes dryers accounted for 92% of the fires; washing machines 4%, and washer and dryer combinations accounted for 5%.
  • The leading factor contributing to the ignition of home fires involving clothes dryers was failure to clean, accounting for one-third (33%) of dryer fires.
  • A mechanical or electrical failure or malfunction was involved in the vast majority of home fires involving washing machines.
  • Fires involving clothes dryers usually started with the ignition of something that was being dried or was a byproduct (such as lint) of drying, while washing machine fires usually involved the ignition of some part of the appliance.

Source: NFPA’s “Home Fires Involving Clothes Dryers and Washing Machines” report