Few people realize that dryer vent cleaning will significantly reduce the risk of fire. According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, there are an estimated annual 15,500 fires, 10 deaths and 10 injuries associated with the dryer vent. Several hundred people a year are also subjected to carbon monoxide poisoning from improper dryer vent cleaning and installation. The financial costs exceed $97 million dollars per year.  Many, if not all dryer fires could be prevented with proper dryer duct cleaning and maintenance.

Cleaning the lint trap in the clothes dryer is very important and should be done after every load of clothes. Equally important is to ensure the vent from the clothes dryer to the outside is clean with no obstructions and not too long. With a clean lint trap and vent, the clothes dryer runs more efficiently, and clothes dry faster. This also puts less stress on the motor and other dryer components. If the lint trap or vent are not properly maintained and cleaned, the dryer can experience drying problems and sometimes cause a fire.

Why do dryer fires occur?

Lint accumulation and reduced airflow feed on each other to provide conditions ripe for a fire. Lint is a highly combustible material and buildup of such is caused by many different factors. 

Traditionally most clothes dryers were located in the basements. However, nowadays many newer homes tend to have clothes dryers located away from an outside wall in bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens and hall closets.  These new locations mean dryers tend to be vented longer distances and vents are generally installed with sharp turns and bends to accommodate the structure of the home. As a result, dryer vents are harder to reach and also create more places for lint to gather. The ideal solution is to have short, straight dryer duct venting. In addition to creating a fire hazard, if the venting is too long and/or has too many bends, it will cause the dryer to take much longer than necessary to dry loads. This places unnecessary strain on the machine and shortens its life. It also wastes energy and increases utility bills!

NEVER use flammable, flimsy plastic or foil duct extenders. Only metal vents should be used, per manufacturer’s specifications and state fire codes. Metal vents resist crushing better than plastic and foil, which allows air and lint to be carried more easily out of the system. Reduced air flow from lint buildup or crushing can cause overheating and wear out the clothes and the appliance much quicker. Many state and local municipalities have placed requirements on new and remodeling projects to include only metal dryer ducting.

Along with drying the clothes faster, you will save money on the electric or gas bill. The fewer times that the dryer runs, and the less time used to dry each load will extend its life and reduce repair costs. It’s the best of both worlds, saving money and time.

So, what should you do?

Clean the Lint Filter: Not once a month, or even once a week: “Clean the lint from the dryer’s lint screen after every load,” says Richard Handel, the test engineer who oversees CR’s laundry appliance lab. “This helps prevent a fire, and it also helps your laundry dry faster.”

Replace Accordion-Style Ducts: Generally, dryers are equipped with a 4-inch vent in the back, which homeowners or installers connect to the exterior vent with a duct. But not all ducts will do. If you see a plastic or foil accordion-style duct connecting your appliance to the vent, it’s a good idea to replace it. These are risky because they can sag, allowing lint to build up at low points and trapping lint in their ridges. Handel recommends a rigid metal duct. “The smooth walls allow the air to flow, and also reduce the buildup of lint,” he says. “A flexible metal duct should be your second choice.” One other tip: Use duct connectors and metal clamps or foil tape to join sections of duct rather than sheet-metal screws, which can catch lint and cause buildup inside the duct.

Clean the Dryer Duct Annually (at Least): If you notice that your dryer takes longer to dry laundry than it used to, that’s a clue that there may be a blockage in the dryer vent system. When you’re drying a load, go outside and look at the vent. Do you see or feel exhaust air? If not, the vent or exhaust duct may be blocked with lint. Start by disconnecting your dryer from the power source. And if you have a gas dryer, also turn off the gas valve near the dryer. “Carefully slide the dryer away from the wall so that you can access the vent that’s typically in the back of the dryer,” says Handel. “If you have a gas dryer, take care not to overstretch or damage the gas line.” Disconnect the duct from the dryer, and vacuum both the dryer and the duct—as much as you can access. Where possible, separate the duct into shorter sections for better access, then reassemble and attach the duct to the dryer. Be sure all joints in the duct are properly connected and held together with clamps or foil tape. Then return the dryer to its original spot and reconnect the power. While you’re at it, clean behind the dryer and underneath it—lint builds up there, too. In winter, check after windy weather or snowstorms to be sure that snow isn’t blocking the outdoor vent.

Handle Chemical Stains With Care: Clothes stained with gas, cooking oil, cleaning agents, or other flammable chemicals or substances need special care. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends washing such stained clothing more than once to minimize volatile chemicals, then hanging to dry. If you must use a dryer, use the lowest heat setting and a drying cycle that concludes with a cool-down period. In the event that a fire does start, keep the dryer door closed to limit its oxygen supply—a fire needs oxygen to keep it going.

All of the communities that we manage at Klein Property Management LLC have their dryer ducts cleaned regularly to minimize the possibility of having a fire due to dirty duct work.  Please call us at our office to discuss this topic or any other topic on a Blog found on our website, https://kleinpropertymanagement.com, at 732 446-0611.

If you ever have any question about this or anything pertaining to your condominium association, please don’t hesitate in contacting us at info@kleinpropertymgt.com or calling us at 732 446-0611.