When my mother-in-law told me that her dryer had broken down because the wax in the filter, caused by dryer sheets, had burnt out an element I decided to look into this. As a new mom, the last thing I need is my dryer breaking down on me with so much laundry to do these days. Not only did I find this was indeed the case, and in order to remove wax I would need to clean the filter with hot soapy water regularly, in order to prevent my dryer suffering the same fate as my mother-in-law’s, but I also discovered that dryers can be a major fire risk when not properly monitored and managed. This may seem like a rather dry topic, but according to my research, this is a serious issue and among the least-discussed fire threat in the home: scary stuff, right?
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) estimates that dryers cause almost 3,000 house fires per year in the US. So what can you do to prevent such a horror from occurring? Well, start by checking the manual that came with your dryer to see what the manufacturer recommends when it comes to cleaning your dryer. According to FEMA, more than one-third of dryer-related house fires are the direct result of not cleaning the equipment properly. The agency’s recommendation is to empty the filter before putting anything in the dryer, which is something I already do and suspect that many of you do too.
What I don’t currently do, but will in the future, is clear out the vent pipe at least every three months, which is also recommended by FEMA. Cleaning your vent is paramount, apparently. Your vent can very quickly get clogged, forcing the air that is meant to exit your home to get trapped. If your clothes seem abnormally hot, when you take them out, there may well be a problem with the vent.
So, what should you watch out for – are there any signs that your dryer may be malfunctioning? Is the lint being caught, are clothes taking longer than usual to dry, or is there a smell coming from the vent? If so, this may be cause for concern and you should refer to your owner’s manual.
I’d never really thought of this before, but a dryer should never be used while you are out of the house, as clogged vents could cause your dryer to catch fire. It’s in winter that you’re most likely to experience a dryer caused house fire so perhaps, now that spring is on the horizon, a tune-up is in order.
If you’re looking to purchase a new dryer, in order to minimize your chances of a fire, check the manufacturer’s history to ensure it has not produced dryers that have malfunctioned and caused fires in the past. Once you’ve purchased your new dryer read the owner’s manual. And most importantly, every few months, check the vents, lint catcher (and give it a wash with hot soapy water to remove wax built up from dryer sheets) and take note of any strange smells coming from the dryer.
With all of this in mind, I spoke with Jay Davis, my insurance guy at Country Financial, about the implications of a house fire. He told me it was important to have a solid personal property inventory. So I took note and have started to list our valuable items, which I’ve saved in the cloud. He also said I should mention to readers to review your current coverage before something happens, not after – and that the true test of your current insurance carrier is not the overall price of your premiums, but how your policy actually performs at claim time.
Perhaps the most worrying tidbit that came from our conversation was that statistics show there’s an 18% chance of a house fire causing total destruction. So, in Jay’s words be smart and be safe.