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What do clean dryer vents and working smoke alarms have in common?

Aug. 26, 2019

A burning dryer vent

Remember your grandma’s stories about hanging the laundry – every bedsheet, every sock – out to dry on the clothesline? It’s so nice not to have to do that. The clothes dryer in your basement sure is a luxury. But if it’s not well-maintained, that “luxury” can turn into a nightmare: a major risk to you, your family, and your property.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, an average of 2,900 dryer fires are reported each year, and failing to clean the dryer is the leading cause of those fires. If a dryer isn’t cleaned regularly, lint can build up in dryer vents (that’s the big tube that leads from the back of your dryer to the outside) and start a fire.

The first sign that a dryer vent is clogged is a reduction in efficiency – so if you notice it takes longer and longer to get your clothes dry, it’s probably time for a dryer cleaning. There are other results of the restricted air flow that a lint buildup can cause: wasted energy and time, excessive wear on clothing, and carbon monoxide poisoning. The last sign of an obstructed dryer vent can be a fire, so it’s best to do some maintenance before it comes to that.

What exactly do we mean by dryer maintenance? Most of it you can do yourself. Start by using the lint filter every time you use the dryer and cleaning it before and after each cycle. You can also reach into the space where the lint filter goes and clean it out – and don’t forget the back of the dryer. Lint can build up there, too. (Check out our video on dryer fire prevention for how-tos.)

Next, go outside and check the outdoor vent. Make sure it opens easily, and check for any lint trapped inside the vent. If there seems to be a lot of it, it’s time to call in the professionals (note that you should also have professionals install and service your dryer).

The lint that builds up in your dryer may seem trivial and innocent, but where fire safety is concerned, cleaning it out regularly is right up there with having working smoke alarms and an escape plan. Cleaning the lint from your dryer and dryer vent can save you thousands in property damage – not to mention your life and your family’s lives.