What You Need to Know about Clothes Dryer Safety

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Your clothes dryer looks pretty harmless, doesn’t it? It’s a common household appliance that aids homeowners with a basic chore – drying clothes. But according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), clothes dryers are responsible for about 15,600 fires, 15 deaths, and 400 injuries annually. Eighty percent of clothes dryer fires that occur in structures happen in residential buildings, and a “failure to clean” is the leading factor contributing to these fires. FEMA notes that to make matters worse, new home construction trends have led to the placement of clothes dryers and washing machines in areas of the home that are more hazardous, such as bedrooms, second-floor hallways, bathrooms, and kitchens.

The statistics are scary, so it’s important to know what steps you should take to protect your home and family against clothes dryer fires.

The basic culprit is that stuff we are constantly scraping off of our dryer filters: lint. Lint is created when water is removed from garments as they are exposed to hot air in the dryer’s drum. Although a lot of that lint is captured by the dryer’s lint trap, some lint inevitably gets carried through the ventilation system, where it accumulates. As lint collects in the vent, it can reduce airflow and create a highly flammable fuel source. As an aside, About.com also notes that lint can cause humidity levels to rise around the vents, attracting mold and mildew.

Two signs that airflow might be restricted in your dryer venting system are clothes that remain very hot after a drying cycle or the need to increase drying times for the dryer to work properly. But please note that these symptoms won’t necessarily be present if airflow is restricted.

As a regular safety precaution, remove lint from your dryer regularly. You should clean the lint trap after every load of laundry. If it seems clogged, About.com suggests that you submerge the lint screen in warm water and scrub it with a bristle brush. It’s also a good idea, the site says, to periodically loosen built-up lint in the opening around the removed lint trap with a dryer lint brush. Then run the dryer on “air only” for a cycle to pull loose lint into the filter or blow it out the outside vent.

Unfortunately, even these basic maintenance steps won’t guarantee that lint levels will remain safe, so it is important to do more than just clean the lint trap and the area around it on a regular basis to prevent dryer fires. COIT recommends installing the LintAlert™ Dryer Safety Alarm which, when properly installed, alerts homeowners when airflow has become restricted in the venting system. The alarm units are available at some hardware and big box stores, but they can’t be installed (and won’t calibrate properly) unless the dryer vents are first cleaned.

COIT now offers a LintAlert Protection Service that does everything in one shot; it includes a thorough cleaning of the dryer vent and the professional installation of a LintAlert Alarm. If you want to be sure that your lint levels are safe and that an alarm is properly installed to warn of future problems, contact us at 1-800-FOR-COIT to schedule your service today.

And remember, no matter what – never leave your clothes dryer running when no one is home.

For more information about LintAlert Protection and COIT’s other cleaning and disaster restoration services, call (800) – FOR-COIT. We look forward to scheduling your next service!

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