Let’s answer this question right away: more often than you think. Yes, dryer lint is one of the biggest fire hazards in the average American home. If you can’t remember when you last had professionals perform a dryer vent cleaning to give your dryer some TLC, it’s probably time.
Dryers are one of the leading causes of residential fires in the United States. The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) estimates there are about 3,000 dryer-related fires every year. Eighty-four percent of these fires take place in residential buildings – 77% being in one and two-family residences.
Why Small Residences?
Why do these fires happen in small residences and not hospitals, hotels, and college dorms, which altogether experience only 6% of all dryer fires? After all, a single-family might be running a single dryer once or twice a day at most, while a single college dorm will be running 10 or 20 dryers constantly throughout the day and night.
This difference is easy to understand when you realize that failure to clean the dryer is the #1 cause of dryer fires. Places like hospitals and college dorms have building managers who schedule dryer maintenance and cleaning regularly. In a private home, dryer maintenance is easy to overlook or put off.
What Are the Signs of Dryer Lint Buildup?
The first sign of dryer lint buildup is often that clothes aren’t getting dry by the end of the cycle. If you’re noticing that cycles that used to be long enough no longer are, it’s time to get things checked out.
Another sign to watch for is heat. Does your dryer feel hot to the touch, keep pausing to allow itself to cool down (which many dryers do, for safety), or do you detect a “hot” smell when the dryer is going? Finally, if you notice that your laundry room seems more humid, or if the dryer exhaust vent doesn’t have much air coming out, you likely have a blockage.
How Does a Fire Start?
As clothes tumble in the dryer, they shed small fibers. These come together, along with any debris that survived washing, to form lint. Most of the lint is trapped by the filter, which can (and should) be quickly cleaned out every time a load goes in.
However, some of the lint will always get through. Over time, this builds up in the ducts and behind the drum, where it gets even drier from regular exposure to heat and begins to compromise airflow. This will eventually cause the dryer to overheat if you don’t have it cleaned.
Additionally, birds and small mammals may choose to build nests in dryer ductwork, especially in the winter, when the duct offers a place of warmth and shelter. This can also block airflow and lead to a fire.
Call Professionals With a Proven Dryer Vent Cleaning System
Dryer fires are largely preventable, and the risks aren’t worth it. If it’s been a while or you’re noticing signs of a buildup, contact us at Dryer Ducks right away.