Cleaning Your Dryer Vent to Prevent Home Fires

by Allied / Friday, 10 July 2020 / Published in Fire Damage Restoration

There’s a dryer in South Zanesville that caused a family to move out of their trailer. The appliance caught fire. 

It was the smoke that did most of the damage, really. It’s odd to say, but they were lucky that it was the smoke. The local fire department arrived at 11:30 p.m., a statistical oddity given that only 4 percent of dryer fires occur from 11 p.m. to midnight, and contained the fire.

The estimated damage was about $3,000, a bit higher than the typical damage losses reported by FEMA.

On average, a clothes dryer fire in a residential building results in damage loss of about $9,610. When confined to the object of origin, it’s $1,790. When confined to the room of origin, it’s $6,790. When confined to the floor of origin, it’s $37,170. When confined to the building of origin, it’s $49,500.

Dryer Lint Causes Home Fires

The National Fire Protection Association reported that from 2010-2014 U.S. municipal fire departments responded to about 15,970 home fires involving clothes dryers. Annual losses were around 13 civilian deaths, 440 civilian injuries, and $238 million in direct property damage.

These fires peak in fall and winter months, the highest being in January, possibly explained by the quantity and type of clothing worn. There’s a slight peak in time of day, too, that being between 1 to 2 p.m.

The leading cause of clothes dryer fires historically has not been a mechanical failure (28 percent) or electrical failure (17 percent). No, the real problem was lint. Specifically, not cleaning lint (33 percent). It’s a combustible material, after all.

There’s a strong case to clean your dryer. 

How To Clean Your Dryer Vent

The North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension itemized a useful list of information as to how to clean this thing safely.

It’ll cost you practically nothing to do this. Cleaning your dryer decreases the time for clothes to dry. There’s the point about fire safety (belabored above). With gas dryers, too, there’s an added safety component: it protects you from combustion gases like carbon monoxide.

First, unplug the dryer and shut off the gas, if applicable. The safety equipment needed for this procedure is nothing more than a face mask. It’s decently safe if you’re responsible throughout the process.

Pull the dryer away from the wall and make space for yourself to work. Loosen the clamp on the vent and pull it from the wall.

Then, get in there with a vacuum or your hands, both from the wall vent and the dryer vent. Most of the build up will be at the ends of them. The situation could be worse and you could find yourself with a lot of build up, so just take that thing outside with a dryer vent brush. Normally, you can find them for between $10 to $30. They snake into the vent and brush out debris.

It’ll get dusty if you go this route, but it’s a thorough approach.

Once that’s handled, reattach the dryer-to-wall vent, get that clamp back on it, and push it back to the wall. You’re done with the interior for now. Go outside. Figure out where that vent is on the exterior of your home.

After it’s located, remove the cover of the vent. It may be affixed with screws or caulking, so do what you must with a screwdriver or utility knife. Don’t worry. Caulking it again is fine. Again, vacuum or scoop out lint near the end. Go crazy with a dryer vent brush if you invested in one.

Here’s the thing: 

Once you’re done doing that, don’t put the exterior cover back on. Go inside, plug the dryer in, set the dryer to air fluff, and turn it on for about 10 – 15 minutes. Air that isn’t heated will be cycled out of the dryer vent, collecting any of the leftover you may have missed.

When that finishes, you’re on the home stretch. Go back outside and put the vent cover back.

Over time, and this goes without saying, clean out the lint screen with each use. As you’ll see in the process of cleaning out your dryer, it’s not going to catch all that lint with each load of laundry.

Cleaning Your Dryer Vent is Important, But Hindsight’s 20/20

If you are reading this after a recent dryer fire our deepest apologies. Now it becomes a question of how to manage the current disaster and keeping it from happening in the future.

Fire and smoke damage don’t belong in the home. Allied 24/7 has smoke and fire damage experts available in Kalispell Montana at all hours of the day to get your home back in order.

Give us a call at (406) 756-4357!