Recent incidents in Stuyvesant, New York, Bridgewater, New Jersey, and Erwin, North Carolina, point to the dangers of dryer fires. In fact, on average, more than 13,000 fires start in laundry rooms in the United States each year, resulting in 10 deaths and $97 million in property damage. Nearly 4,000 of these fires arise from lint buildup that occurs when people fail to clean their dryer vents. The following advice can help you prevent a disaster.
When it comes to dryer fires, flexible dryer ducts made of foil or plastic (plastic is shown at right) are the most problematic because they can sag and let lint build up at low points. Ridges can also trap lint. Metal ducts, either flexible or rigid (rigid is shown at left ), are far safer because they don't sag, so lint is less likely to accumulate. What’s more, if a fire does start, a metal duct is more likely to contain it.
No matter which kind of duct you have, clean it regularly. Also clean the lint screen each time you use your dryer and get rid of any lint inside, behind, and underneath the dryer. These simple steps will not only reduce the risk of a fire, but your dryer will also dry your clothes faster and use less energy. Learn more dryer-safety tips from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, whose illustration is shown at right.
Essential information: Watch our safety alert video for more information on preventing dryer fires. If you’re in the market for a new dryer or washer, read our February 2008 report on laundry appliances. And find the best detergents to get your laundry clean.