We’ve spent a lot of time discussing the dangers of dryer fires. Some of you may still not believe they actually happen. We found this article from Consumer Reports that we hope will help you form a concrete opinion.
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From the article:
In the e-mail, an unknown author warns of a clothes dryer’s burned-out heating unit. According to a “repair man,” the author writes, the burnout was caused by fabric-sheet film buildup on the lint filter. “You can’t SEE the film, but it’s there,” the author writes. “This is also what causes dryer units to catch fire and potentially burn the house down.” The best way to avoid these problems, according to the “repairman,” is to take that filter out and wash it with hot soapy water and an old toothbrush (or other brush) at least every six months.
But according to Consumer Reports testers, this e-mail mixes a lot of hyperbole with only a few helpful dryer-maintenance tips. At Consumer Reports we’ve tested hundreds of clothes dryers for our ongoing dryer Ratings and recommendations (available to subscribers). CR’s appliance director, Mark Connelly, says it’s possible that over a long period, fabric sheets, fabric softeners, and laundry detergent ingredients contribute to an unseen film or waxy buildup on the dryer lint screen. But “it’s highly doubtful,” he said, “that any such invisible buildup alone leads to heating-unit burnout or a fire.”
Improper dryer vents are a much bigger and more common safety problem. Here are a few tips to keep your clothes dryer running safely and efficiently.
- Use metal dryer ducts to help prevent dryer fires. Consumer Reports says that flexible dryer ducts made of foil or plastic 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 solid, are far safer because they don’t sag, so lint is less likely to build up. In addition, if a fire does start, a metal duct is more likely to contain it. See our dryer venting safety report for more tips as well as photos and a dryer-venting video.
- No matter which kind of duct you have, you should clean it regularly. In addition, remove the visible lint from the lint screen each time you use your dryer. This not only will reduce the risk of a fire, but your clothes will dry faster and your dryer will use less energy. If dryer film is a worry, there is certainly no harm in occasionally cleaning the lint filter with warm soapy water and a small brush.
- Clean inside, behind, and underneath the dryer, where lint can also build up.
Have more questions about dryer fires? Checkout this article about dryer fire statistics for busy homeowners that could be of interest to you.