Nearly 3,000 home clothes dryer fires are reported each year, causing about five deaths, 100 injuries, and $35 million in property loss, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. Thirty-four percent of these start because the dryer trap or vent hose hasn’t been cleaned.

According to firefighters, the buildup of lint in your dryer lint trap and your dryer vent hose is the greatest fire hazard you will have in your home. While shorts and high load on the electrical components cause some dryer fires, the underlying cause of these problems is usually the lint. 

Lint is flammable, and when it gets caught in the vent and builds up it can heat up to the point of ignition. A buildup over time causes the dryer to work less efficiently. It takes longer for clothing to dry and the machine has to work harder, making it heat up to a higher temperature and creating the fire risk. 

Fires usually start inside the machine. From there, they spread into the vent hose in which the combustible material has built-up and then to the inside and outside walls of the house. 

How to Clean the Lint Trap

It is generally very easy to remove the lint trap and remove lint. Before and after each use, you should manually remove the loose, residual lint. Every month or two, you should thoroughly clean it by using a soft brush and dish soap, especially if you use fabric softener sheets. These sheets can completely close up the mesh in the lint trap.

Do not forget to clean the back of the dryer where lint can build up. Check the venting system behind the dryer to make sure that it is not damaged, crushed or restricted.

Prevention Tips

  • Clean the lint trap after every load.
  • Don’t use a dryer without a lint filter.
  • Don’t overload your dryer.
  • Make sure your vent runs outside.
  • Make sure the proper cap is on your vent outside to prevent animals from getting in.
  • Have the vent professionally cleaned every six to 12 months, depending on the length of the vent run.
  • Don’t put flammable items in your dryer, like rubber-backed bathmats or anything with oil or gasoline stains.
  • Keep the area around the clothes dryer free of items that can burn.

Signs it’s Time to Clean out Your Vent

  • Your dryer feels very hot to the touch.
  • You notice low air pressure from your vent.
  • It takes multiple cycles to dry clothes.
  • When the dryer is running you smell burning or smoke.

If you are experiencing any of the above issues, you may want to call a professional to have your dryer checked and cleaned as the lint that is causing the hazard could be lurking in parts of the dryer or vent beyond your view.