Clothes Dryer Safety Tips – A Homeowner’s Guide to a Safer, More Efficient Dryer & Home
All it takes is one week on the road without a washer and dryer and you’re thanking the heavens you’ve got these modern appliances in your home. They certainly make life easier – especially if you’ve got a big family.
But did you know that your clothes dryer could actually be a fire and carbon monoxide hazard if you skip routine maintenance?
It’s true. Lint and debris can build up in your dryer duct, causing your dryer to work overtime and creating potentially hazardous conditions – like dangerous levels of carbon monoxide or even a house fire.
In fact, each year, there are around 2,900 clothes dryer fires here in the U.S. – resulting in multiple deaths, around 100 injuries, and an estimated $35 million in property loss.
Here at the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), we think those numbers are too high. We aim to reduce those numbers, which is why we created the C-DET® certification and put together some dryer safety tips from the NFPA for you.
Take a look around and let us know if you have any questions!
Want a Safer, More Efficient Dryer? Follow These Top Dryer Safety & Efficiency Tips from the NFPA
- Have your dryer installed and serviced by a professional.
- Schedule annual dryer vent inspections with a Certified Dryer Exhaust Technician (C-DET)®.
- Clean the lint filter before or after each load of laundry. Remove lint that has been collecting around the drum.
- Rigid or flexible metal venting materials should be used to sustain proper air flow and dry time. Double check that your venting is made from rigid or flexible metal venting materials and not plastic or another material.
- Make sure the air exhaust vent pipe is not restricted and that the outdoor vent flap opens when the dryer is operating.
- Once a year (or more often if you notice that it’s taking longer than normal for your clothes to dry), clean lint out of the vent pipe or have a C-DET® do it for you.
- Keep your dryer in good working order. Have your gas dryer inspected by a professional to make sure that the gas line and connection are intact and free of leaks.
- Make sure the right plug and outlet are used and that the machine is connected properly. A C-DET® can check this for you.
- Follow the manufacturer’s operating instructions and don’t overload your dryer.
- Turn the dryer off if you leave home or go to bed.
Why Are Dryer Exhaust Vent Inspections Necessary?
The #1 thing you can do to reduce your clothes dryer fire risk is to schedule an annual dryer exhaust vent inspection.
Annual dryer exhaust vent inspections (also known as dryer exhaust duct inspections) are more necessary today than they were in the past. Why? Because of the complex construction of today’s homes.
Dryers in newer homes are typically located away from an outside wall – in bathrooms, kitchens, and hall closets. While this is certainly convenient, it is potentially dangerous from a safety standpoint.
Here’s why: These locations mean longer venting distances and more bends typically. As a result, dryer ducts are harder to access, and the additional length creates more surface area for lint to collect and birds and animals to hide.
If you’re keeping up with routine inspections, you’ll know when buildup, blockages, or issues are present, so you can take care of them before they become a serious threat.
Why Should You Have Your Dryer Vents Cleaned?
#1 To remove lint and nesting materials.
Lint and nesting materials are fire hazards. They can ignite in the dryer vent and cause a fire if they aren’t removed, which is one reason why dryer vent cleanings are so important. But that’s not the only reason to clean your dryer vents.
#2 To prevent trapped heat, moisture, and carbon monoxide.
Clogged exhaust ducts also trap heat, moisture, and – in the case of gas clothes dryers – carbon monoxide in your home. This forces your appliance to work harder than necessary to dry your laundry, and it puts you at risk of exposure to carbon monoxide. Not only that, but that moisture can damage drywall, wallpaper, ceilings, and other building materials.
#3 To reduce wear and tear on your dryer.
A clogged exhaust duct will force your appliance to work harder than necessary to dry your laundry, which means more wear and tear on the appliance and a greater likelihood that you’ll need to replace it sooner rather than later.
Think about it: If your dryer takes twice as long to dry clothes as it should, the number of loads that it will dry is cut in half. And when the dryer runs at higher-than-designed temperatures because of a clogged vent, the life of your clothes dryer is decreased. This can lead to the heating element burning out or a fire igniting as a result of overworked safety controls.
But when you keep your dryer vents clean, your dryer can work efficiently, without the extra effort and strain.
#4 To save time and money.
Your most precious resource, time, is wasted when you have to run the dryer cycle after cycle. But a clean dryer vent will keep your dryer working efficiently and quickly, reducing time and energy waste. Which means you’ll save money, too.
Not only that, but you’ll notice less wear and tear to your clothes. Which means fewer runs to Target for new wardrobes for the family.
What Does a C-DET® Do During an Inspection?
So, what can you expect when you hire a C-DET® to take a look at your dryer vent? During a typical inspection, a CSIA-Certified Dryer Exhaust Technician® will examine the venting system, clean the venting system, and verify that the venting system is sized and installed correctly.
If, for example, you have a plastic transition duct joining the dryer to the wall, they will suggest replacing it with a metal duct because plastic transition ducts are flammable and a fire hazard.
Six Bonus Facts About Clothes Dryer Exhaust Safety
- According to manufacturer’s specifications and local codes, dryer ducts must be a minimum of 4” in diameter and at least as large as the dryer outlet.
- Unless otherwise specified by your dryer’s manufacturer or local code, the developed length of your dryer’s exhaust duct should not exceed 25 feet. When determining developed length, remember that each 90-degree turn adds 5 feet to the actual length.
- Dryer vents shall be independent of all other systems and terminate outdoors, not into a chimney, crawl space, or attic.
- Your outside dryer exhaust vent’s termination hood should be equipped with a back draft damper to ensure that the exhaust doesn’t come back in your home.
- Metal transition ducts should be used between the dryer and the exhaust duct.
- Flexible transition ducts should never be used in attics, crawl spaces, or inside walls.
Why Hire a CSIA-Certified Dryer Exhaust Technician®?
So, you’re ready to have your dryer vent inspected and cleaned. Who should you hire?
The truth is, anyone can call themselves a ‘technician’ and advertise their services online or in the local newspaper. But that says nothing about their qualifications or experience. The Certified Dryer Exhaust Technician (C-DET)® credential is the ONLY nationally-recognized credential of its kind.
Hiring a CSIA-Certified Dryer Exhaust Technician (C-DET)® means you are trusting your home and family to someone who has spent countless hours studying for (and passing) an extensive exam. Many C-DETs® have participated in a rigorous two-day workshop where they learned from some of the most respected experts in the chimney and venting industry. And all have proven they know their stuff – from proper inspection and maintenance of dryer vents to applicable codes and standards relating to these systems.
The bottom line? When you hire a Certified Dryer Exhaust Technician (C-DET)® you can be confident you’re getting an experienced and knowledgeable expert who is qualified and trained to do the job right.