Dryers are well-known for posing a fire risk to the home, and plenty of people find that out the hard way each year. Unfortunately, dryer fires are more common than most people realize. However, there is a silver lining: dryer fires are entirely preventable.
Dryer fire prevention begins with the installation. Only qualified professionals should set up your dryer for you, especially if the appliance is to be connected to a gas line. Besides that, proper cleaning of lint traps and vent hoses is also crucial for fire prevention, as is replacing any damaged components. Lastly, the fire risk is lowered by never overloading a dryer and always following the manufacturer’s usage instructions.
In the following sections, we’ll look at the different causes of dryer fires and what you can do to prevent them.
How Likely Is It For A Dryer To Catch Fire?
It’s unlikely for a dryer to catch fire, especially newer models that are designed to be safer than ever. However, that will depend on how well the user maintains and cleans the machine. Plus, a dryer is less likely to catch fire so long as it is used correctly and according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Dryers Are A Leading Cause Of House Fires
Even though modern dryers are very safe, they are still a leading cause of house fires all over the world. But why is this the case?
Well, one of the most well-known reasons for dryer fires is a lack of proper cleaning. But, interestingly, that’s not the only reason why dryers might catch fires.
Here are the reasons behind house fires that originate from the dryer:
- Lint filters and vents: As mentioned before, the most common and recognizable reasons for dryer fires are dirty and clogged lint filters and dryer vents. When these parts are saturated with lint and exposed to lots of heat, they can combust and cause a house fire.
- Mechanical problems: Another cause behind dryer fires are mechanical problems, such as incorrect installation and damaged parts. For example, gas dryers are connected to a gas line which should only be installed by a qualified professional.
Gas leaks and hot dryer components are not a good mix and raise the fire risk.
- User error: Another often overlooked factor in dryer fires is plain user error. For example, overloading the dryer with too many clothing items or loading flammable items (like plastic or rubber) could also cause a dryer fire.
How Do You Clean A Dryer Vent To Prevent A Fire?
The best way to clean a dryer vent and prevent a fire is to remove the vent entirely. Disconnecting the vent from the back of the dryer and the termination point will allow you to take it somewhere safe and thoroughly clean the insides. Then, all you’ll need is a brush and a vacuum to remove any buildup of lint and dirt from every inch of the dryer vent.
At the same time, don’t forget to clean the inside of the dryer as well. The dryer exhaust, which is the section where the dryer connects to the vent hose, can also experience a buildup of lint inside. So, clean it out with a brush and vacuum as well.
Clean A Dryer Vent Without Removing The Vent Hose
Depending on the way your dryer vent system is built, you might not be able to remove the dryer vent hose or ducting to clean it out as described above. If that’s the case, then another option would be to clean it from the outside through the vent cover.
To do this, you’ll need a dryer vent cleaning kit. These kits consist of a brush head and several flexible rods that you can attach to one another. That way, you can lengthen the rods as much as necessary to reach every inch inside your dryer vent.
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For easier brushing, these rods are also compatible with your cordless drill. Using it this way will help you to clean the dryer vent much faster.
Can An Electric Dryer Catch Fire?
Yes, an electric dryer can also catch fire. However, the reasons and risks are slightly different compared to that of a gas dryer.
For example, an electric dryer fire can be caused by:
- Blocked lint trap and dryer vent that overheats and combusts.
- Mechanical problems like damaged components.
- Putting too many clothing items in the drum leads to overheating and burning.
- Loading flammable materials into the dryer.
As you can see, the fire risks are pretty similar between electric and gas dryers. The significant difference here is that you won’t have to worry about fires related to gas leaks when it comes to an electric dryer.
Can Overloading A Dryer Cause A Fire?
Yes, overloading a dryer can cause a fire. When it comes to dryers, smooth airflow and ventilation are the most critical factors for the machine to work correctly. Anything that restricts that airflow will cause the dryer to overheat, thereby making it a much more significant fire risk.
An overloaded dryer can cause a fire to happen in two ways. Firstly, having too many items inside the dryer drum will prevent sufficient airflow from passing through.
Remember: there must always be enough space inside the dryer for clothes to tumble freely.
Secondly, having too many clothing items in the dryer will also cause an excess amount of lint to pass through. As a result, the lint trap will get saturated much quicker, and so will the dryer vent.
Airflow blockages caused by lint build-ups will not only prevent smooth airflow, but the lint itself could combust and cause a fire.
Is It OK To Leave A Dryer Running Overnight?
No, it is not okay to leave a dryer to run overnight. Of course, you don’t have to sit with the dryer throughout a drying cycle. But at the very least, you should be at home while the dryer is running so that you can respond to any problems quickly.
The reason you shouldn’t leave your dryer running overnight is pretty straightforward. If your dryer were to catch fire for any reason at all while you were sleeping, you would not be aware of it. Worse still, you would not be able to respond to the fire spreading from your laundry room.
However, if a dryer fire happened while you were awake and somewhere nearby in the home, you’d be able to respond quickly. You would be able to call for help or use a fire extinguisher to put out the fire. At the very least, you’d be able to escape the house safely.
That would likely not be possible in the middle of the night while you’re sleeping.
Can Dryers Explode?
Yes, although the chances are very low, there’s still a possibility that your dryer could explode. That’s particularly true with gas dryers, seeing as how they’re connected to your home’s gas line.
However, it’s a lot less likely with electric dryers that don’t have any gas connections at all. In this case, an explosion might only happen if something explosive was put into the dryer.
Let’s take a closer look at both dryer types.
Gas Dryer Explosions
Firstly, let’s be very clear on one thing: a gas dryer that was installed by a qualified professional is perfectly safe. However, there is a heightened danger when some users try to perform DIY installations or repairs involving gas dryers, which they are not qualified to do.
In those cases, yes, the risk of a dryer exploding is much higher.
A dryer fire combined with a gas line can cause an explosion that leads to property damage, injuries, and potentially loss of life.
Electric Dryer Explosions
Electric dryers on their own cannot explode. That’s because they’re powered only by electricity and are not connected to gas lines or anything else. However, explosions are still possible if the user accidentally puts a flammable or pressurized item inside the dryer.
For example, accidentally leaving lighters or battery packs inside clothes that are loaded into the dryer could cause explosions to happen within the dryer itself.
Besides that, any sort of pressurized canister could also explode when exposed to the dryer’s heat for too long. Common examples of this would be cans of bug spray or deodorant accidentally left in pockets when put into the dryer.
Still, these kinds of explosions are not as damaging or devastating as those involving a gas line.
Can Batteries Explode In A Dryer?
Yes, batteries can explode inside a dryer. Even though batteries are built much safer these days, they have a maximum temperature to be exposed to safely. So when loaded into a dryer, they’ll be heated for extended periods that could cause them to explode inside the dryer.
However, even if the battery does not explode inside the dryer, you should still dispose of it immediately. Whether or not an explosion happens, the battery is already compromised from the prolonged exposure to heat.
The batteries might not have exploded while tumbling inside the dryer. Still, it could explode later, like when you attempt to recharge the battery.