“Between 2010-2014, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 15,970 home fires involving clothes dryers or washing machines each year. These fires resulted in annual losses estimated at 13 deaths, 440 injuries, and $238 million in property damage,” according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
Of the above fires, clothes dryers accounted for a whopping 92% of them, while washing machines only accounted for 4%, according to the NFPA. And for the cause? The NFPA says the leading factor that contributed to these dryer fires being ignited was the consumer’s failure to clean the dryer. Meanwhile, the leading factors in washing machine fires were electrical or mechanical malfunctions.
“Fires involving clothes dryers usually started with the ignition of something that was being dried or was a byproduct (such as lint) of drying,” stated the NFPA. Want to learn more? Read the NFPA’s report on clothes dryers and washing machines causing home fires.
Prevention Tips for Consumers
As electrical contractors, we know how dangerous electrical appliances can be and how they can pose fire hazards. Since dryers involve electricity, power cords, and wall outlets, we understand how they can be a cause of deadly home fires. To help our readers be safe, we turned to Consumer Reports to share tips on preventing dryer fires and here is what CR had to say:
- Clean the lint filter screen after every load, not just once a week or once a month. “This helps prevent a fire, and it also helps your laundry dry faster,” says Richard Handel, a test engineer at CR.
- If your dryer has a plastic or foil accordion-style duct that connects the dryer to the vent, CR says to replace it. When they sag, lint can build up, trapping the lint in the ridges.
- If your dryer starts taking longer to dry loads, take that as a sign that there could be a blockage. Next time you’re drying a load, go outside of the house and look at the vent. If you can’t see or feel exhaust air, this means the exhaust duct or vent could be blocked with lint and needs to be cleaned.
- If you wash clothing with gas, cleaning agents, or another flammable substance, be aware that it could be a fire hazard. CR recommends washing them more than once to reduce the volatile chemicals, then hang dry. If you insist on using the dryer, use the lowest heat setting, the one that ends with a cool-down period.
Note: If you ever have a dryer fire on your hands, do not open the dryer door because doing so would give it additional oxygen. Remember, fire needs oxygen to keep going, and you don’t want that!