Dryer fires in commercial or multiunit residential settings are not very common, but they can happen and depending on the location, they can present special risks. No one wants to have to evacuate an apartment building, dormitory or hotel – much less a hospital or a nursing home.
The underlying problem is that lint has to go somewhere when a dryer is used, and lint is flammable. It can build up in the lint filter inside the dryer, elsewhere inside the dryer, and in the ductwork leading to the exhaust. If it doesn’t find its way all the way out of the building, you have a problem.
Two telltale signs that indicate that your exhaust system is well overdue for a cleaning are a slowdown in the dryer’s ability to get clothes dry and rising temperatures in the laundry room. Although other causes are possible, these often indicate that the airflow from the dryer to the exhaust vent is partly or totally clogged. That is both inefficient in terms of energy and a fire risk.
Keeping the exhaust ducts clean is not the only key to dryer fire safety, though. The US Fire Administration also recommends several other things to do (and not to do). You can read them all here, but the highlights include:
- Don’t dry anything containing foam, rubber or plastic. This would include bathroom rugs with rubber backing.
- Don’t dry items that have come into contact with anything flammable like alcohol, cooking oils, or gasoline.
- Have gas-powered dryers inspected every year by a professional to ensure that the gas line and connection and together and free of leaks.
- Clean the lint filter before and after each load of laundry. Don’t forget to clean the back of the dryer where lint can build up.
- Whatever form your outdoor vent takes, make sure it opens when the dryer is on, and does not have anything around it like a screen which can clog up with lint.
Best wishes for spring!