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How to Prevent a Dryer Fire

by Erie Insurance on January 13, 2021


Laundry is part of life’s weekly grind. But did you know that dryers cause roughly 15,500 home structure fires, 29 deaths, 400 injuries and $192 million in direct property loss each year? What’s more, most dryer fires happen in the winter.

WHAT CAN CAUSE A DRYER FIRE?

The most common cause of dryer fires is failure to do a thorough cleaning. Because a lint trap is not a foolproof method for catching all the fuzzy stuff from clothes, lint can gradually build up and catch fire in the heating element or exhaust duct.

Further compounding the problem is the fact that many people now install dryers outside of their basements. This typically results in dryer vent pipes being much longer. Those longer vent pipes have a greater likelihood of being twisted and turned to accommodate the structure of the home—and that creates spaces for lint to collect.

WHAT COULD HAPPEN IF MY DRYER CATCHES ON FIRE?

Kevin Sippy, an insurance adjuster in ERIE’s Wisconsin Branch, inspects about five dryer fires every year. One particularly bad one happened when a customer laundered an item containing a type of rubber not meant to be dried at a hot temperature. When she turned the dryer to high, the material combusted and caused a blaze that destroyed $44,000 worth of property.

VIDEO: Watch how quickly a dryer fire can spread

In another instance, a customer suffered $200,000 of property damage from a fire that started after she took her laundry out of the dryer. That customer washed towels that had been soaked in a sizable amount of sanitizing solution. She then placed the towels, which still had traces of the sanitizing solution, in the dryer. When the towels dried, they ended up spontaneously combusting and causing a fire that burned through an entire floor.

“We literally had to gut the house,” says Sippy, who changed his own laundry habits after that fire. “Now, I never dry anything higher than the low setting—I’d rather take a little longer to dry my clothes than burn my house down.”

9 TIPS TO PREVENT DRYER FIRES

1. Clean out the lint. “It starts with cleaning out the lint filter every time you use the dryer.” says John Hall, Ph.D., division director of fire Analysis & Research for the National Fire Protection Association. He also advises clearing out the vent pipe to reduce the chance of fire and to maintain the efficiency of the dryer.