When performing home inspections in Fauquier County, I see many dryer vents that are heavily clogged/restricted. This is the root cause of many dryer fires. It's very important that you as a homeowner periodically check and clean your dryer vent.
Every year, firefighters across the country respond to several thousand home fires caused by clothes dryers, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
Many of these fires are caused by an accumulation of lint. This means a lack of not cleaning out your dryer vent on a periodic basis can set you up for a very dangerous situation.
Dryer fires are responsible for several deaths, hundreds of injuries, and several million in property damage annually.
Below are steps that can be taken to ensure you won't experience a dryer fire;
1. Clean Your Dryer's Filter
Clean the filter after every load. Many people neglect doing this. This will prevent a dryer fire and will also not cause the dryer to work as hard.
2. Replace Accordion-Style Ducting
Dryers are generally equipped with a 4-inch vent in the back, which homeowners or installers connect to the exterior vent with a duct.
If you see a plastic (mylar) or foil accordion-style duct connecting your dryer to the vent, replace it. These can be dangerous because they can sag, allowing lint to build up at low points and trapping lint in their ridges.
Smooth-walled, rigid or semi-rigid, flexible metal ducting is recommended. The smooth walls do not allow the buildup of lint, allowing for effective air flow.
One other tip: Use duct connectors and metal clamps or foil tape to join sections of duct rather than sheet-metal screws, which can catch lint and cause buildup inside the duct.
3. Clean the dryer ducting annually (at a minimum)
If you notice that your dryer takes longer to dry laundry than it used to, that's a clue that there may be a blockage in the dryer vent system. When you’re drying a load, go outside and look at the vent. Do you see or feel exhaust air? If not, the vent or exhaust duct may be blocked with lint.
Start by disconnecting your dryer from the power source. And if you have a gas dryer, also turn off the gas valve near the dryer.
Carefully slide the dryer away from the wall so that you can access the vent. If you have a gas dryer, take care not to overstretch or damage the gas line.
Disconnect the duct from the dryer, and vacuum both the dryer and the duct—as much as you can access. Where possible, separate the duct into shorter sections for better access, then reassemble and attach the duct to the dryer. Be sure all joints in the duct are properly connected and held together with clamps or foil tape. Then return the dryer to its original spot and reconnect the power.
While you’re at it, clean behind the dryer and underneath it—lint builds up there, too. In winter, check after windy weather or snowstorms to be sure that snow isn’t blocking the outdoor vent.