Fires directly caused by dryers are more common than anyone would like and more common than you may expect. According to the National Park Service, 15,500 house fires are caused directly by the home’s dryer every year in the United States. An average of ten people die from these fires per year and an additional 310 people are injured. As dryers are often installed directly next to structural wood on the inside of the exterior wall of the home, these are often structural fires, where the very materials that hold the home up light up. The fires caused by dryers may therefore cause more damage than some (but not all) other fire types. Annually, they cause roughly $84 million in property damage.

how common are dryer fires?

While that all sounds quite risky, there are very simple steps you can take to protect yourself, your family and your home from dryer fires. We will go over them below and add in other useful information you should know about these fires.

How to Avoid Dryer Fires

You can take steps to avoid dryer fires:

  • Dryer installation: Proper dryer installation, particularly the installation of the vent, is essential in order to let the dryer function safely. Check to see if your technician used an appropriate vent material (metal.) Ensure your HVAC technician has not installed your dryer near something flammable. If you have doubts about their work, call for a second opinion.
  • Dryer vent cleaning: Almost one-third (27%) of dryer fires are caused by lint build-up in the dryer vent. HVAC professionals offer dryer vent cleaning to restore flow to the vent and remove flammable material.
  • Other dryer maintenance: Almost one-third (31%) of dryer fires are caused by the failure to properly maintain dryers. You should get routine maintenance for this equipment, or at least have a professional check for safety issues, signs of electrical failure, and other concerns.
  • Dryer use: Using your dryer carefully can reduce the risk of fires. Do not overfill the dryer. Clean the lint trap after every dryer cycle. Also, do not store flammable items near your dryer, including previously dried clothing, paper products, and home chemicals.

Noticing dryer fires can also be a challenge. The National Park Service recommends that you only run the dryer when you are home. When you are running it, be sure to investigate if you detect even a slight burning smell from your dryer. Always call the fire department if you suspect that you have a home fire, as they quickly can get out of control, particularly when they have lint to burn.

What About the “Vent Check” Feature?

Many dryers are equipped with a vent check feature designed to alert you if there has been a build-up of lint in the dryer vent. However, Consumer Reports warns that many of these alerts only work reliably when the vent is completely clogged with lint. They are less successful at alerting you to partial clogs, which are still enough to cause fires.

Getting professional help to keep your dryer safe is the most important thing you can do to prevent these fires. Reach out to someone you trust today.