The Hidden Fire Hazard of Lint

June 22, 2017

You Should Consider This Fire Hazard

The Danger of Lint Fires 

Is there a fire hazard in your house you’re completely unaware of? Dryer vent fires occur almost 3,000 times a year in U.S. residences. About five deaths each year are attributed to this cause and over $35 million in property damage results. What happens when this common household appliance turns into a fire hazard? Here’s how the danger develops:

What is Lint and Where Does it Come From?

Lint is a natural byproduct of drying clothes and other fabrics. However, lint is also extremely flammable and, under the right conditions, can ignite almost explosively. Most dryers incorporate two elements: a lint filter to screen out lint and a vent duct pipe to exhaust hot air out of the house.

  • In one scenario, a clogged lint filter causes excess lint to accumulate on internal surfaces inside the dryer. Lint may contact dryer heating elements. In this event, lint inside the dryer may ignite and cause a fire.
  • In other cases, the vent pipe itself is the source of lint accumulation. Vent pipes may be long and incorporate bends that, over time, cause build-up of large amounts of lint within the entire length of the pipe. Lint igniting in the dryer spreads to the vent pipe, which may spread fire into the house.

Reduce Your Dryer Fire Hazard

  • Clean the lint filter before each use. Also be aware of any signs of lint accumulating inside the dryer.
  • Inspect the vent duct pipe for lint accumulation. Professional dryer vent cleaning services are available.
  • Vent ducts should be as short as possible and routed to the exhaust point with as few bends as possible. Use only metal vent pipe rated for driers or furnace vents. Flexible plastic pipe will easily melt and/or may become crushed and obstruct flow of hot air entirely, triggering a lint fire.
  • In a gas-fired dryer, make sure combustion gases such as carbon monoxide are properly vented, too.
  • Have your dryer serviced regularly by a qualified technician, including verifying proper function of the high temperature cutoff switch designed to prevent fires.