Why You Need to Go Beyond the Lint Trap to Keep Your Dryer Safe From Fires

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If you spend any time doing laundry, you already know that you’re supposed to clean out the lint trap every time you run a load through the dryer. But the task is more urgent than it may seem in the moment. Regular dryer cleaning could save your house from burning down.

Clothes dryers cause thousands of house fires in the U.S. per year, and many of those are caused by excess lint. According to Consumer Reports, your dryer is much more likely to catch on fire because of lint buildup than because of an electrical problem.

If you want to keep your home safe from flames, in other words, you could do worse than starting with your clothes dryer. That involves more than just dusting off the lint trap every few days. As a bonus, the steps you take to reduce the lint in your dryer system will also make your clothes dry faster.

Some newer dryers that Consumer Reports tested actually have sensors designed to alert you if their vents are blocked, but the magazine found that the appliances were really only useful for detecting full blockages, not the partial lint buildups that could still pose a fire risk, so you don't want to totally rely on those.

First, check out what your dryer vent setup is. Those familiar plastic or foil accordion-style dryer ducts were once ubiquitous, but now they're a known fire risk. The ridges in the hose are very effective at trapping hot air and lint, eventually blocking the air coming out of the dryer and potentially starting a fire. They can also sag and form kinks, leading to—you guessed it—more lint buildup. Replace it with a rigid metal duct instead. It'll certainly be cheaper than rebuilding your house.

Even if you have a metal duct, you'll still need to clean it out every few months, disconnecting the dryer from the power entirely and taking the vent out of the wall. Break out your vacuum and use the crevice attachment to clean out both ends of the duct. (You can also get a brush to do the job for under $20 on Amazon.) While you're back there, you should also check behind and underneath your dryer for loose lint, and clean that out as well.

Then, every six months or so, according to Maytag, you should give your lint screen a full wash, using liquid detergent and scrubbing it with a brush to remove residue buildup. If your dryer has automatic cycles, you may also want to wipe off the moisture sensors inside the drum, ensuring that the dryer doesn't keep working long after your clothes are dry.

Oh, and please don't stick your gasoline-stained clothes in the dryer.

While digging around behind your appliances and replacing vents may seem like a lot of work, that little extra effort can make your home much safer. While you're there, perhaps you want to get started on cleaning your washer, too.

[h/t Consumer Reports]