More than 13,000 fires a year start in laundry rooms in the United States, resulting in 10 deaths and $97 million in property damage. Nearly 4,000 of these fires arise from lint buildup that occurs when people fail to clean their dryer vents. The following safety information from Consumer Reports can help you prevent a disaster.
• Clean the dryer duct regularly. In addition, remove the visible lint from the lint screen each time you use your dryer. This not only will reduce the risk of a fire, but your clothes will dry faster and your dryer will use less energy
• Clean inside, behind, and underneath the dryer, where lint can also build up.
• Occasionally wipe the sensor with a soft cloth or cotton ball and rubbing alcohol to keep it functioning accurately. Sensors are usually located on the inside of the dryer, just below the door opening, and can be hard to find. They are usually two curved metallic strips, shaped somewhat like the letter “C”.
Flexible dryer ducts made of foil or plastic are the most problematic because they can sag and let lint build up at low points. Ridges can also trap lint. Metal ducts, either flexible or solid, are far safer because they don’t sag, so lint is less likely to build up. In addition, if a fire does start, a metal duct is more likely to contain it.
When I perform home inspections, I look behind the dryer to see what condition it is in. Frequently my home inspection reveals a mass lint build up indicating the dryer vent has not been cleaned for years.
Helpful hint on how to remove lint from the vent in the wall.
It is fairly easy to clean the dryer vent system. First move the unit away from the wall and disconnect the vent duct. Inspect the visible cavities and clear lint as required. A dryer lint brush can be purchased at most hardware stores. Brush the vent and remove as much lint as possible. This helps however most brushes are only about 30 inches long so they do not clean the whole vent or remove lint attached to rough areas or screws at connections. If possible remove the vent cover on the exterior and brush this area as well.
Now for the fun part. As Tim used to say on the show Home Improvement, “what we need is more power”. Connect a leaf blower (lawn tool) to the vent connection at the wall. Tape around the connection with duct tape and then turn the leaf blower on. If possible, go to the exhaust location and remove any buildup of lint that has been blown through. (Caution, if the vent has not been cleaned for years the results may vary. You may have something that looks like a small snow storm to chunks of lint blowing out. I would let the leaf blower run until nothing at all comes out of the exterior. Now you are halfway done.
remove the leaf blower from the interior vent connection and duct tape a pair of panty hose to the vent. (Warning, using your wife’s hose with out her permission may result in a different type of heated situation) Now connect the leaf blower to the outside and turn it on.
Many people have been surprised at the amount of lint that is blown into the panty hose when the air is traveling the opposite direction.
This procedure should be repeated annually
Scott Warga, is the Qualifying party for ACSI American Construction Specialists and Investigations LLC,(ROC216772) a dual licensed residential and small commercial contractor. He is also a qualified Phoenix home inspector certified by the Arizona Board of Technical Registration (#38062) and was appointed to the Arizona Board of Technical Registration’s Enforcement Advisory Committee. He has years of construction experience and has performed residential and commercial property inspections for over 10 years. He has specialized in forensic inspections, investigating failed, damaged and defective construction for over 5
years. He is a member of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), (#205826) and currently sits on their board of directors. He has been an instructor of home inspection at Mesa Community College, for Inspection Training Associates, a Kaplan Professional School and Arizona Sun-Tech Home Inspection School. He has served as District Chairman & Vice President for the Arizona chapter of the American Society of Home Inspectors and an approved instructor for both them and the Arizona Department of Real Estate. If you need an Arizona Home Inspector, he is your guy.