Check for Highly Flammable Dryer Lint in Duct Vents and Exhaust


Clothes dryer venting systems can be a serious fire hazard if not properly installed and maintained.

What happens? Moist air and lint accumulate inside the duct pipe, exterior exhaust vent and interior areas of the dryer. Airflow is increasingly restricted as this plaque-like coating builds up in crevices, corners and elsewhere. This can limit or block air to cause overheating. As the heat builds up, clothing and dryer lint, which is highly combustible, can catch fire and spread quickly.

Clothes dryer maintenance is key. Many homeowners know it is important to clean the dryer lint filter before or after each load. But it is also essential to clear and maintain the hose-like dryer duct vent or metal pipe and exhaust vent, as well as interior and surrounding areas.

Clothes Dryer Fires Are Common

Fire safety experts cite “failure to clean” as the reason for 70% of operational factors contributing to clothes dryer fires. Clothes dryers cause as many as 15,000 fires, 15 deaths and 400 injuries annually, according to the National Fire Data Center.

Fire-Friendly: Restricted Airflow Plus Highly Flammable, Hidden Lint

Dryer lint can build up inside the dryer duct vent and in many other areas inside or outside the dryer. As airflow is increasingly restricted and the dryer overheats, it can even generate sparks or fire. Intense heat is enough to ignite clothing fibers and trapped lint. It can burn right through foil or plastic duct vents. It can also ignite nearby dust, lint, clutter, or other combustibles stored in the area.

Many duct vents are made of foil. Others are plastic, which is still used in some homes, even though manufacturers now instruct installers not to use a plastic duct vent. Whatever the material, if any duct is crushed, perforated, or lined with lint, it can trap lint and cause problems.

Since lint is extremely flammable it doesn’t take much to trigger a fire. Vinyl ducts are also flammable and should never be used. Plastic duct vents can melt or even add fuel to a fire.

How to Diminish the Risk

To help limit fire hazards, consult a pro when installing a dryer. Use a metal pipe or duct vent with as few elbow joints or bends as possible. Choose a duct with a smooth interior that is less welcoming to moist lint. Dryer lint accumulates in bends, as well as creases and crevices inside the dryer duct piping.

Never perforate or use sheet screws on duct vents or elbow joints as they provide a home for damp lint to accumulate and cause dangerous, plaque-like blocks. Clean and maintain regularly, following special clothes dryer cleaning steps.

Check Out Laundry Room Logistics to learn some tips on setting up a laundry room properly

Be vigilant about an operating clothes dryer. Never sleep or leave home while the dryer is running. Clothes dryers often operate in remote or unattended areas. A small fire can quickly get out of hand before it is discovered.

Make it a habit to keep the dryer, duct vent or pipe and exhaust vents clean and clear, inside and out. Use a specially designed dryer cleaning kit.

Always follow current industry, building and fire codes, and consult a professional if you have questions.

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