Clothes Washer & Dryer Safety
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), in 2003 – 2006 dryers and washing machines were involved in one out of every 23 home structure fires reported to U.S. fire departments. Clothes dryers accounted for 92% of these fires; washing machines 4%, and washer /dryer combinations 3%.
Failure to clean is the leading cause of washer and dryer fires. Considering this, let’s look at how we can properly clean our washers and dryers to help prevention a fire.
Washer & Dryer Cleaning
Washer and dryer cleaning should take place annually or more often if necessary.
• Lint Screen/Filter:
o Clean by removing lint before and after each use.
o If clothes are still damp following a cycle, this may be due to the lint screen or exhaust duct being clogged.
o If you are washing new items, such as bath towels, you may wish to dry them for a half cycle, clean the lint screen and continue the remainder of the cycle as these items tend to produce a lot of lint the first few times you dry them.
• Dryer Vent:
o The dryer vent is located on the outside of your home.
o Go outdoors and make sure exhaust air is escaping from the vent while the dryer is running.
o If air is not escaping from the vent, turn dryer off and inspect for blockage – remove any blockage debris.
• Exhaust Duct:
o The exhaust duct is the rigid or corrugated semi-rigid duct material which runs from the back of your dryer to the dryer vent which leads outside your home – the tube that connects the back of your dryer to the wall.
o This tubing can become clogged with lint and other debris.
o To remove a blockage, it may be necessary to disconnect the tubing from the dryer.
o Replace foil or plastic (accordion-type) with rigid or corrugated semi-rigid metal duct tubing. This tubing provides maximum air flow/exhaust and most manufacturers recommend it. While foil or plastic tubing tends to kink or crush reducing air flow/exhaust and more easily trapping lint.
• Interior of Dryer:
o The interior portion of the dryer, aside from the drum, accumulates lint that needs to be removed annually, or more often if necessary, by qualified service personnel.
• Behind, Under, and Around:
o Keep the area behind and under the washer and dryer clean. This is an area where lint and dust often build up unnoticed.
o Make sure the top and surrounding areas are free of clutter and clean s well. Do not store laundry products on top of the washer or dryer.
o Do not leave laundry baskets or clothing items on the washer or dryer. Items can easily slip behind the washer or dryer and cause a hazard.
In addition, a few basic safety tips can help you use your dryer and washer safely.
• Have a professional install and service your washer and dryer.
• Make sure your electrical outlet and plug are appropriate for the washer/dryer you are using, and that they are in good condition.
• Make sure the machine is connected properly.
• Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
• Don’t overload dryers.
• Always turn your dryer off when you leave home and when you go to bed.
• Gas dryers need to be inspected by a professional to ensure the gas line and connection are intact and no leaks are present.
• Clothing Soiled With Chemicals:
Follow your washer/dryer manufacturer’s directions (some on inside of washer lid and more in the manual) when washing or drying clothes that have been soiled with chemicals such as gasoline, cooking oil, paint, or other chemical substances. These instructions may include:
o Laying clothes outside to dry and then washing per instructions.
o Wash more than one time, hang to dry, or dry on the lowest setting and on a cycle that contains a cool down period.
o After drying, don’t leave this clothing in the dryer or piled in a laundry basket as some chemical residue may still remain and could ignite.
Proper maintenance and usage of your washer and dryer can help you to safely use these appliances.
Further information regarding washer and dryer safety can be found at:
National Fire Protection Association: www.nfpa.org
Please contact the North Shore Fire Department Public Education Office at 414-228-0292 or firstname.lastname@example.org, should you have questions regarding this or other safety topics.
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