According to a report released by the U.S. Fire Administration, there are approximately 15,600 dryer-related structure fires each year, 80% of which occur in residential homes and buildings. The Fire Administration cites “lack of cleaning” as the leading contributing factor to dryer-related house fires. So, how do you know when it’s time to clean your dryer’s exhaust duct?
#1) Clothes Still Damp
One tall-tale sign that it’s time to clean your dryer’s exhaust duct is clothes feeling damp after they’ve dried. Dryers operate by passing hot air over the clothes and exhausting this warm, moisture-rich air through the duct work. If the ducts are clogged or obstructed, however, the hot air won’t be able to escape the drum.
#2) Dryer Feels Unusually Hot
Does your dryer feel unusually hot when it’s running? A clogged exhaust duct will prevent the hot air from escaping, which subsequently increases the ambient temperature of the drum and its components. You don’t have to use a special infrared thermometer or any other device, as feeling the top of your dryer cabinet with your hands should work. If you are unable to hold your hand on the drum for longer than a few seconds without it burning, you may have a clogged exhaust vent.
#3) Smoke and/or Burning Smell
If you notice smoke or a burning smell originating from your laundry room, there’s a good chance that your dryer’s exhaust duct is clogged. This is particularly dangerous since it’s the precursor to a fire. Allowing this problem to go unaddressed will almost certainly result in a fire, as smoke is a clear indication of combustion. The bottom line is that you should stop using your dryer until you’ve cleaned the duct and resolved the issue.
#4) No Visible Airflow Outside
The next time you dry a load of clothes, go outside to check the airflow on the vent flap. You should notice air blowing through the flap, exhausting the moisture-rich air from your dryer. If there’s a clog or obstruction in the duct, however, there may be little-to-no air blowing through. Place your hand in front of the vent flap to determine whether or not it’s blowing freely and without obstruction.
#5) Longer Than a Year Since You’ve Cleaned It
When was the last time you cleaned your dryer’s exhaust duct? The truth is that most people rarely, if ever, clean it, which increases their risk of starting a house fire. Having your exhaust vent professionally cleaned at least once a year will prevent dangerous buildups and blockages, while ensuring your dryer functions properly.