Laundry is part of life. We all have clothes to wear and prefer them to be clean. Did you know that dryers cause roughly 15,500 home structure fires, 29 deaths, 400 injuries and that most dryer fires happen in the winter?


The most common cause of dryer fires is a failure to do a thorough cleaning. Your lint trap is not a guaranteed method for catching all the fuzz from clothes. Lint gradually builds up and catches fire in the heating element or exhaust duct.

Further compounding the problem is that many people now install dryers outside of their basements or even upstairs. This results in dryer vent pipes being much longer. The longer the vent pipe, the greater likelihood of it being twisted and turned to accommodate the home structure. Creating a space for lint to collect.


Kevin Sippy, an insurance adjuster in ERIE’s Wisconsin Branch, inspects about five dryer fires every year. What happened when a customer laundered an item containing a type of rubber not meant to be dried at a hot temperature. When she turned the dryer too high, the material combusted and caused a blaze that destroyed $44,000 worth of property.

VIDEO: Watch how quickly a dryer fire can spread

In another instance, a customer washed towels that someone had soaked in a sizable amount of sanitizing solution. She then placed the towels, which still had traces of the sanitizing solution, in the dryer. When the towels dried, they ended up spontaneously combusting and causing a fire that burned through an entire floor.

“We literally had to gut the house,” says Sippy, who changed his laundry habits after that fire. “Now, I never dry anything higher than the low setting—I’d rather take a little longer to dry my clothes than burn my house down.”


  1. Clean out the lint. “It starts with cleaning out the lint filter every time you use the dryer,” says John Hall, Ph.D., division director of Fire Analysis & Research for the National Fire Protection Association. He also advises clearing out the vent pipe to reduce the chance of fire and maintain the dryer’s efficiency.
  1. Install with care. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when installing the vent pipe. Use a short, straight tube with an adequate distance from the wall. Reducing the bends in the dryer vent pipe creates fewer lint opportunities to gather. If you have to vent your dryer over a long distance, consider investing in a dryer vent fan. These automatic electric devices speed up airflow through the duct every time you turn on your dryer to keep things moving along. A licensed electrician should install a dryer vent fan.
  1. Clear out combustibles. Move any flammables like cleaning supplies far away from your dryer. Also, regularly sweep out dust in the areas around and underneath your dryer.
  1. Opt for a solid metal dryer duct. Research shows that flexible foil or plastic ducts can sag and lead to lint buildup at low points. Metal ducts of any variety don’t sag, and they are more likely to contain any fires that would start.
  1. Read tags. If the care label reads tumble dry low, don’t turn the dryer up to high. Use caution with specific items like bath mats, padded bras, and bibs—they may contain rubber, and you would not want them exposed to hot temperatures.
  1. Exercise extra caution with flammable liquids. Use an old rag you can through away if possible. Wash clothing stained with volatile chemicals more than once—and always opt to line dry over machine dry.
  1. Use your clothes to diagnose problems. Clothes that no longer feel dry or extra hot to the touch after a standard dry cycle are a telltale sign that something’s wrong. Before doing the next load, check for a plugged vent and clean out any lint.
  1. If you need to step away from the house, your washer, dryer, and dishwasher should away be turned off as well as before you go to bed.
  1. Ensure that the outdoor vent flap isn’t covered by snow or debris or full of lint.

You can also protect your home with the right homeowner’s insurance. So take a minute to speak with a professional insurance agency like the Dean Ballenger Agency to learn more and get a free quote.