Home maintenance: Clean that clothes dryer to prevent fires!


woman looking into a cloehtes dryer

When you tackle your spring and fall home maintenance, is cleaning your clothes dryer on the list? If not, it should be. As we approach the fall, it’s a good time to check your lint filters and venting systems to make sure they have no lint buildup. According to FEMA, 2,900 home clothes dryer fires are reported each year and cause an estimated 5 deaths, 100 injuries, and $35 million in property loss. The leading cause (34%) of home clothes dryer and washer fires was failure to clean.

Dryer lint is highly flammable. It’s important to clean your dryer lint trap before and after every load of clothes, but you should also regularly use a long handled, flexible lint brush to root around deeper under the filter to extract any lint. These can be purchased inexpensively in any hardware store or online. There are also heavier brushes for cleaning your vents – this video shows the two styles:

The US Fire Administration offers the following Do’s and Don’ts for clothes dryer maintenance:

Clothes dryer do’s

Installation

  • Have your clothes dryer installed by a professional.
  • Make sure the correct electrical plug and outlet are used and that the dryer is connected properly.
  • Read manufacturers’ instructions and warnings in use and care manuals that come with new dryers.

Cleaning

  • Clean the lint filter before and after each load of laundry. Don’t forget to clean the back of the dryer where lint can build up. In addition, clean the lint filter with a nylon brush at least every six months or more often if it becomes clogged.
  • Clean lint out of the vent pipe every three months.
  • Have your dryer cleaned regularly by a professional, especially if it is taking longer than normal for clothes to dry.

Maintenance

  • Inspect the venting system behind the dryer to ensure it is not damaged or restricted.
  • Put a covering on outside wall dampers to keep out rain, snow and dirt.
    Make sure the outdoor vent covering opens when the dryer is on.
  • Replace coiled-wire foil or plastic venting with rigid, non-ribbed metal duct.
  • Have gas-powered dryers inspected every year by a professional to ensure that the gas line and connection are together and free of leaks.
  • Check regularly to make sure nests of small animals and insects are not blocking the outside vent.
  • Keep the area around the clothes dryer free of items that can burn.
  • If you will be away from home for an extended time, unplug or disconnect the dryer.

Clothes dryer don’t’s

  • Don’t use a clothes dryer without a lint filter or with a lint filter that is loose, damaged or clogged.
  • Don’t overload the dryer.
  • Don’t use a wire screen or cloth to cover the wall damper. They can collect lint and clog the dryer vent.
  • Don’t dry anything containing foam, rubber or plastic. An example of an item not to place in a dryer is a bathroom rug with a rubber backing.
  • Don’t dry any item for which manufacturers’ instructions state “dry away from heat.”
    Don’t dry glass fiber materials (unless manufacturers’ instructions allow).
  • Don’t dry items that have come into contact with anything flammable like alcohol, cooking oils or gasoline. Dry them outdoors or in a well-ventilated room, away from heat.
  • Don’t leave a clothes dryer running if you leave home or when you go to bed.

Consider having a professional dryer and vent cleaning annually. Or if you are handy at home maintenance, here are two videos that offer detailed instructions about taking your dryer apart to clean the inside, and another on how to use a LintEater kit to clean your vents.

DYI: How to clean out a dryer

DYI: LintEater rotary cleaning system

Spring cleaning hacks & tips to make the job easier


Spring is in the air, even if we still have a few iffy weather days to muddle through. It’s time to do a good annual home cleaning and checkup – Bob Vila has a a good home maintenance list and Martha Stewart offers a helpful checklist of spring cleaning tasks (PDF). But as you go about your spring cleaning, remember to stay safe – Paul Davidson Restoration reminds us that home-related injuries cause 21 million medical visits a year and claim many lives – so check out his tips for safe spring cleaning (PDF).

We’ve also hunted down a few videos on helpful hacks to make household spring cleaning a little easier. And if you find them helpful, you might like our prior post on Handy household hacks: creative uses for everyday products.

Home maintenance: What’s the life expectancy of various parts of your home?


tools in a blue jean back pocketOngoing home maintenance is important in preventing any losses that may trigger insurance claims. It can be helpful to have a guideline to gauge the expected lifespan of certain home infrastructure systems and components. When it comes to experts about home longevity, who could be better than the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)? On their site, they offer general guidelines on how many years of service a home owner can reasonably expect from the various components of a home. They caution that “…numerous factors — including use, maintenance, climate, advances in technology and simple consumer preferences — can have a dramatic effect on the longevity of a product.”

Here’s a sampling of a few items that they list:

  • Roofing. Slate, copper and clay/concrete roofs have a 50-year life expectancy; asphalt-shingle roofs, 20 years; fiber cement shingles, 25 years; and wood shakes, 30 years. However, the life of a roof depends on local weather conditions, proper building and design, material quality and adequate maintenance.
  • Countertops. Natural stone, which is less expensive than a few years ago and gaining in popularity, can last a lifetime. Cultured marble, by contrast, is relatively short-lived, with an age expectancy of 20 years.
  • Garages. Garage doors last 10 to 15 years, and light inserts for 20.

Another useful guide is InterNACHI’s Standard Estimated Life Expectancy Chart for Homes from the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors. These charts offer predicted life expectancy of home appliances, products, materials, systems and components.

For a guide to the life expectancy of major home appliances, Mr.Appliance offers a low, high and average expectancy for ranges, refrigerators, dishwashers, microwaves and more.