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

Handy Tool: Consumer Action Handbook


cover of Consumer Action Handbook

If you’ve ever wondered what services to expect from a bank, how to choose a new doctor, scams to avoid when buying a new car, or how to deal with an unanswered complaint on a faulty product, USAGov has a handy free tool that just may help. They’ve just issued a 157-page Consumer Action Handbook (alert: 3 mb PDF) with many valuable tips, how-tos, scam avoidance advice and directories.

Here’s how they describe the resource:

“The Consumer Action Handbook brings together consumer information from across government. It includes practical questions to ask and factors to consider when you buy products and services. The Handbook features topics that affect everyone, such as credit reports and identity theft. It also addresses specific issues, like managing someone else’s finances and gas pump skimming. You’ll also find tips for detecting and reporting scams, throughout the book. Use our consumer assistance directory and sample complaint letter to file a consumer complaint.”

The guide is broken into four sections:

Part I — Be a savvy consumer – advice before you make a purchase. Covers general tips, banking, cars, credit, education, employment, food & nutrition, health care, housing, insurance, investing, privacy & identity theft, telecommunications, telemarketing & unwanted mail, travel, utilities, wills & funerals

Part II — key information resources – a list of public resources for seniors, persons
with disabilities, military families, and also for emergency preparations.

Part III — File a complaint – Suggestions on resolving consumer problems, including a sample complaint letter (page 60)

Part IV — Consumer Assistance Directory – Find contact information for corporate offices, consumer organizations, trade groups, government agencies, state authorities and more in a 70+ page directory.

You can also search for topics in the Index beginning on page 138.

You can download a copy or order a free print copy of the Consumer Action Handbook here.

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.

Consumer Guide to Windows 10: From best features to controlling your privacy


computer-user

Initial reviews for Windows 10 are in and they’re pretty positive overall. Reviewers generally say there’s a lot to like about the new operating system, which maintains many of the best mobile features of 8 while fixing some of the biggest headaches for desktop users. It introduces a slimmed down new browser, dumping the oft-criticized Internet Explorer, and it also introduces Cortana, a personal assistant similar to Apple’s Siri. Plus, you can upgrade for free – here’s how. But critics are raising alarms about privacy issues.

Here are reviews of some of the best new Windows 10 features

Windows 10 Privacy Matters

Despite largely positive reviews, many techies and security experts are raising privacy alarms. Some of the issues you should be aware of: Windows 10 has a system of automatic updates – updates are no longer optional. If you like to customize things, know that many of your application preferences will now default to Windows products unless you change settings. On sign-up, you will be opting in to ad tracking/customized ads unless you opt out. Many are also citing privacy issues raised by use of the personal assistant Cortana but, in fairness, these are probably no greater than those raised when using Siri or Google Now. (See: Cortana vs Google Now vs Siri: Battle of the personal assistants and another comparison here.

While you can change default settings, everything is a trade off. Shutting some features down in the interests of privacy may also detract functionality. Here are steps that you can take to maintain maximum control – and what, if anything, you give up in the process:

“Plenty of sites have published lists of all the features you should turn off in Windows 10 to protect your privacy, but many don’t explain in detail what each of these settings do, which makes it hard to separate FUD from fact. So let’s go through those settings and explain what we know about them, where the real problems are, and how to turn everything off.”

If you haven’t installed yet and maximum privacy/customization is important to you, Tech Republic suggests that you do a custom install rather than the default “Express” installation. They walk through ways you can do that, or if you already installed Express, how to change settings. Here’s another article from How to Geek on Custom vs. Express installation and from Lifehacker on How to Tweak Windows 10 and Fix Its Minor Annoyances.

Handy household hacks: creative uses for everyday products


Here are some video clips of great money-saving hacks for household products you probably already have in one of your your cabinets. Learn some of their less-well known uses and save on expensive alternatives.

10 Awesome Vinegar Life Hacks you should know

6 Uses for Windex You Should Know

25 Creative Uses For Common Household Items