How To Prevent Your Dryer From Catching on Fire

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I have to get there before the fire spreads to the walls, I thought to myself as I raced towards our friend’s house yesterday. Then I remembered they had a gas dryer and my heart sank. Nothing shoots fear through my body like the thought of a possible explosion. A minute later I was running  through the back door of their garage and was met by the thick smell of burning plastic and smoke. The dryer was still on fire and the garden hose didn’t seem to be helping much. We were worried that there might be gas leaking into the dryer so we decided to call the fire department.

We shut off the gas to the dryer and the fire department showed up a few minutes later. The fire was soon completely out and the smoldering dryer was unhooked and transported to the driveway. With the fire out, the house saved, I quickly turned my attention to the dryer to figure out what started the fire. What I discovered will hopefully provide some weight to my suggestions about dryer maintenance. Here are four things I noticed.

1. Pay Attention to Warning Signs

This dryer had begun to make slight screeching sounds that were slowly getting worse. For this particular dryer, the glide pads on the front were most likely worn out and led to metal on metal contact. I believe this led to metal shavings being sucked into the lint chute which appeared to be the origin of the fire.

Lesson: When your dryer starts making any abnormal sounds, a repair is most likely needed and should be performed on the sooner side. You can Google the symptoms for your machine and look into possibly doing the repair yourself, you can call an appliance repair person, or you can swap the dryer out for another used dryer.

2. Dryers need to be cleaned

The parts in a dryer usually aren’t what catches fire. It is dryer lint that collects inside the vent chute and on the inside of the rest of the dryer that catches fire. When a part malfunctions, or metal grindings drop, or a wire melts, very hot fragments can drop to the bottom of the dryer and catch the lint on fire. If there is no lint buildup, there will probably be no fire. So simply by getting your dryer cleaned every year or two can take away the fuel for a fire.

This dryer had a lot of lint built up in it, and some that still hadn’t caught fire yet on the top side of the door panel.

Lesson: Almost no one cleans out their dryer, or has it cleaned. If you are buying a used dryer on Craigslist from just a regular person, it most likely needs to be cleaned. A few benefits of buying from used dealers are that you are getting a machine that has been gone through and completely cleaned out.

3. Poor ducting

Another thing I noticed was that even though the dryer only needed about 10 feet of ducting to get outside the garage, a 20 ft piece of foil dryer ducting was being used. The excess ducting was kind of coiled back and forth like a snake causing the air/lint to have to go a much further distance before getting outside, and changing directions several times in process. The further the distance and the more turns there are in the line, the harder it is for the dryer to get rid of the hot air and lint. When this happens, more lint tends to build up inside the dryer instead of being easily flushed out through the ducting.

There are a few things I suggest when it comes to dryer ducting. First, have as short of a run as possible with as few turns as possible, avoiding sharp turns whenever feasible. Solid ducting is always better than coil ducting, though for short runs, coil ducting is fine. Just be sure to inspect it at least once per year.

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4. It was a Frigidaire dryer.

I am not a fan of Frigidaire made dryers to say the least. I’ve scrapped probably close to a hundred Frigidaire dryers over the past few years. I think they are very poorly designed machines and would not recommend anyone purchasing one. Coincidentally this past year there was a class action lawsuit against Electrolux/Frigidaire because of dryer fires, that was recently settled.

Safety is not the only thing that should be considered when it comes to dryer maintenance. Here are a few other things to consider especially regarding your ducting.

Waste of Money

Clothes should dry in 40-50 minutes in an electric dryer, depending on load size and assuming that the washing machine is working as it should and is spinning the clothes well at the end of the wash cycle. A load of clothes in a dryer running for 40 minutes can cost anywhere from 50-60 cents on average. If you have to put your clothes in for 80 minutes, double the price. Then figure out how many loads of clothes you dry each day, or week and factor that over the course of a year. There are many people that are spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars each year in extra utility costs because of clogged ducting.

Waste of Time

Clogged ducting causes the dryer to take longer to dry the clothes. This means that people often  waste time waiting for their clothes to dry. It can also mean an extra trip to the laundry room to turn the dryer back on.

Bad for your dryer

The most common reason dryers stop working is because of overheating issues which are often caused by clogged ducts or poor ventilation. Also, because a dryer has to work harder and longer to get rid of the moist air, it can cause major parts like the motor to prematurely die.  Then, unless you are able to diagnose and fix the problem yourself, you end up going out and purchasing another one.

In the end, things could have been a lot worse. Had our friends not been home, they could have lost their home and everything in it. By the end of the day, we had the garage dried out with some industrial floor fans some friends from church brought over and I brought a Whirlpool gas dryer over and hooked it up. Take your dryer maintenance seriously, it’s not worth risking a fire.

I encourage you to share this post with your friends and family. If you have any questions or need advice, I would love to answer them.

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Special Note:
This Friday night a good friend of mine Jeremy Guthrie is going to be the starting pitcher for the Royals in Game 3 of the World Series. Jeremy and I were neighbors growing up together in Roseburg, Oregon and spent countless hours playing ball together. We connected well because we were (are) both extremely competitive,  so we always had someone to compete against. We used to play a lot of chess together as well. He made it all the way to the national chess tournament in grade school, and the following year I took second in the state of Oregon. Anyway, super happy for him to be able to have this experience. Just going to throw this out there, but if anyone has any connections to reasonably priced tickets to this Friday night’s game in San Francisco, could you send me an email  or leave a comment down below. I know it’s a long shot, but you never know, and it doesn’t hurt to ask! Standing room only tickets are going for $500 and would make the trip just a bit too expensive for us right now. I hope you are all doing well and Go Royals!

11 COMMENTS

  1. What great info! Most don’t know any of this. I didn’t. You’re a big help to lots of people, not only in the info you share but the help you give to people directly. I’m so glad you were a help to your friend in his time of need. You were willing to put yourself in a position to potentially be hurt, trying to help save their home. You are fulfilling your purpose and that has to be a great feeling. Thank you!!!

  2. Great post, Ryan! There’s a local company (N FL) that does chimney sweeping & dryer cleaning that we have used for several years for our dryer. They do reminder calls every couple of years so I don’t have to try & remember when it’s due 🙂

    • Thanks Wanda. There is a lot of opportunity for people in dryer cleaning/vent cleaning. Much of the battle will be showing people that it is a needed service. Sadly many people don’t realize how important it is until there dryer catches fire or someone they know has a dryer fire. All machines need maintenance. Great job staying up on yours!

  3. I completely agree about the Frigidaire excuse for washers and dryers. I have sold a few, but it isn’t worth it going forward with the potential issues.

  4. Hey Ryan,
    Thanks for the reminder to clean the dryer. I have thought about it several times….now I will do it.

    Also I love to read your stuff…but…sorry…I have to take sides…. this weekend…Go Giants!
    God bless,
    Brad

  5. Hi Ryan, great article. I bought a dryer cleaning kit from Amazon. I hook it to my vacuum cleaner. I am paranoid about a possible fire so I clean my dryer at least once a year. I’m going to seriously look into your school for a possible second career. Currently I’m a otr trucker and may not pass the dot physical next year due to my recent type 2 diabetes diagnosis. So I have to figure out another way topay mortgage. I’m mechanically inclined so that’s a help. Thank you for your outstanding blog. I love it. I signed up for both your newsletters too. Take care, aloha.

  6. Thank you so much for a great article. I have been debating in buying a new washing machine don’t know which one to get. I have a new front loader but I hate it it’s a Frigidaire. But with your information you have clear my mind I know exactly what to do.also thank you for the information on the dryer good luck to you we we need more people like you with great advice.

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