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Dryer Safety: Have You Looked for Lint Lately?

By Jennifer Bridge


 Lint, lint, lint. Our clothes dryers are experts at collecting it! Lint is made of tiny bits of loose fibers that break off the yarns and threads in our clothes and linens. Lint is created when our clothes rub during wear or are agitated during the wash cycle. When we dry our clothes in a dryer, the dryer’s air flow directs the lint toward the specially designed lint trap (this can also be referred to as a lint filter or lint screen). If there were no lint traps, all the lint would flow through the dryer’s interior blower and exhaust system – creating a build-up of this flammable, fluffy matter inside the dryer and the external ducting.

 When lint traps are properly inserted and cleaned regularly, they do a decent job of preventing most of the lint from escaping into the dryer exhaust system. However, lint traps do not collect 100 percent of the lint released from our items. Over time, lint will inevitably collect in the dyer exhaust system and ducts. This can lead to decreased dryer performance because the dryer needs to run longer to compensate for the lack of airflow caused by excess lint.

 It also creates a fire hazard because the dryer may become overheated because of the increased cycle time. Any excess lint trapped in the exhaust and venting system could be quickly ignited if exposed to a flame source. According to the National Fire Protection Association, most dryer fires are caused by our failure to clean them. Does that sound a little scary? The good news is that you can follow these simple steps and do your best to prevent a dryer fire caused by excess lint.


· Use the proper, nonplastic external ducting from your dryer to the outside and refer to your dryer’s manual to ensure the venting system is installed correctly.


· Check your dryer’s lint trap before AND after each use, and remove any accumulated lint.


· Every few months “deep clean” your lint trap by vacuuming the removable lint trap screen and using a small vacuum attachment to vacuum the dryer lint trap area while it is removed.


· Periodically inspect the dryer exhaust on the exterior of your home – lint loves to collect there, too! If you live in an apartment or do not have access to the exterior exhaust location, don’t be embarrassed to ask your landlord what procedures are in place to prevent exhaust lint buildup. Fire safety is serious business.


· At least once a year, pull your dryer away from the wall so you can thoroughly vacuum the area behind your dryer and check the ductwork. NOTE: unplug your dryer first, and if your dryer is hooked up to a gas line, turn off the gas supply; disconnect the dryer exhaust ductwork from the back of your dryer and vacuum the lint from this area. A thorough vacuuming of this ductwork is recommended, or you can replace any ductwork that is too lint-clogged with new ductwork, which is available at the hardware store.

 Fun Tip: Need a convenient place to dispose of your dryer lint? An empty, cube-shaped, decorative facial tissue box makes an easy, disposable mini-trash can in which to collect dryer lint. If your routine and space allow, keep some empty tissue boxes on hand to use as “lint trash cans.” The repurposed tissue box does a great job keeping many loads’ worth of lint contained and reduces the risk of lint scattering everywhere since you don’t need to empty a trash can full of lint. You can simply toss the entire lint-filled tissue box in the trash when it gets full.

 Educational programs of the Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of economic or social status and will not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, creed, religion, political belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expressions, pregnancy, marital status, genetic information, age, veteran status, or physical or mental disability.

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