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Product safety tips

Clothes dryers

For many consumers, the clothes dryer has become an appliance of both convenience and necessity.

Facts

  • Clothes dryers can be found in 80 percent of homes throughout the United States.
  • A full load of wet clothes placed in a dryer contains about one half gallon of water. As water is removed, lint is created from the clothes.
  • Clothes dryers are one of the most expensive appliances in your home to operate. The longer the dryer runs, the more money it costs.
  • The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that 15,500 fires associated with clothes dryers occur annually. These fires account for an average of 10 deaths, 310 injuries and more than $84.4 million in property damage annually.
  • The number of clothes dryer fires has dropped by 35 percent from the average 24,000 fires that occurred annually in the late 1970s.

Possible causes of fires

What causes some clothes dryer fires? Lack of maintenance is a contributing factor. People are not cleaning lint traps as often as they should nor are they checking and cleaning vent systems on a periodic basis. Reduced airflow resulting from lint buildup in the screen or other areas around the dryer can cause the dryer to perform poorly, operate at elevated temperatures and possibly overheat.

Problems can also occur if consumers place improper items in their dryers, such as foam backed rugs or athletic shoes, or vent their appliances with plastic or vinyl exhaust materials.

A simple solution

Rigid or flexible metal venting and ducting materials help sustain airflow, as well as reduce operating costs and extend the life of the dryer and clothing from lower drying temperatures.

Important safety instructions

  • Clean the lint filter before or after each load. Do not forget to clean the back of the dryer where lint can be trapped.
  • The interior of the dryer and venting system should be cleaned periodically by qualified service personnel. If you notice the drying time is longer, clean the vent system thoroughly to ensure proper airflow.
  • Replace plastic or vinyl exhaust hoses with rigid or flexible metal venting.
  • Do not dry clothing or fabric upon which there is anything flammable (e.g. alcohol, cooking oils, gasoline, spot removers, dry-cleaning solvents). Flammable substances give off vapors that could ignite or explode.
  • Read manufacturers' warnings in use and care manuals that accompany new dryers. Also, make sure to read the warning markings that can usually be found on the inside of the dryer's lid.

How UL has helped reduce dryer fire risks

UL has worked with the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) and the CPSC to reduce the number of clothes dryer fires. Changes have been made to UL 2158, the Standard for Safety of Electric Clothes Dryers, to include instructions to clean lint regularly from areas around the dryer and lint screen; routing wiring and keeping other electrical components away from heat-producing devices; and abnormal operations tests that simulate a blocked lint screen and exhaust at 25, 75 and 100 percent blockage.