What You Need to Know About Clogged Dryer Vents
There might be a hidden fire hazard lurking around your home and you don't even know it. The worst part? You probably use this item at least once a week.
It's your clothes dryer.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, approximately 3,000 dryers catch fire each year. About one-third of those fires are caused by failing to clean your clothes dryer, leading to clogged dryer vents. These fires cause an estimated $238 million in property damage yearly.
The good news is you can quickly fix and monitor this potential danger to help reduce the risk of fire. Here's what you need to know.
What Happens When a Dryer Vent Is Blocked?
As you dry your clothes in a dryer, little bits of lint and fluff get pulled off of them. You probably notice this when you clean out your lint trap, which is usually just inside the dryer door.
However, not all of the lint, or other things left in your pockets such as tissues, bits of paper and paper towels, are caught. Some lint is also pushed out into your dryer vent. Even if you are diligent about cleaning your dryer lint trap after every use, it won't catch everything. If you let that accumulate in your dryer vent over time, you could run into problems.
If your dryer vent is blocked, all of this built-up lint can become a fire hazard. The heat from your dryer could cause the lint to combust, potentially catching your dryer and parts of your home on fire.
If you haven't cleaned your dryer vent in a while there are some tell-tale signs to look for that will let you know you should check it out:
- Your dryer takes much longer than a typical 45-minute cycle to dry
- Clothes come out of the dryer damp
- Your dryer feels very hot to the touch while running
- There's a musty odor while the dryer is on
- You see a lot of lint accumulation outside the trap and vent
You should check your dryer vent once a year, in addition to regularly cleaning your lint trap. However, if you use your dryer a lot, consider checking the vent in both as part of your winter home prep checklist and again in the spring.
How to Clean Your Dryer Vent
Cleaning your dryer vent is a straightforward process that you can easily do yourself:
- Unplug your dryer and pull it out away from the wall (if you can)—if it runs on gas, turn the gas off and disconnect the gas from the dryer
- Get a trash bag to make cleanup easier
- Using a screwdriver, disconnect the vent from the dryer
- Carefully, using your hand or a dryer vent brush, pull the lint out; you can use a vacuum cleaner attachment to remove any excess lint
- Once it's clean, reattach the vent and carefully push your dryer back in; also, plug it back in and reattach the gas line (and turn the gas back on)
- If you live in a house, go outside and check the vent; usually, there is a cap on it—just unscrew it and pull out the lint
- Run your dryer for 10-15 minutes; doing this will push any last bits of lint down the vent and outside
- Once done, go back outside and reattach the cover to the outside vent
And you're done!
What Does Homeowners Insurance Cover?
A fire inside your home is never a good thing, regardless of where it starts. Your homeowners insurance policy could help if you have a fire due to a clogged dryer vent. Your policy could cover property damage from the fire, including replacing your dryer, as well as your potential financial liability if someone gets hurt or their property is damaged due to the fire. For example, if you have a guest staying who lost their clothes in the dryer fire, your homeowners insurance could help cover the costs of replacement.
If the fire has caused severe damage—for instance, a portion of an exterior wall in your home needs to be replaced—your policy can provide extra funds to cover a stay in a hotel until the damage is repaired.
Regularly cleaning your dryer vent can help reduce the risk of fire, but if the worst were to come, your homeowners policy can help you get back on track. Talk to your insurance agent to make sure you have the proper coverage.