Be aware of the items you’re drying: If your clothes have anything flammable like gasoline or cooking oil on them, wash them more than once and dry them outside or in a well-ventilated room. Also don’t use the dryer for anything with foam, rubber or plastic, such as a bathroom rug with a rubber backing.
Don’t run your dryer when you’re asleep or away: You want to be alert and nearby in case a dryer fire begins. And if you’ll be away for an extended time, unplug your dryer.
Signs your dryer has a problem
Just because you do everything right doesn’t mean issues like dryer fires won’t occur. Here are two signs that can help you spot one early:
- If your clothes are still damp at the end of a typical drying cycle, this may indicate that the lint screen or the exhaust duct is blocked.
- Check the outside dryer vent while the dryer is running. If you don’t feel air escaping, the vent or exhaust duct may be blocked.
What to expect if you experience a dryer fire
If your dryer catches on fire, immediately call 911 and leave the dryer door closed—opening the door will feed oxygen to the fire and you may risk burns and/or exposure to carbon monoxide. If the fire is severe, evacuate the home immediately and wait for help. If you stay, safely use a fire extinguisher to put out the fire by pointing it at the base of the fire and sweeping from side to side.
If you’re able to completely put out the fire, unplug the appliance—but only if you’re certain the connections are not damaged. Next, close the door to the room (or the nearest door, if the appliance is out in the open) to contain the dryer in case the fire reignites.
Damages caused by dryer fires can vary—from a simple cleanup to needing a specialist to make repairs or restorations. Be prepared by keeping a fire extinguisher accessible, and check your homeowner’s insurance policy to ensure fire and/or smoke damage is covered.