Wetumpka Fire Department fire chief Greg Willis advises homeowners to keep their dryer lint filters clean and maintain the vent attached to it on a regular basis.

“Clean your lint filter every time you put a new load of clothes into a dryer,” Willis said. “Make sure not to overload the dryer with too many articles of clothing. When there is no space in the dryer, there is no way for the heat to dissipate out.”

Willis said just like fireplaces, stoves and other mechanical units such as heating and air, dryers need to be regularly serviced. He advised homeowners get into a routine of servicing those major appliances by setting reminders on cell phones or even writing it down on a calendar.

“Whether that’s four times a year or once a year, it is a good thing to do,” he said. “For one, it will increase the longevity of the appliances and also create a safer environment. Most these type of fires (dryer vent, oven and fireplace) were caused by the owners not maintaining those.”

According to the National Fire Protection Association, nearly 17,000 dryer fires are reported each year. These clothes dryer fires cause around 51 deaths, 380 injuries and $236 million in property loss. Nearly 34% of these fires are caused due to failure to clean dryer vents.

William Worley, owner of Wetumpka-based dryer vent cleaning service Vent Safe, recommends families get their dryer vent cleaned once a year.

“It really depends on how much the dryer is used,” he said. “For single, elderly people, they do not need it cleaned every year. A large family with dogs and cats will need it cleaned annually.”

Worley said the best way to tell if a dryer vent is clogged is if a load of clothes takes longer than usual to dry.

“Also, if you see lint on the walls and floors that is a sign the vent is clogged,” he said. “If the dryer is hot to the touch then it is clogged.”

He said the benefits to having a clean dryer vent include spending less money on monthly energy bills. There is less stress on the dryer so it operates longer and reduces the risk of a fire.

Worley said newer homes need cleaning more often than older homes.

“In newer homes, builders started centralizing the laundry room,” he said. “The only way to vent those is straight up. Most of those vents run 25-feet long, on average.” 

Willis advised owners of older homes to take a look at their dryer vents.

“Sometimes we see dryer vents that are not designed properly,” Willis said. “Some of these vents are in old houses and may not be up to code.”

Willis also urged every homeowner to install fresh batteries in their smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

According to the state of Alabama Fire Marshal’s Office, some things not to do include:

• Don’t use a clothes dryer without a lint filter or with a lint filter that is loose, damaged or clogged

•  Don’t dry anything containing foam, rubber or plastic like a bathroom rug with a rubber backing

•  Don’t dry any item for which manufacturers’ instructions state “dry away from heat”

• Don’t dry items that have come into contact with anything flammable like alcohol, cooking oils or gasoline. Dry them outdoors or in a well-ventilated room, away from heat

• Don’t leave a clothes dryer running if you leave home or when you go to bed