Household chores like laundry seem fairly safe. But hidden problems like lint buildup in a dryer could lead to higher energy bills due to inefficiency and, ultimately, hazardous conditions in your home.

It is important to clean the lint filter after each load and occasionally remove the filter and wash it with a nylon brush and hot, soapy water to remove residue. This simple chore not only improves air flow and energy efficiency, but also reduces the chance of a dryer fire.

Statistics on dryer fires show no difference between the natural gas and electric dryers, according to John Drengenberg, consumer affairs manager for Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Inc., a Chicago, Ill.-based not-for-profit firm that tests and sets minimum standards for electric-consuming items. “If you forget to clean the lint screen too many times you’re going to get a buildup, and that’s where ultimately you could have a problem.”

Manufacturers whose products carry the UL mark are required to ship dryers with safety instructions that specify cleaning the lint screen before or after each load. These instructions also recommend keeping dryer exhaust openings and adjacent surrounding areas free from accumulated lint, dust, and dirt, and having qualified service people periodically clean the dryer’s interior and exhaust duct.

Without adequate air circulation, heat flow becomes stymied, clothes take longer to dry, and it costs more to operate the appliance; and like ovens and stoves, dryers apply extreme heat on potentially flammable materials. We usually don’t leave something cooking unattended for long periods of time; but a dryer that runs up to an hour or more, can be forgotten in a basement, garage, or utility space. This out-of-sight, out-of-mind practice makes it essential that a dryer be maintained on a simple and regular basis.

Source: Underwriters Laboratories

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