Honey, is our Dryer Vent made out of Flammable Flexible Tubing?

Sound crazy? It’s not. It’s unbelievable how often we see homes with flammable dryer vents installed, filled with lint, all ready to catch a spark.

It’s winter. Not a lot of clothes hanging out on the ‘cord-a-linge’ this time of year. Most of us are using our dryers, and we’re putting a lot of wooly sweaters and fleece in there, all clothing that shed a whole lot of lint.

In the US, there are 17,000 fires related to clothes dryer vents every year. While there are no official Canadian statistics, we use our dryers even more, especially during the winter months, making this hazard all the more important.

While it’s important to clean the lint out of the easy-to-access filter every time you finish a load, it’s equally important to be aware of how clean your dryer vent is. Over time, bits of lint escape through the filter, and can build up quickly, leading to an extremely dangerous fire hazard – especially if your dryer vent is made of a flammable material.

Many do-it-yourselfers have been known to install the wrong dryer ducts. We see these mistakes all the time:

Hazardous Dryer Ducts

NOT SAFE: Flexible Vinyl Tubing

This type of dryer vent is made of plastic and can easily melt and lead to a house fire. This type of tubing is meant to vent humidity out of the bathroom. Often found in white, and ribbed, it easily lets lint build up inside.

NOT SAFE: Mylar Foil Tubing

A flexible ribbed shiny tubing material, often people assume it is safe because it is shiny. Mylar is not approved for clothes dryer vent material.

See Video: MattKnowsThat to see how flammable it is. http://youtu.be/vfExQ3mwBH8

Safe Dryer Ducts

SAFE: Rigid Aluminum Dryer Duct

The International Residential Code (IRC) requires that clothes dryer vents be made of at least 0.016” thick rigid metal, have smooth interior surfaces and there should not be any screws sticking into the duct. This type of vent can easily be taken apart and cleaned by the homeowner. Best practice is to keep the vent to 10 feet (3 metres) or less.

Checklist for preventing a clothes dryer fire

  • Check for blocked pipes or lint buildup in the vent. If everything is clean, check if the heater coil has a problem.
  • Make sure your ducts are made out of non-flammable material and can do the job! Replace flexible vinyl tubing with aluminum or steel ducts.
    Make sure the dryer is plugged into an outlet with sufficient power.
  • Never put mops or rags that have used wax, flammable solvents or oils in the dryer. These can still catch fire when washed and dry.
  • Replace ripped filters or cracked exhaust vents.
  • Check dryer vent flaps on the outside of the building to make sure they are not freezing shut or sticking.
  • Keep the area around the dryer free of flammable materials. Install a smoke detector if the dryer is far from your main living area.

Telltale signs of a dirty dryer vent:

Your dryer is taking longer than usual to dry your clothes, and are still damp after a full cycle.
The door of the dryer is hot, and the clothes are hot when you take them out. Take a look on the outside of your home, where the vent exits the building. Is the flapper fully opening? If not, it might be an indication that there’s excessive lint buildup in your vent.

If there is lint buildup, your dryer’s safety switch will be forced to cycle on and off continually due to heat buildup, and could eventually lead to early failure of the switch.

While it is recommended you clean your dryer vent once a year, any of the signs mentioned above indicate you should take action immediately