What’s wrong with the following sentence? "I just put my wash in the dryer and go to sleep." These were the words of a young relative who recently moved into an apartment with en suite laundry (yay!), after years of schlepping to laundromats.
But here’s the scary part: If a dryer is not properly maintained, leaving this appliance to take care of its business unattended can cause serious trouble … trouble in the form of breakdown or house fire. Many folks have no idea that dryer maintenance is even a thing, so I’m dedicating this dryer maintenance guide to you.
Dryer maintenance tips
Clean the lint screen after every use. This sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s amazing how many people neglect this simple 15-second chore. Play it smart. Otherwise, lint buildup will decrease your dryer’s efficiency (read: increase your utility bills) and pose a fire hazard.
Clean the dryer duct system at least once a year. Why? Clogged dryer ducts trap heat and moisture indoors, leading to possible problems with mold or dryer fire. They can also prevent the safe exhaust of carbon monoxide if you own a gas dryer. Dryer duct cleaning is especially important when you live in a newer home or condo, where laundry facilities are often not adjacent to an exterior wall.
Upgrade your dryer vent hose if necessary. Those old white plastic vent hoses everybody used to have are combustible at high temperatures - bad, bad, bad for securely venting your dryer. Replace with either a flexible metal hose compliant with UL 2158A (better) or a rigid metal pipe (best).
Level the dryer feet. If the floor where your dryer stands is not level, adjust its feet according to the manufacturer’s instructions. You will be stabilizing the dryer and allowing it to function optimally.
Keep the dryer area clear. Remove any potential fire starters on top of, around, and under the dryer. This includes dust, pet hair, loose clothing, flammable cleansers, paint or pressurized spray cans.
Stay alert whenever you run your dryer. NEVER take a nap or a walk while your clothes are drying. A dryer fire can start in seconds.
Pay attention to red flags. Is your dryer acting funny? Loud noises like grinding or banging, slower drying times, and other unusual behavior could be your appliance’s cry for help. Don’t ignore these warning signs. Call a reliable dryer technician to check out your machine.
Never put these things in your dryer
Dirty laundry - For things like soiled beach towels or work clothes, shake or scrape off sand or dirt. Then run them through a normal cycle in your washing machine before transferring to the dryer. Otherwise, debris might clog or corrode your dyer.
Unprotected metal hooks, buckles, etc. - Line dry or place clothes with this type of detail in a zippered bag made for washing delicates, to protect your dyer against scratches, particularly when you’re using a machine with a front window.
Oily rags or towels - Even if oil-, grease-, or gasoline-soaked items have been laundered, don’t attempt machine drying. Any remaining traces of oil could cause spontaneous combustion. It’s better to air dry or just safely discard them.
Sopping wet clothes - Overly wet clothes are heavy and therefore likely to trigger an "unbalanced load" error message; that’s in the best case scenario. Worst case scenario: They may damage the dryer’s (expensive to replace) motor. To prevent this, run laundry through an additional spin cycle before you move it to the dryer. If freshly washed clothes always feel sopping, your washer might need troubleshooting.
Rubber - Avoid machine drying rubber or foam - rubber-backed bathmats, rubber toys, foam-filled throw pillows, you name it. These materials not only tend to crumble at high heat, they could also catch fire.
Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.