Somewhere in your home, there is a utility item that is one of the top home fire starters in the US. This item can be used regularly, and in most cases, you wouldn't think twice about using it. It's your clothes dryer.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, "the vast majority of fires (92%) involved clothes dryers" in homes. That's a HUGE number! What makes our clothes dryers so dangerous? Well, one of the reasons is we often fail to clean them out. Sure we remember the lint trap that is often on the top or right inside the dryer, but what about cleaning out your duct that takes that hot air outside?

The US Fire Administration has some cleaning do's for your dryer, especially the back end of your dryer.

  • Clean the lint filter before and after each load of laundry. Don’t forget to clean the back of the dryer where lint can build up. In addition, clean the lint filter with a nylon brush at least every six months or more often if it becomes clogged.
  • Clean lint out of the vent pipe every three months.
  • Have your dryer cleaned regularly by a professional, especially if it is taking longer than normal for clothes to dry.

Another thing you might want to look at with your dryer is if you have an electric dryer, your plug. What kind of plug is it? A 3-prong or 4-prong plug is what you'll normally find attached to your electric dryer, if you have a 3-pronged cord, you might want to think about replacing it with the updated and in many cases safer 4-prong cord.

Fred's Appliance online states the key difference between the 3 and 4-pronged cords.

Although the old 3-prong outlets were effective at providing power to dryers, they had one major flaw: the ground and neutral wires were grouped together, creating the potential for shock. 3-prong dryer cords contain two ‘hot’ wires along with a third wire that contained both the ground and neutral wire. If a current happened to make its way onto the ground wire, it could travel up to the dryer. The more recent 4-prong dryer cords feature two hot wires, a neutral wire and a ground wire. This eliminates the possibility for a ground current traveling to the machine, as it features a separate return path for unused power.

As we begin to spend more time indoors as the weather gets colder, now might be a good time to double-check your dryer, and the vent going outside.

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