Minimising potential fire risks when using tumble dryers

Aviva Home Insurance

Whilst tumble dryers offer much-needed convenience, improper use and lack of maintenance can lead to serious fire hazards. To help combat this, we’ve put together some expert advice and tips for minimising the potential fire risks of tumble dryers, giving you peace of mind for every wash and dry cycle.

Tumble dryer maintenance

The hidden dangers

While tumble dryers are a useful appliance in the home, using them without due care comes with risks. When you wash clothes at lower temperatures to save on energy costs, this may leave behind oil or grease residues on the clothes when the wash cycle completes. Homeowners may further be tempted when using their tumble dryer to stop the machine before the cool down cycle has been done.  When these very hot clothes are not allowed to cool down properly and are taken out of the dryer, the risk of fire significantly escalates.

Spontaneous ignition is a real danger. This occurs when oxidising materials, such as cooking oils, are left on laundry. These materials can retain heat and, over time, reach a temperature high enough to ignite, often hours after the drying cycle has completed.

Several other factors can also increase the risk of a tumble dryer fire, including overheating of the machine, clogged lint filters, and worn-out parts. We would also advise homeowners to never leave a tumble dryer unattended when in use.

How to ensure safe tumble dryer use

To prevent these risks and protect your home, be mindful of following these safety measures:

  • Never leave tumble dryers running unattended.
  • Ensure you have a working smoke alarm and test it regularly. It’s also important to make sure you have an escape plan should a fire occur, so all members of the family know what to do.
  • Clean the lint filter after each use to prevent lint build-up and check the machine for signs of wear and tear.
  • Allow the tumble dryer to complete its cool-down cycle, as the contents can be extremely hot.
  • Be aware that some oils may not be completely removed during washing, particularly when the clothes are washed at temperatures less than 60 degrees, posing a fire risk. The remaining residue can result in the clothing having a lower ignition point.
  • If your tumble dryer needs repairing, ensure that you use a registered contractor.

Gillian Devereux, Major & Complex Loss Adjuster at Aviva, says that tumble dryer fires can pose serious fire risks if not used properly. “These types of fires can result in considerable damage, and in some instances, a total loss of the property. It’s important to always follow the golden rule of never leaving a tumble dryer running unattended for any length of time.”

Fireplaces and fires are an easy way to bring warmth into your home, but make sure you manage them safely with our basic fire safety measures.

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