Tumble dryers can pose a serious fire hazard when not used or maintained properly either in the home or on a business premises. This stark warning comes from Aviva Insurance Ireland DAC (Aviva) as the company reported a number of significant value fire claims amongst home insured customers as well as business customers recently, where the forensic investigation report found that the cause of the fires was as a direct result of non-compliance with the safety guidelines around their usage.
Given the wintry conditions that we have experienced in Ireland in recent months, with heavy rain and storms, it is reasonable to assume that the frequency of use of tumble dryers has increased in both homes and businesses. Unfortunately tumble dryers can pose a serious fire risk if they are not used correctly. Issues can arise where users wash clothes in lower temperatures to reduce energy costs as oil or grease residues may still be on the clothes when the washing cycle completes. The risk is then heightened when users remove the clothes from the tumble dryers without allowing the cool down cycle, to further reduce energy costs. The hot clothes that still contain oil residues can very quickly ignite, causing significant fire damage.Gillian Devereux, Senior Loss Adjustor at Aviva
“Spontaneous ignition of laundry contents can occur when readily oxidising materials, such as cooking oils, are on the laundry. The surface areas of the materials provide a suitable medium to allow oils to be distributed and ‘exposed’ to available oxygen. Such materials also provide a suitable ‘body’ for heat to be retained. As the oils/chemicals oxidise, the local temperature increases over a period of hours, eventually resulting in the materials reaching its ignition temperature and igniting to flame, known as spontaneous ignition. Spontaneous ignition of laundry contents typically occurs two to six hours following a tumble-drying cycle.
“Other causes of combustion when using the tumble dryers include overheating of the machine, clogged lint filters, and worn-out parts, all of which increase the risk of a fire. Leaving a tumble dryer running unattended for a period can increase the risk of a fire starting. While we don’t see these claims every day but when we do see them, they can result in considerable damage and, in some instances, a total loss of the property resulting in devastation for our insured’s home or business premises. This is evidenced by the last two customer claims that we received, which had a combined value of €2 million, both of which in these instances were commercial customers.
We are seeking to raise awareness of the risk of fires that come with tumble dryers when not used or maintained correctly, with devastating consequences for homes and businesses.Gillian Devereux, Senior Loss Adjustor at Aviva
Aviva advises those using tumble dryers in their homes or businesses to be mindful of the following:
- Ensure that the tumble dryer is on when there is someone in the home or on the premises.
- Make sure you have a working smoke alarm and test it regularly – we recommend once a week. Also ensure that you have an escape plan should a fire occur and stay out of the home or premises in the event of a fire, do not go back in.
- Ensure that the build-up of lint is removed regularly from the dryer unit – a failure to clean the filters regularly can cause a build-up of lint/fluff which can get into the air distribution system and reach the heater where it can ignite. Failure to clean the filters can result in reduced airflow which can increase temperatures within the unit and cause a fire but also affect the dryer’s performance and potentially leads to longer dryer times and more electricity usage.
- Do not stop the dryer midcycle when contents can be extremely hot, the contents need to be allowed to go through the cool down cycle before being removed from the dryer unit as the contents can be extremely hot.
- If the clothing contains oil residue, users should be aware that the washing/laundry detergent may not entirely remove the oil from the laundry. The remaining residue results in the clothing having a lower ignition point i.e., the temperature at which they will ignite.
- Finally, if the tumble dryer needs repairs, ensure that the contractor is registered.