Appliances should make your life easier, not destroy your home. Dryer fires are a significant safety issue, causing more than 15,000 house fires per year, or about 4 percent of the annual total, according to a report from the National Fire Prevention Association. That's a lot of fires, and most of them can be prevented by taking a few precautions.
Clean the Lint Screen
Before every dryer cycle, you should clean the lint screen. Make it a part of your routine—put a sign up on the machine to remind yourself (or your neighbors) if you need to. Lint is extremely flammable, and when it builds up in a high-temperature environment, it can ignite readily. This is an easy first line of defense against dryer fires. For bonus points, wipe down the interior of the dryer to get rid of excess lint buildup that the screen doesn't catch.
Clean the Vent
Blocked dryer vents are probably the biggest cause of dryer fires. Many people don't even realize that their vents are clogged—or that they're supposed to clean them in the first place. Lint can build up on a massive scale in these hoses (at least compared to the lint screen), and the safety issue compounds itself: As the lint restricts more airflow, it's more likely to cause overheating, and there's plenty of fuel for a potential dryer fire.
It can be hard to know if there's a blockage, but a red flag should go up if your dryer is starting to take longer to dry your clothes. If that's happening, you should check to see if air comes out of the vent when the dryer is on. If not, you've probably got a blockage on your hands and should call a professional. And if you're using a flimsy, accordion-style vent hose, the Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends replacing it with a rigid metal tube, since it allows for better airflow.
Lint is like Tinder
Since lint is extremely flammable, it's important for lint to be swept up as it accumulates around the dryer, and it's certainly easier to sweep or vacuum it up than deal with ashes and water damage. It's also a good precaution to periodically have the interior of the dryer chassis cleaned. Avoiding lint accumulations means avoiding fires!
Don't Leave Your Dryer Unattended
It's convenient to just dump clothes in the dryer as you duck out for an errand. But if a fire breaks out while you're gone, you won't be able to stop it early. Consider staying at home while your dryer is running, for safety's sake.