All too often, we see in the news or we get called to a tumble dryer that has gone on fire and when there is acrid smoke, flames or even a whiff of danger to life it is taken very seriously indeed. Often the results are spectacular and more often than not the actual danger blown out of all proportion.
There’s just one small problem, most times we encounter this, it has come down to one simple mistake, a lack of care on the part of the user.
We point out that, even if you do leave the machine operational and unattended (which we don’t recommend) then as every single fire service in the UK will tell you, you should have a working smoke alarm that is regularly tested fitted in your home to warn you, often long before massive damage can occur or life is lost from a fire from any source never mind an appliance.
Assistant Area Commander of the Staffordshire Fires Service, Mick Daniels, said almost exactly what we would:
“We would urge people not to leave tumble dryers or washing machines turned on when they leave the house. These appliances should be supervised at all times. It is also important that filters are regularly cleaned out to prevent a build up of fluff and that the appliances are not overloaded. The electrical safety devices in the property did not appear to have worked correctly, we would urge all occupiers to have their electrical circuits and safety devices checked regularly by a qualified electrician.”
Sorry, but it is a fact, The biggest culprit is the owner of the tumble dryer most often when fire occurs.
Appliances simply should not be left running in an unattended location (we don’t even like delay timers due to this) and that it is imperative to clean the filters in your tumble dryer and the condenser unit if you have a condenser tumble dryer.
If you fail to clean the filters regularly then fluff and lint builds up and gets forced through the air distribution system, it reaches the heater and it can then burn. In all likelihood and, in almost all cases, this won’t actually ignite but it will give off an acrid burning smell, quite possibly smoke and give the impression that the tumble dryer is on fire and in the process give you a good scare.
Also, if the filters are faulty, in a state of disrepair, with holes in the filter mesh and similar (in some cases, it is hard to believe, removed completely) fluff and lint can just pass straight through into the heater chamber.
If you do not maintain the filters you have an accident waiting to happen. It is not a matter of “if”, it’s a question of “when”.
Do not risk your life to save a few seconds cleaning a filter out, or a few pounds for a replacement filter. You cannot blame the manufacturer for a fault caused by you and you cannot undo the devastating consequences for g=ignoring such simple maintenance.
Tumble Dryer Safety Devices
In a tumble dryer there are a set of thermostats, safety thermostats that when activated in excessive heat, will stop the dryer and make it safe.
There is nothing in the tumble dryer that can burn of its own accord. There’s nothing in a tumble dryer to burn without a lot of effort or some sort of catalyst. Usually that would be the build up of fluff and lint as above.
In fact, on canvassing the engineers in a quick completely non-scientific poll, not one has ever seen a tumble dryer fire caused by anything else. We’ve all seen them though.
Delayed Start And Tumble Dryers
We know, it’s a complete contradiction.
In many instruction manuals (most) it will state that the tumble dryer should not be used unattended yet manufacturers provide delay start timers that allow that, you could say even encourage unattended use and, you would be correct.
But people demand the function so manufacturers provide what the customer wants, even if hardly any people ever use it.
On top of which most manufacturers and we, don’t recommend unattended use. In fact, we’d say that you should never, ever leave an appliance (any appliance) running and leave it alone without anyone in the home. Ever.
Appliances are pretty reliable and have a lot of safety devices built into them but, every once in a while one in millions upon millions of cycles run will do something odd and fail in a bad way. Whether that’s the machine at fault or, as in this case almost exclusively, the owner’s fault is irrelevant. The fact is that it can go wrong and even if the odds are millions and millions to one that it will, you should not leave any appliance completely unattended and operating.
On top of that, as the fire services tell you, fit a smoke alarm. Make sure it works.
How To Stop A Tumble Dryer From Bursting Into Flames
Clean the filters!
Clean the condenser chamber!
Do these very regularly, most manufacturers say to do it after every use, they say that for a reason not just for fun.
If the airflow in your tumble dryer is impaired then it is working less efficiently, it will be costing you more in electricity to run, the performance is degraded and it is dangerous. Asides from which it can also cause the premature failure of heating elements and thermostats. It can cause blockages with water systems on condenser dryers, fan blockages and other issues.
There’s a heap of reasons to maintain your tumble dryer as directed.
If you don’t then you will, at some point inevitably need either our services to repair your tumble dryer through a spare part, one of our engineers to repair it or the fire service to put out the flames.