Clothes dryers are one of those modern conveniences we often take for granted. Because it’s easy to toss a load of wet clothes in the machine and come back an hour later when they’re dry, many of us don’t give our dryers much thought. However, clothes dryers need regular maintenance. All dryers have a lint trap, which should be cleaned between uses, but the screen can’t catch everything. Over time, lint builds up within the dryer and its duct system.

Dryer lint is highly flammable. A small spark, or even very high temperature, is enough to ignite a blaze. The National Fire Protection Association reports that clothes dryers are responsible for one out of every 22 house fires annually, leading to $236 million in property damage. Nearly a third of dryer fires are caused by lint buildup.

If your clothes aren’t dry at the end of a normal cycle, that’s a sign your ductwork may be clogged. The lint buildup reduces airflow, which makes it harder for the machine to get your clothes dry. This reduced efficiency adds up over time, as the dryer is one of the most costly household appliances to run. At about $0.40 an hour, running extra dryer cycles can tack quite a bit onto your electric bill.

In addition to keeping your lint trap clean, you need to clean the rest of the ductwork at least twice a year. If you’re maintenance-savvy, you can try doing it yourself with a wet/dry vacuum. You’ll need to disconnect the duct at the back of the dryer and insert a vacuum hose, cleaning through its entire length. You will also need to clean the port on the dryer itself, as well as the vent on the outside of your house.

If the task sounds daunting, leave it to the pros. You can have a professional duct cleaning company do the job. Dust Doctors performs a thorough cleaning of the dryer and its entire duct system to reduce fire hazard and improve dryer efficiency. While you’re at it, consider having other air quality services performed, like furnace, heat pump, and chimney cleaning. Regular maintenance of air circulating machinery improves energy efficiency as well as indoor air quality.

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