Lint catchers should be wiped before and after every load of laundry, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.

Q: How often should I clean my clothes dryer to prevent fires?

A: Nearly 3,000 clothes dryer fires are reported in homes each year, according to the U.S. Fire Administration, and failure to clean the dryer is a cause of one-third of those fires.

Dryers should be cleaned in three different ways, according to the USFA. First, the lint filter should be wiped clean before and after each load of laundry. The vent pipe should also be cleaned of lint every three months. Lastly, your dryer should be regularly cleaned by a professional, particularly if it takes longer than usual for clothes to dry.

The first step to preventing these kinds of fires though is to make sure your dryer is installed correctly. It should be installed by a professional and you should ensure the correct electrical plug and outlet are used, the administration said.

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The venting system behind the dryer should not be damaged or restricted and neither should the outdoor vent, the administration said. Outdoor vent coverings should be able to open when the dryer is on, and you should check regularly whether critters are making nests that block the vent.

As far as what you shouldn’t do: Don’t dry any items containing foam, rubber, fiberglass or plastic, any items that manufacturers’ instruct to “dry away from heat” or any items that have come in contact with flammable liquids such as alcohol, cooking oils or gasoline.

— Shelley K. Mesch

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