We probably don’t give much thought to safety when our dirty laundry is piled up, then washed and dried.

But, if we don’t pay attention, even the wash-day chores can turn into a serious accident. Specifically, we need to take care of the dryer so it doesn’t cause a fire.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Before using a new dryer for the first time, read the manufacturer’s instructions, warnings and care instructions. 

Have your clothes dryer installed by qualified personnel. Professionals can ensure the proper installation of your dryer and will be knowledgeable about the different kinds of units. 

A clothes dryer works by forcing hot air through a turning drum. Wet clothes are placed in the drum and then dried by moving hot air. 

Lint, consisting of small fibers from the clothes, is created from the clothes as they tumble. While much of the lint is trapped in the filter, some is carried along through the vent system. 

Make sure to clean the filter before and after each cycle. In addition, clean the lint filter every 6 months with a nylon brush. 

Don’t forget to clean the back of the dryer, where expelled lint can build up.

For optimum performance, the interior of the dryer and venting system should be serviced and cleaned periodically. 

Check occasionally to make sure nests of small animals and insects are not blocking the outside vent. 

Here are some more tips:

• Do not store cleaning products, boxes and baskets of clothing around the dryer because they can cause a fire to start. 

• Do not dry anything containing foam, rubber or plastic, such as bathroom rugs or tennis shoes. 

• Do not leave a clothes dryer running if you leave home or when you go to bed.

• Do not run a dryer without the lint filter, as this is your built in defense against lint build up. 

• Do not overload – a heavy load of clothing is too hard on the dryer. It can cause parts to work overtime, producing higher than average temperatures, which can cause a fire. 

A fire will change your life in ways that you cannot even begin to imagine. Fire safety starts with you, so practice fire safety every day!

Cinda Seamon is the fire and life safety educator for Hilton Head Island Fire Rescue.