Clothes Dryer Dangers

Warning, clothes dryers can cause some not so obvious dangers:

Fire, airflow and floating flames are just a few dangers.        

I have seen and heard lots of things working in homes for over 40 years. My book ( and my websites provide me the opportunity to present what I think are the most important observations-I made-that you can benefit from. One of the most urgent topics of my observations is not actually considered a plumbing problem. Because I worry so much about clothes dryers, I must make “Clothes Dryer Dangers” warning Report #1.

Clothes Dryer Dangers

Lint build up inside the dryer and/or inside the discharge pipe creates a very dangerous risk of fire. People don’t seem to realize how important it is to keep the discharge areas free of lint build-up. All dryers have an extreme heat source (gas or electric). It only requires a very small amount of lint to ignite and all lint inside the discharge area of the dryer and inside the discharge pipes will ignite. People don’t seem to realize that periodic dryer and discharge cleaning is necessary. I recommend people find a trustworthy specialist to properly clean as often as the specialist recommends.

Often-contributing to this danger are flimsy accordion type flexible discharge pipes. “Accordion type” flexible pipes create restrictions in the flow of air and lint. Each foot of “accordion” type pipe is equal to the restriction created by one 90 degree elbow (six feet of flex pipe is like having six 90 degree elbows between the dryer and the wall vent). “Accordion type” flexible pipe frequently collects lots of lint that otherwise might have blown to the out-doors. I recommend that people try to have dryer vents piped out with “smoke pipe” (aka smooth pipe) and fittings. Keeping discharge pipe as short as possible and using smooth pipe will make it easier to keep it clean. Also-it can make your dryer work much faster (saving time, energy and money).

Lint build up can cause other dangers. Overheating can result when air is not allowed to blow outside fast enough. Dryers have an extreme heat source that is designed for fast moving air. Lint build- up or any other problem that slows the air flow can cause dangerous over heating and a fire.

Sucking air out of a room creates dangers. People don’t seem to realize that clothes dryers suck air out of a room the same way that a giant vacuum cleaner would. If you can visualize a giant vacuum cleaner that has a four inch diameter discharge-you might understand what I am worried about (a clothes dryer is a giant vacuum cleaner that sucks room air through clothes and blows the discharge outside).

People don’t seem to realize that-if a laundry room door is not left open and there isn’t enough ventilation available while a clothes dryer is working, dangers can quickly develop. If enough space is available under the door or if there are enough louvers to allow enough air (aka make-up air), a dangerous situation might be avoided. I recommend that doors be left open while using a clothes dryer even when you think there is plenty of air flow under doors or from other sources (louvers etc…).

Carbon monoxide

When a furnace, water heater, boiler or other fuel burning appliance is in the same room as a clothes dryer, sucking room air can suck carbon monoxide and other dangerous fumes into the living space. I recommend that you install a carbon monoxide detector in any room that has a fuel burning appliance (also, in every bedroom and other places would make life even safer).

Sucking air out of a room doesn’t just risk dangerous air contamination. It also creates additional fire dangers. When fire floats dangerously out of a gas appliance, it is often referred to as a “floating flame”.

“Floating Flames”

Many experienced plumbers have seen dangerous burns and melting on the front of a water heater that was caused by a “collapsed flue” (the hollow inside of a gas water heater collapsed and provided no place for the burning gas to escape). As the gas is attracted to the oxygen in the air and as the fumes have no place else to go, flames come out of the appliance (water heater) resulting in what is known as a “floating flame”. Sucking air out of a room that doesn’t have enough air flowing into the room to replace the air sucked out by the clothes dryer can also  cause dangerous “floating flames” by sucking the flame outside of the appliance. In extreme situations, air can actually be sucked down the flue (exhaust) and pull flames out creating a very dangerous situation.

Many people fail to read warnings on fuel burning appliances concerning “clear space” in front and around the appliance. Most water heaters, furnaces, boilers and other fuel burning  appliances require 18 inches or more “clear space” in front (people must learn the required amount of space and other important information. “Floating flames” can easily ignite any flammable items stored closer than the recommended space (”clear space”). Even when a safe amount of space is provided, “floating” flames are very dangerous as they burn dangerous areas of the appliance.

I hope you will focus on details concerning safety. There are many additional important details concerning this topic. I have expressed my opinions and my concerns- please read all disclaimers and please realize that ultimately you are responsible for what you do or what you fail to do. By me expressing my opinions I don’t want you to think that you don’t need to do further research-you do.

You should not consider my advice (opinions and concerns) the final word. You should check with your local governing authorities; trustworthy HVAC specialist, other professionals, fire department, insurance company or any other trustworthy source before making any final decisions.

If you want to benefit from other observations I made working in homes you can look inside my book for free if you click on> ( You will be glad you did.




About the Author

Mike started his plumbing apprenticeship in 1969. He has over forty years experience solving plumbing problems in homes. Mike helps people avoid mistakes. He is the founder and president of Quick Quality Plumbing Inc.. Mike published a book ( and he is the administrator for the web site (