How to Put Out a Dryer Fire in 6 Fast Steps

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: March 20, 2024

Do you know what to do if your dryer catches on fire? Laundry day shouldn’t be dangerous, but dryer fire statistics are alarming. Every year, clothes dryers start approximately 2,900 house fires.

We recently restored several rooms in a home that was damaged when the dryer caught on fire. This kind of emergency can sometimes be safely taken care of, but it can also quickly become life-threatening. We want you to be prepared.

What to Do if Your Tumble Dryer Catches Fire

Your strongest line of defense against any type of home fire is a well-practiced evacuation plan. If you suddenly face flames in the laundry room, knowing how to put out a dryer fire can make a difference, but never risk your safety.

If you’re certain you can contain the blaze, follow these six steps for extinguishing a clothes dryer fire. Otherwise, evacuate the house immediately, and call the fire department.

1. Know the Signs

Smoke is an obvious sign that your dryer is catching on fire, but be alert to other warnings. A burning odor, popping sounds or excessive heat around the appliance are all cause for alarm.

2. Don’t Open the Dryer

Leave the dryer door closed. It can be hot enough to burn your hand, and opening it can feed oxygen to the fire. You also risk exposure to carbon monoxide and toxic smoke from burning synthetic materials.

3. Extinguish the Fire

Use an ABC extinguisher to put out the dryer fire using OSHA’s P.A.S.S. technique.

P – Pull the extinguisher pin with a firm, smooth motion.

A – Aim low, and point the nozzle at the fire’s base.

S – Squeeze the lever firmly to release extinguishing compounds.

S – Sweep and spray from side to side along the fire’s base.

4. Unplug the Dryer

Once you’re certain you’ve put out the dryer fire, unplug the unit from its wall outlet. If you think the connections might be damaged, don’t try to disconnect the dryer.

5. Make a Safe Exit

As you leave the laundry room, close the door behind you. This small move helps contain flames from an outbreak if smoldering materials should reignite. Turn off utilities to the room at their outside source.

6. Stay Safe After the Fire

Immediately have your home’s electrical system inspected by a licensed electrician. He or she can take care of affected wiring in areas adjacent to the fire and address any problems that might pose a danger to the rest of the house.

If damages aren’t too bad, fire cleanup can be a DIY job. Be sure to follow all recommended precautions. Leave heavy smoke and soot removal to restoration specialists who also repair fire-damaged floors, walls and ceilings.

How Do Dryer Fires Start?

When you clean your dryer’s lint filter, you’re actually throwing away a fire hazard. The fluffy stuff is highly combustible. Most clothes dryer fires are started by lint accumulated around hot motor components, but there are other causes.

  • Dryer vent fires result from lint buildup inside vent turns and bends.
  • A bad heating element can reach temperatures that ignite a clothes dryer fire.
  • Faulty temperature sensors allow the heating element to continuously run too hot.
  • Too little clearance between a wall and dryer causes components to overheat.
  • Flimsy duct extenders made from thin foil or plastic are laundry room fire hazards.

How Can I Prevent a Dryer Fire?

Every time you clear out the lint filter, you’re making the house a little safer. Clean the flammable stuff out of the filter after every drying cycle, and always practice these dryer-fire prevention tips.

  • Keep a 5-pound ABC fire extinguisher within easy reach of the clothes dryer
  •  Have dryer vents professionally inspected and cleaned several times a year.
  • Ask your appliance technician to check vent size and location for optimum safety
  •  Pay attention to changes in dryer operation like prolonged dry times or overheating.
  • Don’t run the clothes dryer if you plan on leaving the house or going to bed for the night.

You Can Count On Us

professional fire damage restoration

While the chances of your dryer catching fire might seem low, always keep up with routine dryer maintenance. Practice family home fire evacuation drills at least twice a year too.

If the worst happens and you face the aftermath of a dryer fire, we’re here to help. You can always count on ServiceMaster by Zaba for industry certified fire damage cleanup and restoration.

Why do I need an ABC fire extinguisher for dryer fires?

This type of fire extinguisher works on all the materials that might be involved in a dryer fire. The extinguisher is effective against burning wood, paper, gases and electrical equipment.

Can a dryer catch on fire even when it’s off?

Problems in the dryer’s electrical system can cause wiring and components to short or spark after it’s turned off. Lint buildup can result in filters overheating and igniting the material even after the dryer is turned off.

Can oily rags start a clothes dryer fire?

Before drying, thoroughly wash and rinse rags after use with flammable household products. For example, double-wash rags soaked with gasoline, linseed oil, paint thinner or nail polish remover.