Before you casually toss your next load of laundry into the dryer, consider this story.
A maintenance worker at a San Angelo, Texas, motel this week discovered smoke inside the facility's laundry room. According to the San Angelo Standard-Times, the machine overheated, causing the sheets inside to catch fire. The worker attempted to douse the flames with a fire extinguisher and then called the fire department after smoke continued to emit from the machine. Firefighters extinguished the fire, which was contained to the laundry room. Two people were treated for smoke inhalation.
The department's captain told the Standard-Times that the incident was the second dryer fire his crew responded to in a week; the other fire involved built-up dryer lint.
"Always check your dryer vents," the captain told the newspaper. "People don't think about cleaning the lint, and that is a danger."
NFPA statistics highlight this danger: in 2010, an estimated 16,800 home structure fires involving clothes dryers or washing machines resulted in 51 deaths, 380 injuries, and $236 million in property damage. The leading cause of fire in these incidents was failure to clean.
Download NFPA's dryer safety tip sheet, which includes information on maintaining these machines.