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Dryer safety

Published: 5:05PM Wednesday June 10, 2009 Source: Fair Go

Reporter Hannah Wallis

The fire service gets about 40 callouts a year to fires caused by clothes dryers - and about half of those are major. Josie Kururangi had a dryer fire in August last year, she was lucky, the Fisher and Paykel dryer was ruined, but there was little damage to the house.

Josie's problem was it took 10 months (and Fair Go's intervention) to get her a replacement dryer from F & P, and Farmers, the retailer. F & P apologised for the communication breakdown, and have also given Josie a new washing machine, because of the unacceptable delay. F& P had taken the dryer away because, for safely reasons, they needed to try and find the cause of the fire - most likely a build up of lint.

Why no immediate replacement? Under the warranty - and this is pretty standard -  Josie might not have been eligible for a replacement: the warranty doesn't cover damage/problems caused by accident, neglect, misuse or Act of God. And no cover if you don't use the appliance as per the manufacturer's instructions.
And there'd be no cover under consumer law either if the problem was caused by neglect or misuse.

So, how to keep yourself safe when drying clothes? Lint build-up's one of the biggies - clean out the filter regularly and if your dryer isn't vented to the outside, check the vent for lint too.

Use the cool down phase on the dryer timer - it's there for a reason - but if you've got an older dryer without a cool down phase, or need to pull the clothes out while they're still hot - make sure you spread them out - never let hot clothes lie in a pile - there have been fires started this way.

Also, check pockets of clothes - a fire was started in a dryer because of a cigarette lighter that made it through a wash and into the dryer. If you've been working with accelerants - cooking oil, petrol, paint thinner etc - and you've spilt stuff on your clothes - be aware that a cold wash will not remove accelerants and they could still cause a fire when later put in the dryer.

And all the safety experts say - turn the dryer off if you're leaving the house or - going to sleep.

Finally - something we've learnt here on Fair Go - if you feel you're getting nowhere with a complaint - as Josie did - ask to speak to management, or senior management, or tell them you want the problem "escalated". Seems to be a bit of a magic word that. And if that all fails - come to us. 

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