Fire safety experts issue warning over tumble-dried laundry

Fire safety experts are warning people to allow tumble-dried laundry to cool before it’s put away following a series of fires. Experts suspect that a number of recent and puzzling fires in different parts of the UK, including one at a North Shropshire hotel, may have been caused by oil-soaked laundry that had been washed and tumble-dried and then packed away before it had cooled properly. “It’s quite an unusual phenomenon but it is well known to fire services around the country,” said Paul Fulgoni, an officer with Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service’s prevention and protection team.

“The danger arises when items like tea cloths and towels that may be soaked in vegetable oil are washed but oil residue remains afterwards. If these items are then tumble-dried and packed away before they have been allowed to cool, the oil residue can start to generate internal heat just like a compost heap. In some cases it can get hot enough to burst into flames,” Paul Fulgoni explai ned. Hotels, guest houses, care homes, schools and restaurants face the greatest risk due to the large quantities of laundry they produce each day but ordinary households are not immune to the danger, he added. “It’s something the fire service would more often expect to see in a commercial setting like a hotel but anyone who uses a tumble dryer should make sure their laundry has cooled down before they pack it away.

SFRS has issued the following guidelines:
– Allow laundry to cool and shake it before putting it away
– Ensure wash temperatures are adequate to remove vegetable and other cooking oils
– Piles of dried laundry should be well ventilated
– Don’t put damp, warm laundry in containers like plastic bags
– Don’t leave freshly laundered and dried fabrics stacked overnight