Fire service warns of oil residues causing fires in tumble dryers

Spas, pubs and restaurants in Cambridgeshire are being urged to ensure oil residues have been removed from clothing and towels before being placed into tumble dryers.

The warning comes after several recent incidents where clothing and towels from spas and restaurants were washed at too low a temperature leaving behind oil residues. The items were then placed inside a tumble dryer where the heat caused the oils to combust, setting fire to the materials and causing a fire inside the drum of the dryer.

In the most recent incident, crews from Cambridge were called to a dry cleaning business in a Cambridge suburb after towels from a spa were placed in an industrial dryer with oil residues on them, causing a fire inside the drum.

This follows a second incident earlier in the year, where towels from a spa were placed inside a tumble dryer causing a fire.

Station Commander Giles Grainger, Fire Protection Manager, Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service, said the Service also attended two or three similar fires several months ago in pubs and restaurants where chef’s whites, aprons, tea towels and clothes with cooking oil residues were placed in tumble dryers, which then caught fire in the heat.

“Items such as towels that have been used in the beauty and spa industry can become contaminated with treatment oils. Washing them at low temperatures means these substances are not always completely removed. If the towels are then placed in a tumble dryer at high temperatures, they can overheat and catch fire.

“Whilst you have to adhere to the manufacturer’s recommendations when washing clothes and towels, it is important that they are washed at a temperature that is high enough to remove the oils from them before placing them into a tumble dryer.”

Following the earlier tumble dryer fires, the Service made contact with pubs and restaurants across the county to highlight the potential dangers. Beauty and spa treatment centres will now be contacted warning them of the dangers of tumble drying materials with oil residues left on them.

Safety tips include ensuring wash temperatures and detergents are suitable for the optimum removal of oil-based contaminants; allowing laundry to complete the cooling cycle in the tumble dryer, shaking out laundry to ventilate before folding; ensuring stack or pile is well ventilated; and that you have a smoke alarm on each floor of your premises and that it is test regularly.