My laundry just spontaneously combusted (LIFESAVING ADVICE)

When my wife took it out of the dryer, it had a burnt sort of smell to it, but we found what appeared to be a partially burnt item of clothing on the surface, threw it away, and assumed the basket’s smell was just lingering from that.

Nope. Must have been something deep in the pile that was smoldering. A few hours later, we were fortunately awakened by a neighbor who saw the basket (which we left on the porch to air out overnight from the smell) on fire. Thank G-d he was awake and nearby, who knows how much it could have spread! We doused the fire in water, put it all out, but the basket, its contents, and the couch it was sitting on are a total loss. But no human beings came to any harm.

Still no idea just which clothing item was the culprit (no doubt ashes by now), otherwise I’d also have advice about what not to put in a clothes dryer.

If you have a basket of laundry that you think smells burnt, empty it and find the precise item producing the smell! It could save your life!

I’m glad you’re all ok. This would probably be a good time to do a thorough job of lint removal from your dryer and its exhaust vent.

I’m not sure you fully understand what “spontaneous combustion” means.

That’s some scary shit, right there.

It might not have been strictly speaking, spontaneous, but it was unexpected and sudden and did not seem to be imminent before it actually happened.

Wow! Was there something flammable on the clothing before it was washed?

Anyone in your family wear hot pants?

Because if not, I think someone in your family might be a liar, liar.

Some synthetic fibers are oil based and can ignite.

I witnessed a fire in a laundromat when a load of oily uniforms were being dried in one of those huge driers. I used a fire extinguisher to try to put it out but it took a fire truck and hose to extinguish it. The laundromat became very smoky, quickly.

My local laundromat had an idiot try to remove the acetone from a blanket by putting it in a drier. A gas drier. Acetone fumes are quite flammable, and once you get synthetic fabrics ignited they burn with nasty, toxic, smoke.

Said idiot then tried to blame the laundromat attendant for the fire.

THEN he asked for his towels back. What towels? They towels he had thrown in the drier with the blanket. By that time the fire department had come and dealt with the emergency and deployed giant fans to turn the laundromat into a wind tunnel and get rid of the smoke. The attendant brought out a bucket with a nasty, burnt, melted mess in it and said “if you can find them in what’s left of your blanket you can have 'em”.

I suspect the answer is in what Annie-Xmas said. I’m not aware that anyone in the family had any flammable substances on their clothes. None of us work with any such.

And a big :smiley: to Left Hand.

Dryers don’t normally get anywhere near hot enough to ignite fabrics. (If they did, we would have people lined up at the ER to get their hand treated from burns received when unloading their appliances.) All dryers have some mechanism to stop the drying process if the air gets too hot.

My immediate though is that the bearing(s) might be bad. A bad bearing could allow the dryer to tumble but produce enough heat at one or two locations to get those areas hot enough to do the trick. Sometimes bearings just freeze, but they often just start to create a lot of heat. A metal drum could accumulate that heat by transfer over a period of time. Think of a brake pad that stays in contact with the brake disc and how hot it can get even though the wheel continues to turn fairly easily.

Anyone in the house missing a phone or anything with lithium batteries? Those rascals can and do self-ignite. A few months ago, Siri decided she needed a bath, so my phone got washed. When I pulled it out of the washer, it was hot. Hate to think what might’ve happened if I let if go through the dryer.

I wonder if one of Jack-Jack’s diapers wound up in your laundry.

Overloading the dryer could be the culprit- we put a new blanket in the dryer that should have been well within the size and material guidelines, but part of it ended up melted because it was pressed up against the vent. Air-dry only for that one from now on!

A not-insignificant number of residential fires are caused by dryers. I only run the dryer when I’m home. At least if it catches fire I’ll know when the smoke detector goes off, rather than when a neighbor might notice flames shooting out a window of a now-fully-involved dwelling fire. :eek:

So you took your clean clothes out & dumped them in the basket? Don’t they end up wrinkled that way?

…& you have a couch on the porch…& indoor plumbing? :stuck_out_tongue:

My dryer AND my washer both have a caution on them not to ever, ever put anything in the dryer that has ever had oil on it, including cooking oil!

Yeah, I pay about as much to this recommendation as I do to silverware that says “hand wash only” (fat chance) or clothing items that say “dry clean only” but I am adamant about cleaning the filter on the dryer every single time it’s used.

I understand that it could be dangerous to put oily clothes in a dryer, but why not in a washer? Detergent should emulsify and remove oil, so what’s the danger?


The basket was merely to transport them from the dryer to the home (see below). We would have commenced immediately to folding them, but we wanted the smell to air out.

I spend the summer in a bungalow colony in the Catskill Mountains. The bungalow is basically a wooden shack, albeit with two bedrooms, a porch, a gas oven, and yes, basic indoor plumbing - kitchen sink, bathroom sink, bathtub/shower and toilet. The washers and dryers are communal and are in their own little shack in the middle of all the bungalows.

No, sorry I was unclear, it says on the washer not to put them in the dryer.