Why Does Your Dryer Smell Weird?

Authorized Service
November 12, 2020
Dryer Repair

Despite regular exposure to wet clothing, your dryer should stay pretty stink-free over time. It uses high heat to dry clothing, and this heat also keeps mold and other smells to a minimum. Yet, it is not a fool-proof function. Over time, you may begin to smell a musty or even vaguely burnt smell inside your dryer. Any strange smell should immediately be met with suspicion. In many cases, the cause will be pretty innocent, but certain smells can be indicators of dangerous situations. This is why you will want to make it a priority to check these common culprits of odd smells in your dryer whenever a strange smell pops up in it. It is not just about removing the smell, but treating the cause of it as well.

Mold Build Up

If your dryer smells a bit musty or even if you see black spots inside, it means that mold is growing inside your dryer. Unlike your washer, a dryer isn’t constantly exposed to high levels of moisture, but it is exposed to moisture from those damp clothes. A lot of the time, mold growth in dryers comes from contamination from the washer. That mold gets stuck on the clothes and is transferred to the dryer through contact where it then grows in that appliance.

Typically, when a dryer uses high heat, it kills a lot of the spores, but it isn’t guaranteed to do so. This is particularly true if you use lower heat settings so as to not shrink your clothing. The lower heat and occasional moisture can provide a thriving environment to mold. Worse yet, those spores contaminate your clothing. This can lead to that same musty smell and even staining.

If you do suspect that you have mold in your dryer, you can help to remove it by wiping the interior down with white vinegar. You can also go further by drying your white vinegar cloth on a high heat. You want to be very sure you get in every nook and cranny though. The white vinegar kills spores and deodorizes, but one missed spot will cause it to come back. You will likely also want to do the same to your washer as well otherwise mold may just come right back.

Full Water Extraction System

If you do not use a vented dryer, then yours is a condensation dryer. These can be good appliances, but come with special considerations. As they do no vent the moist air, they instead use a water extraction system. It builds up and will need to be emptied after every use as soon as possible. If you do not, you risk that system overflowing with water. Furthermore, if it is allowed to remain moist, then it will be a target for mold and mildew growth.

Leaving water to stagnate, even if you empty it before the next load, is a huge contributor to bad smells in your dryer. You want to empty it right away and make sure any dirt is cleaned away. It will eventually deodorize itself, but wiping things down with white vinegar can help speed things along.

Is It The First Use?

It is never a good sign when you smell burning in your dryer. If you literally just had it installed and are using it for the first few times, burning is the last thing you hope to smell, but it could happen. You might worry that it was installed incorrectly, but that’s not quite true. If your dryer is new, the burning smell should go away within the first three uses. If it persist for longer or your notice your laundry comes out very hot, you will want to check the vents and filters for obstruction and contact your manufacturer or installation company if you cannot find any obvious causes.

The Filter Has a Hole

In your dryer, there is a filter that catches any bits of fuzz before they can touch the heating element. If those bits do reach the heating element, they will harmlessly burn up, but they will create a burning smell. If a large amount of fluff does reach it, then you may even seen smoke. If this filter is clogged, has a hole in it, or is missing, your laundry will smell burnt and awful after almost every load.

The Vents Are Clogged

We have discussed the rather innocent causes of a burning smell in your dryer, but that shouldn’t put you at ease. The reason a burning smell in your dryer should always worry you greatly is because is can mean that it has a lint blockage in either the exhaust hose that connects to the vent or the actual vent that is in your home.

While you can consider the options above, you will always want to make sure that you check the exhaust hose, vent, and lint filter for blockages. If any of them are not perfectly clean, they will need to be cleaned out. A common sign that this is happening is that your laundry will come out hot to the touch. This isn’t normal and means there is a blockage somewhere that is keeping the hot moist air inside. Usually, you can spot this before things start burning. Typically, in clogged vents, the burning smell is the last step before smoke and fire, so keep that in mind.

Animal Issues

Usually dryer smells come in two flavors — musty and burnt. However, if it smells putrid inside, it is definitely more than just mold. Unfortunately, if the cover on the vent on your roof has fallen off, animals can get in there. They get stuck and they pass away. The more problematic part is getting them out after this happens. You may need some professional help in order to remove them from the vent, depending on how far in they got stuck. Obviously, it is best to avoid using your dryer until after this is done. An animal corpse is a smelly blockage and can become a fire hazard.


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