The burning smell coming from your dryer is a cause for concern --and rightly so. A poorly maintained and improperly installed dryer can be a fire hazard. Thus, it is imperative to understand why your dryer gives off a burning smell and how you can fix it.
This article is designed to arm you with the information you need regarding the common reasons a dryer may smell like it’s burning, how you can resolve those issues and at what point it makes sense to call for professional help
What Clothes are Safe to Dry?
Prior to evaluating the cause and troubleshooting steps for your dryer smelling like it’s burning, it is important to know what kind of clothes are safe to dry. Clothes stained with highly flammable solvents like gasoline, mineral spirits, and paint thinners, are not safe to dry in a dryer. We would recommend using a clothesline instead.
Detergents are usually unsuccessful in completely removing such solvents from clothes. The dryer produces heat to get rid of the moisture from your clothes. The heat from the dryer can cause a burning smell when it comes in contact with these solvents. Furthermore, heating solvents like gasoline can put you at risk of a fire.
Why Your Dryer Smells Like Burning: Reasons and Fixes
Lint Buildup is Highly Inflammable
The most common reason that your dryer smells like it’s burning is that you have a build up on lint within the dryer which has made contact with a heating element. It is important to clean the lint trap regularly. Lint is highly flammable. When lint builds up, it can pass through spaces in the dryer’s drum, reaching the dryer's heating element. When you use the dryer with lint on the heating element, it will give off a burning smell.
To resolve this issue, you first need to cut off the power to the dryer. Depending on the model, you can unplug it or shut the gas valve. Pull the dryer out and remove the back panel (you can use a screwdriver to wedge it loose) to access the heating element. Now, with a nozzle attachment in your vacuum cleaner, get rid of any loose lint that you may see.
Test the dryer after the clean-up by running it for 1 to 2 minutes. If you still smell something burning, shut it off and call for professional help.
New Dryers Commonly Gives Off a Burning Smell
If you have a new dryer, then any burning odor when you first start using it is just the oil and paints used during manufacturing burning off. The dryer is safe to use in such cases since it takes a few runs for the smell to subside as the dryer gasses off.
After several uses, the burning smell should go away on its own. If the odor is potent during the first few times, you use the dryer, open a window to let the stench out.
Blocked Ventilation Hose Reduces Airflow
The function of the vent hose is to exhaust hot air as the dryer runs. Any blockages in this pipe can cause the hot airflow to reduce and push lint particles into the dryer cabinet.
A ventilation hose is connected to the dryer and releases hot air outside your house, usually going through a wall. A typical lint trap only captures 70 to 80 percent of the lint produced during dryer usage. The rest of the lint is then pushed out of the dryer through the hose.
A vent hose is a flexible pipe with a 4-inch diameter, and it usually attaches to a PVC or rigid metal pipe. In other cases, the entire pipe length is made out of flexible material.
To check for blockages in the ventilation hose, lift the vent cover. Beware of flies and wasps that can build up nests by passing through the louvers. Use a vent brush to remove any restriction. Use wasp sprays according to the package instructions to get rid of the nests, if needed.
Twisted Vent Hose Can Force Lint Into the Dryer Cabinet
Blocked airflow can also be due to a bent or twisted ventilation hose. A damaged or twisted vent pipe can cause lint to move to the dryer cabinet, which results in a burning smell.
If you have a flexible ventilation hose that runs from the dryer's back to the outside of the house, any kinks need to be fixed, and a damaged hose needs to be replaced. Check both ends of the pipe - the one attached to the dryer as well as the outside vent opening.
Replacing a flexible pipe with a solid metal pipe can fix the issue. Call a maintenance specialist for the replacement.
Loose Dryer Belt Can Melt
When you put clothes in your dryer's drum, its motor rotates it with the help of a heavy belt. Over time, the belt can wear out. A worn-out belt can become rather loose and cause it to slip from its place. When the motor runs with a loose belt, it creates friction that can cause the belt to melt due to heat. The smell is instantly recognizable as that of burnt rubber.
Remove the back panel to check the belt. You should see the belt tightly wound around a pulley. Tug on the belt and make sure that it is fitted. If you notice the belt slacking or see any melted sections, call a professional to replace it for you.
Be careful of sharp internal cabinet edges when sticking your hand inside the dryer body.
Important Note: You will need to remove the front panel to access the belt for some dryer models. Keep the dryer manual handy to see where the belt and the motor are located.
Malfunctioning Heating Element
A malfunctioning heating element can also cause a burning smell in a dryer. Inspect if the heating element has failed or not operating correctly due to breakage or burning. To check, access the heating element by removing the back panel. You will find an open-faced box with interconnected coils. Unscrew the top and bottom sensors and unhook the two wires to remove the vessel.
Check for any broken or blackened coils and call a professional to replace the heating element. Any intertwined coils can result in an electrical short and should be immediately replaced. If you do not see any visible issues with the heating element, test the part for continuity using a multimeter. If the device beeps, it is working fine. If there is no sound, then the heating element needs to be replaced.
How to Inspect a Gas Dryer's Heating Element
You can find the heating element at the back panel inside the electrical cabinet in a gas dryer. You will find the combustion tube with two to three wires attached. It will be a long white or silver cylinder. If you see any unattached or melted wires, they may be the reason for the burning smell.
In case you see any melted wires, call a professional to have them replaced.
A failed thermostat can be the reason why your dryer smells like it is burning. A thermostat keeps the internal temperature of the dryer in check and shuts it off when the temperature is too high. If you have a failed thermostat, the dryer can overheat and cause a burning smell. You can access the thermostat through the back panel.
The thermostat is cylindrical or rectangular and has two wires. Disconnect the wires and use the multimeter to establish continuity. Call a technician to replace the thermostat.
If you notice burning wires, shut off the dryer immediately and do not risk running it until you have had it thoroughly checked by a technician to eliminate fire risk.
How to Clean the Lint Trap to Reduce Fire Risk
Poorly maintained dryers have lint build-up and can be a fire hazard. Follow the precautions mentioned below for safe usage of your dryer.
- Ensure you clean the lint trap every time you use the dryer.
- Remove the lint trap and use a soft nylon brush and soapy water to scrub away any dust particles that may block airflow. Let the lint trap dry completely before you put it back in place.
- Remove the back panel and use a vacuum to clean any lint you may see. Do this at least two times a year.
- Twice a year, check the vent pipe and make sure that it's not blocked. Use a brush and remove any blockages such as wasp nests, if needed.
- Since your dryer can be a potential fire hazard, it is advisable to have it professionally examined once a year to ensure that all its different parts work correctly.
- If you smell burning wires, switch the dryer off and seek help from a technician to be safe.
Following the precautions mentioned above so you can use your dryer safely for a long time.