Dryer Smells Like Lighter Fluid – Causes + Solutions

If you opened your dryer in the morning and it smelled like lighter fluid or kerosene, this can be scary, especially considering the risk of fires from electrical devices. Knowing the causes and how to fix them can give you much-needed peace of mind in such situations.

Dryer smells like lighter fluid

The most common reason your dryer smells like lighter fluid or kerosene is when you’ve recently used petroleum-based products such as vanishes or paint in your home. These smells could also result from a compromised exhaust hose or clogged lint filter.

The rest of this article will explore some common reasons why your dryer may produce the smell of kerosene or lighter fluid. Additionally, I will provide some handy DIY solutions to resolve this issue. Let’s dive right in.

Electric Dryer Smells Like Kerosene

The smell of kerosene or lighter fluid gas is typically associated with gas dryers and not electric dryers. So if your electric dryer smells like kerosene, you’ll need to figure out what the problem is.

So what are some of the reasons that your electric dryer smells like kerosene?

electric dryer smells like kerosene

1. Using Petroleum-Based Products in the Home

The most common reason for the kerosene smell in your electric dryer or on your clothes after drying is recently using a petroleum-based product in your home. Accordingly, this should not be a cause for alarm in most cases. 

There are many products you can use in your home that are petroleum-based. These include:

  • Wood finishing
  • Oil-based paints
  • Various sealer products 
  • Most varnishes

You may also notice the smell of kerosene from your dryer if you have recently used any oil-based products or flammable solvents in your home.

This can be traced back to how electric dryers function. A typical dryer will draw in the air from your space and pass it over a heating element. This air is then released as hot air and pushed out. 

Essentially, the drier pulls in air at room temperature from your space, heats it using a heating element, and then releases the humid, warm air via the exhaust vent.

The kerosene smell emanates when vapors from these petroleum-based products are ignited by the heat produced by the heating element.

Watch the YouTube video below to learn more about how petroleum-based products can cause a kerosene-like smell:

How To Fix It

Since the kerosene smell primarily results from using petroleum-based flammable products in your home, the best solution is to improve your home’s ventilation setup. This ensures that the air pushed out from the dryer is quickly dissipated to clear the smell of kerosene. 

Additionally, it may be a good idea to set the dryer control to air fluff for several minutes once the drying cycle is complete. This helps to remove the kerosene smell from your clothes. However, pay keen attention to make sure you revert the dryer back to the dry setting.

As the old adage goes, prevention is better than cure. Therefore, I recommend not using the electric dryer for a few days if you have recently used a petroleum-based product in your home.

2. Dirty Lint Filter

A dirty lint filter chute may result in a lighter fluid or kerosene gas smell in your home. The purpose of a lint filter is to remove fine hairs and debris from the air being pushed out of the dryer. 

However, it is common for the lint filter to be clogged due to a lack of regular maintenance. This prevents the normal flow of hot air from the dryer. This lint and debris can thus accumulate over time, causing the inside of the dryer and the clothes to smell like lighter fluid. 

A dirty lint filter can also produce a strong urine smell inside the dryer. Read our article to learn more about the effects of a dirty lint filter.

How To Fix

To resolve this issue, you need to clean the lint filter and remove any debris and lint. Follow the steps below to do this, and ensure that your dryer is disconnected during this process for safety purposes. 

  1. Use a screwdriver to loosen the screws at the back and lift the top plate to access the lint filter. The location of these screws may differ depending on your type of dryer. Take a picture of the dryer before disassembling it for a good reference of where everything goes when you need to bring everything back together.
  2. Use your hands to pull out the lint, especially if the lint has accumulated over a long period of time. 
  3. Use a vacuum to remove any leftover lint and small debris from the filter. 
  4. Reassemble the lint filter and top plate. 

If unsure of what you are doing, I recommend seeking the services of a professional repairman to access the lint filter. 

Watch the YouTube video below for more on how to clean the lint filter on your drier:

3. A Dirty Exhaust Hose or Exhaust Breach

If you haven’t used any petroleum-based products and perform regular maintenance on the lint filter, then the likely culprit for lighter fumes is the exhaust hose. Like the lint filter, the purpose of the exhaust hose is to remove the warm, humid air from the dryer during the drying process. 

exhaust hose

Like the lint filter, the exhaust hose is also prone to clogging due to debris and lint buildup. Although the lint filter essentially traps the bulk of the lint and debris, it is normal for some materials to get past the lint trap and accumulate on the exhaust hose or vents. 

When this occurs, the entire dryer ventilation system is compromised because the warm air doesn’t flow outside as freely as it should. This problem can result in noticeable odors within the dryer and on your clothes.

How To Fix

When performing regular maintenance work, it is crucial to check for any lint or debris buildup in the exhaust hose. This ensures proper airflow out of the dryer and eliminates the likelihood of kerosene, lighter fluid, and other smells within the dryer or out of clothes.

 Have a look at the steps below to resolve the problem. Make sure you turn off the dryer and wait for it to cool before doing anything!

  1. The exhaust hose and lint trap are essentially part of the dryer’s exhaust system. You can thus access the exhaust hose in the same way as described above for accessing the lint trap. 
  1. Once you access the exhaust hose, look for any debris and lint buildup and remove it using your hands and a vacuum. For safety, I recommend wearing gloves on your hands when removing any lint or debris from the exhaust hose. 

Summary

If your dryer suddenly produces a kerosene-like smell or smells like lighter fluid, it is likely due to the recent use of petroleum-based products

These smells could also be due to some fault in the ventilation system. The most common culprits for ventilation problems are a dirty or clogged lint trap and a compromised exhaust hose. 

To resolve this issue, eliminate any clogging in the ventilation system, and pause on drying your laundry if you’ve had some recent work that involved petroleum-based products.