A piping hot towel right out of the dryer feels amazing, but if your dryer smells like it's burning, something's getting a little too hot. Burning smells from the dryer can be serious, so don't ignore them. Doing a little troubleshooting can help you determine if it's time to replace your dryer or if you can repair the appliance.
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Chemicals From Clothing
If you're drying clothing with strong chemicals, such as gasoline or paint thinner, you could smell a strong odor that resembles a burning smell. Avoid putting clothes with any flammable liquids on them into your dryer. Even if you wash them thoroughly, there could be traces of the chemicals on the clothing.
Excess Lint Buildup
Lint in your dryer is inevitable, and it can cause dangerous buildup if you don't clean it properly. Since lint is flammable, even a little buildup can cause a burning smell and even a fire. A burning smell often happens if the lint gets onto the heating element inside the dryer.
Your dryer's lint trap is the first line of defense, so clean it after every load to prevent buildup. However, some lint can still get by the trap, even if you're diligent about cleaning it. A crevice attachment on your vacuum cleaner lets you suck up lint inside the trap compartment. You can also unplug the dryer and remove the back panel to have access to the interior of the dryer cabinet. Use your vacuum to remove any lint inside the dryer.
While you're cleaning out the dryer, clean the dryer vent to remove additional lint buildup. You can get a dryer vent cleaning kit with a flexible brush attachment to help clean out the vent. They typically have a drill attachment that helps move the brush around to remove the lint from the pipe.
Dryer Venting Issues
Lint isn't the only thing that can block a dryer vent. Animals can build nests inside your vents, which can keep the hot air from escaping. Trash or items left in your pockets can also end up in the dryer vents and add to clogging. When the vent is clogged, the dryer typically takes longer to dry your clothes, your laundry room might feel warmer than normal, and you might smell a burning odor.
Look into your vent from the outside through the vent cover. If you suspect you have a wasp, bee, or hornet infestation blocking the vent, consider hiring a pest removal specialist to keep yourself safe.
Dryer Thermostat Malfunction
Dryers have internal thermostats that monitor the temperature and shut off the appliance when necessary to prevent overheating. Sometimes, that thermostat malfunctions and doesn't stop the dryer, even when it's overheating. When this happens, it needs to be replaced.
Drive Belt Issues
If your dryer uses a drive belt to turn the drum, a burning smell could indicate a problem with the belt. Since the belts are made of rubber, they can melt and cause a burning odor if they move out of place. The melting can be due to friction or touching the dryer's heating element. While you can replace the belt yourself, it's often best left to an appliance repairperson if you don't have experience with small motors.
Bad Motor in the Dryer
If your dryer is older or gets damaged, the burning smell could be due to the dryer motor burning out or malfunctioning. Look for signs of a bad motor, including humming, growling, and other loud noises when you try to run the dryer. If you suspect the motor is going out, contact an appliance repair service to handle the motor replacement.