Dryer Smells Like Burning? (Possible Causes & Fixes)

Benjamin Wright
by Benjamin Wright

When your dryer smells like burning, it can be alarming, but you don’t need to panic. It could be a simple reason with an easy fix, so assess the situation before you start to fear the worst.

If your dryer smells like it’s burning the most common cause is lint buildup in the dryer. The burning smell could also be a damaged power cord, faulty motor, blown thermal fuse, worn-out drive belt, or a broken thermostat. If you smell a burning odor coming from your dryer, turn it off and remove all contents from the drum. Then, you can assess the situation to determine the exact cause.

Dryer fires cause just under 3,000 house fires a year, so don’t take a burning smell from your dryer lightly. Once you detect a burning smell, find the source and stop the problem from escalating.

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How Can I Get Rid Of The Burning Smell From My Dryer?

The first thing you should do when you notice a burning smell from your dryer is to turn it off. Pull out the cable from the power source or disconnect the gas (whichever works in your home setting). Then, you can tackle the issue head-on.

These are the urgent steps to take once you notice your dryer burning:

  • Shut off all power to the dryer
  • Remove the lint buildup
  • Clean out the lint trap
  • Vacuum inside the dryer
  • Inspect the internal parts
  • Clean the vent

Also, if your dryer is new, the smell could simply be various coatings on the dryer that need to off-gas. This is a normal occurrence and your dryer is safe to use if this is the only reason for the smell. You can open a nearby window to help ventilate the area and allow the odor to dissipate more quickly.

Lint Buildup Most Common Cause When Dryer Smells Like Burning

Lint buildup is the visible accumulation of fine fibers shed from clothing, towels, and linens. It is caused by the high heat and agitation made during the tumbling process of the dryer. When these fibers are shed, the lint screen catches them to prevent blockage of the vent.

Lint buildup is the most common reason for a burning smell coming from your dryer. It is vital to wipe the lint screen clean as lint buildup is hazardous.

Firstly, it obstructs the airflow and makes it almost impossible for the dryer to work efficiently. Naturally, the dryer tries even harder, thus pushing the energy bills up.

The pressure lint buildup puts on a dryer makes it more vulnerable to damage and breakdowns.

But it does even worse. Lint buildup can cause fires. In fact, lint causes up to 35% of dryer fires annually. A significant step to preventing dryer fires is regularly cleaning your dryer’s lint trap.

How Do I Remove Lint Buildup From My Dryer?

The first thing to do when removing lint buildup is to unplug the power cord from the wall. This is a necessary precaution before tampering with the dryer. You can follow the manual for specific cleaning instructions.

Afterward, you can use a screwdriver to remove the top panel of the dryer. Bring out all the screws around the opening of the lint trap. This way, you get to clean any lint that may have gone past it.

Then, pull the whole panel towards you and lift it to free the metal catches. Stick a dryer cleaning brush into the filter opening and twist it around to get all the lint out. Do not forget the lint catcher – it contains most of the lint.

Reassemble the lint trap and plug in the dryer to test it. And once you have confirmed that the burning smell is gone, you can reconnect your dryer for use again.

If you think you have a larger issue, you can also call for a professional dryer cleaning service. A pro cleaning costs about $100 to $175, with an average cost of $132.

Clean Out The Vent Hose

You should also clean out the dryer hose while you’re at it. This is the hose that attaches to the back of your dryer and vents to the outside. Sometimes, lint can build up in this hose as well.

If the hose is not clear, it can cause hot air to back up, pushing lint into the dryer cabinet. Check the vent cover outside to make sure it is clear and use a flashlight to check inside for any potential blockages.

If you notice anything, take care when removing it as insects, including wasps, like to make their nests inside the vent.

How Do I Vacuum Inside Of A Dryer?

After you have shut off the power or disconnected the dryer from the gas line, you will use a screwdriver to remove the bottom panel. Once open, use a vacuum’s hose attachment to remove lint buildup. Be careful to clean out all the lint.

Once the lint has been removed, reattach both panels. Afterward, replace the screws on the lint trap opening and the lint screen too. Plug in and test the dryer after the reassembling is complete.

Other Causes When Dryer Smells Like Burning

Bad Power Cord Or Blown Thermal Fuse

When an exposed wire from the power cord transmits electricity, the protective rubber coating around it can melt. When this happens, the melted wire will cause a burnt smell.

A thermal fuse is used to regulate a dryer. It discontinues electricity flow when the dryer exhaust temperature gets too high. When the thermal fuse stops working properly, the dryer can overheat which can create a burning smell.

When your dryer smells like burning, run a check and find out whether it is either of these cases. If it is, replace the faulty cord or fuse immediately.

A new dryer power cord costs about $15 to $20. A thermal fuse only costs about $10, but if you need a pro to replace it, the total cost will run about $80 to $130.

Worn-Out Dryer Motor And Drive Belt

A worn-out dryer motor can burn out. When this happens, it can create a burning smell, as well as a loud noise. Similarly, an old and worn-out drive belt can melt due to friction, transferring a burning smell into the dryer.

Contact with heat can also make this happen. Always inspect your dryer motor and drive belt for signs of wear and cracking. Once you notice your dryer motor is aged and worn-out, it may be time for a replacement.

Replacing a belt can cost between $150 and $250 for parts and labor. If you need to replace the motor, it can cost another $150 to $250.

Bad Thermostat

If your dryer’s thermostat fails, then it can no longer control the temperature inside of the dryer correctly. Therefore, your dryer can get exceedingly hot, causing burning smells.

Unplug the dryer and use the manual to locate and remove the thermostat. Test the thermostat with an ohmmeter, and replace it if you get any reading other than zero. Replacing a thermostat costs between $150 and $260, including parts and labor.

The Items In Your Dryer

It’s also worth noting that sometimes the burning smell can come from the items you’re drying in your appliance. Many times, solvents like gasoline and paint thinners will remain in fibers after washing. When you toss these items in the dryer, the dryer’s heat releases odors from these substances.

Plus, many products like these are flammable, so it’s best to air dry them instead of using your dryer.

What Is The Right Way To Inspect The Internal Parts Of My Dryer?

Use a multi-meter to see if you need a new thermostat. The burning smell from your dryer may be caused by overheating. On the other hand, it might be damaged and need a replacement.

Inspect the heating element in electric dryers for signs of breakage or burning. To access the dryer, you need to unplug it and remove the panel at the back. Take out the screw of the sensors and make sure you inspect the coil, whether it is broken or not.

Also, check the wires attached to the heating element in a gas dryer. If you see any indication of melted or frayed wires, call an electrician immediately.

Inspect the belt. If you see physical slack or damage, get it fixed immediately. A slack belt is dangerous to the machine. It might loosen and may cause heat.

Can A Dryer Truly Catch Fire?

Dryers can indeed catch fire. As previously mentioned, fires most often occur because of lint buildup. If lint builds up on some heating elements or delicate parts of a dryer, it can cause it to catch fire. If the temperature of the dust that builds up in the dryer cavity reaches 550°, a fire can easily be sparked.

Asides from lint and dust exposure to high temperature, the following can cause a dryer to catch fire:

  • Mechanical and electrical failure: Faulty wiring, moving parts, electronic components, and damaged parts can cause a fire. These things need to be investigated thoroughly and replaced if necessary.
  • Improper use: Improper use of the dryer such as overloading, overuse, and not following the manufacturer’s instructions can lead to dryer fires. Keep plastic and rubber away from the dryer.
  • Dirty lint filters and vents: Accumulation of dirt, grass can block the outside vent, hindering the free flow of air. With a high level of heat, this can easily lead to a hazardous fire.

What Can I Do If My Dryer Catches Fire?

  • Use the fire extinguisher: When your dryer catches fire, the fire extinguisher is the first thing you should grab.
  • Do not open the dryer: Whatever you do, do not open the dryer. It could burn your hand.
  • Evacuate your home if the fire persists: If the fire is getting out of control, get out of the building and call the local fire department. While you do that, be sure to close every door that leads to the dryer or laundry room.
  • Call an electrician: Hire the services of a licensed electrician to help inspect electrical problems in your home to avoid another fire outbreak.

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Related Questions

Why won’t my dryer come on?

If your dryer will not come on, the most likely cause is a lack of power. When you notice your dryer is not turning on, you need to check that the power cable is plugged in correctly and that there is no wire damage. A damaged timer, a blown thermal fuse, or a broken power cord can also keep a dryer from working. Check your circuit breaker too.

How can I know when to buy a new dryer?

In many cases, dryers can be repaired even after problems with a burning smell have been discovered. If the problem is caused by lint or dust, a simple cleaning may solve the problem. If the problem is caused by mechanical or electrical issues, solving parts related to those problems can help. In some cases, buying a new dryer can be a safer and more cost-effective solution, however.

Benjamin Wright
Benjamin Wright

Benjamin is a proud homeowner who loves to write about DIY projects and home improvement projects. Traveling, perfecting his home, and spending time with his family are just a few of the many things that keep him inspired.

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