Why Does My Dryer Smell Like It's Burning?

by Sarah Stasik
An aluminum dryer vent tube leads from a clothes washer to the dryer vent in a gray wall, metallic, aluminum, gray, silver, tube, dryer tube, dryer hose, clothes dryer, gray hardwood floor, white floorboard, hardwood floor, floorboard, black hose

One of the mechanisms a clothes dryer uses to remove moisture from laundry that's been through the washer is heat. Because the dryer gets clothing hot, it's not surprising to many people if the dryer smells like burning substances.

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However, a burning smell from your dryer isn't totally normal, and it should cause you to investigate further. Sometimes, a dryer smells burnt for a simple or temporary reason. Other times, the scent is a hint that something is going wrong with your appliance, and it needs some maintenance or repair attention.

Why Does My Dryer Smell Burnt? Why Do the Clothes Inside Smell Burnt?

Common reasons for clothes smelling burnt after drying or a general burning smell from the dryer can range from substances left on the fabric to problems with the machine.

Substances on Your Clothing

If you're drying work clothing that may still have trace elements of chemicals, such as paint thinner or gasoline, you may smell odors released from such stains. The heat from the dryer can cause those odors to be fairly strong, and these scents may be mistaken for burning smells. Reduce the risks of this happening by treating chemical stains carefully. If you work with any flammable chemicals, such as gasoline, you may want to avoid drying those items with heat settings in the dryer.


If you don't clean the lint filter regularly, lint can back up or build up on other areas of the dryer. If lint builds up in the wrong area, it may catch on fire after connecting with heating elements. Even if this doesn't cause a larger fire, it can create a burning smell.

Clothing Caught in Dryer Bits

Small pieces of clothing, such as socks, can also get jammed or caught in the inner workings of a dryer. If fabric connects with heating elements or is constantly rubbing against some part of the dryer, it can cause burning smells and even a fire risk.

Clogged Vent Hose

Most dryers have a vent hose that allows hot air to escape. In most cases, this hose runs to the outside of the home. If the vent hose is clogged, hot air can back up inside and around the dryer. Sometimes, simply the presence of the hot air can cause a burning smell from the dryer.

Problematic Belts or Heating Elements

If the functional elements of the dryer aren't in good working order, the machine can't operate efficiently or correctly. This can lead to issues such as overheating, which can be a fire hazard, or it can cause clothes to come out of the dryer smelling burnt.

If clothing is coming out of the dryer especially hot, your heating element may not be working well. If your dryer smells like burning rubber, it might indicate worn belts or belts that aren't attached properly and are creating friction when they move.

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Why Does My Brand-New Dryer Smell Like It's Burning?

It's fairly normal when a new dryer smells like burning. When dryers are manufactured, the process may leave behind some residual oil and other elements. The first few times you run the dryer, and it heats up, those elements may burn off. As long as everything appears to work normally and your clothes aren't coming out excessively hot, you can use your dryer normally and may simply want to vent the area to remove the smell.

What Should I Do If My Dryer Smells Like It's Burning?

If your dryer smells like it's burning, do some routine home maintenance. Check inside to ensure clothing isn't jammed anywhere, clean the lint filter and vacuum out the lint cavity and exhaust hose. If the dryer continues to smell or your clothing comes out smelling burnt, you may need to look to the machine for answers.

Unless you have considerable DIY dryer repair experience, consider calling in a professional to check the heating elements, thermostat and belts of your appliance to determine if you need any repairs.

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