Tumble Dryer Leaving Black Marks On Clothes? Here’s why & what to do

If some of your laundry is leaving the dryer with black marks on it, it can be frustrating and worrying. You’re probably asking yourself, what’s causing it? And will I need to buy a new dryer?

If your tumble dryer is leaving black marks on some of your laundry, keep reading. In this article we look at all of the probable causes for this annoying problem and offer the best fixes to stop it from happening again.

The good news is that in most cases, the causes are relatively easy to fix and won’t involve buying a new dryer.

Why Is The Tumble Dryer Leaving Black Marks On My Clothes?

There are several reasons why the dryer could be leaving black marks on your clothes which include;

Probable CauseSolution
Overloaded drumEnsure the drum is not overloaded
Foreign object left in the drumRemove any objects and clean any mess
Oil or grease in the drumClean the drum to remove any oil or grease
Damaged lint filterReplace the lint filter 
Damaged baffleReplace the damaged baffle
Drum seal wornReplace the drum seal
Defective glidersReplace the gliders
Dryer overheatingFind what’s causing the dryer to overheat and fix
Rollers damagedReplace the rollers

Let’s take a closer look at these issues and find ways to fix them.

Overloaded Drum

If you cram too many clothes into the drum it can cause items to rub together in the drum. It can also cause the drum to get an uneven exposure to heat because the items cannot move freely in the drum.

This can lead to certain items getting burnt from the concentrated heat. Whilst other items don’t even get warm, let alone dry.

Check in your user manual for the maximum weight limit for the drum of your appliance. As a general rule of thumb, it’s recommended that the drum is never more than ¾ full.

Foreign Object Left In The Drum

This is so easy to do, you forget to check the pockets on the clothes that go through the washer which then get put in the dryer. Items like pencils, erasers, pens or even candles can all unwittingly find their way into the drum of the dryer.

Then once subjected to the intense heat of the dryer, they start to melt and stick to the drum. If undetected, these items can cause black marks to appear on clothes for weeks.

You should always check the pockets on clothes for any foreign objects before washing and drying. If there is something stuck inside the drum which is making black marks on your clothes;

General Stains

Mix white vinegar and water in a 50:50 solution and spray it on the stains. Then wipe with a soft damp cloth and dry with a soft, clean cloth.

Ink-Based Stains

Use rubbing alcohol to wipe the stain away and then use a damp cloth to remove any residue. It’s a good idea to leave the dryer door open for at least an hour to allow the fumes to exit before using the dryer again.

Sticky Residue

To remove any sticky residue from the drum, you should run the dryer on medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes and then wipe the area using an old towel.

Once all of the stains have been removed, place some damp cloths or damp towels in the drum and run a hot cycle. This will remove any remaining residue.

Oil Or Grease In The Drum

You could end up with oil or grease in the drum if an oily or greasy article has been placed in the drum without successfully having the oil or grease removed in the wash. Or, you’ve had a noisy component in the dryer which you’ve greased up to stop the noise.

The problem here is twofold;

  1. Oil or grease buildup in the dryer can stain clothes causing black marks.
  2. Grease and oil in the dryer increases the risk of fire.

To prevent this from happening make sure any oily/greasy clothes are thoroughly cleaned before putting them in the dryer. If you have lubricated any component to stop it squeaking, it will need to be replaced sooner rather than later, so you might as well do it now to prevent any more lubricant getting into the drum.

To clean the drum use washing up liquid and a damp cloth and gently remove any grease or oil.

Damaged Lint Filter

The lint filter is located at the front of the dryer close to the door. It collects all of the lint, hairs and small particles that come off the fabric as it rubs together in the drum.

If the filter or its housing becomes damaged, it can get items of laundry caught in any cracks etc. These items are then more likely to get burnt by the constant stream of hot air that’s now concentrated on them.

You will need to remove the lint filter, remove any lint and inspect the filter and its housing for any cracks or other damage. If there is any damage, the items will need to be replaced to prevent any more laundry getting burnt.

Tumble Dryer

Damaged Baffle

The baffles on a tumble dryer are those bars attached to the drum that help to separate the clothing as the drum rotates. Over time, the baffle can become loosened or damaged which allows items of laundry to catch on them.

The item then gets burnt due to the constant flow of hot air on that one piece of laundry. To solve this, you’ll need to inspect the baffles individually (there are typically 3 in the drum of almost all tumble dryers).

If the baffle is loose, you might be able to tighten the screws and solve this issue. However, if the baffle itself is damaged, it will need to be replaced.

Worn Drum Seal

Tumble dryers have 2 felt drum seals, one at the front and one at the back of the drum. It keeps the drum sealed and separates it from the dryer panels and ensures a proper air flow.

When the seal wears, you will hear a scraping or banging sound and the clothes will take longer to dry than normal. Some items could become stuck between the panels and the drum which causes them to become torn or stained.

You can check this by running a cloth around the edge of the drum and check for brown or black marks.

To solve this issue all you need to do is remove the old felt seals and wipe away any mess. Then fit new felt seals, it’s as simple as that.

Defective Gliders

The gliders are small rubber, nylon or plastic parts on the edge of the drum. They support the drum and keep it turning smoothly as well as stopping it from rubbing against the metal sides as it spins.

Depending on how often you use your dryer, the gliders last around 5 years or so before becoming worn or damaged. Once they are damaged or worn, they leave small gaps in the drum where clothes can become caught.

This can lead to damaged or stained clothes and a loud whining or scraping noise. This indicates that the gliders need to be replaced. If you’re a capable DIYer, you can do this yourself. But as it involves dismantling the appliance we recommend contacting a technician to do it for you.

Dryer Overheating

The dryer overheating is one of the most common reasons why clothes come out with black marks on them. These scorch marks can be caused by a number of things which include;

Blocked Vent

If you have a vented tumble dryer, this is the first place to check. The vent allows all of the hot, moist air to escape the dryer. If the vent or vent hose isn’t cleared regularly, all of the lint, hairs and other minute particles buildup and eventually prevent the hot air from leaving.

This leads to a burning smell as well as the drum overheating and your laundry becoming scorched.

You need to clean the vent and vent hose regularly to prevent this from becoming a problem.

Damaged Blower Wheel

The hot air gets circulated through the dryer with the help of the blower wheel. The blower wheel assists in moving hot air around the drum and out of the appliance.

If the blower wheel is worn, cracked or damaged in any way, the hot air doesn’t move freely which can lead to overheating.

You will need to get the blower wheel inspected for damage and replaced if necessary.

Defective Heating Element

The heating element heats the air inside the dryer and once it achieves the desired temperature, the element cuts out. If it becomes defective, it won’t cut out and keeps heating the air which leads to the dryer overheating.

If the heating element is defective, it will need to be replaced and although this is possible by a competent DIYer, it’s best left to an expert.

Defective Cycling Thermostat 

The cycling thermostat controls the heating element by regulating the temperature in the dryer. It does this by cycling the heat on and off as necessary.

If it becomes defective, it causes the heating element to continue heating up without cycling it off. This will need to be replaced if it proves to be faulty.

Damaged Rollers 

The drum on your tumble dryer rotates at an even pace due to small plastic or metal wheels which are attached to the outside of the drum. Over time, these wheels or rollers as they’re called, become worn or damaged.

This can lead to the axles they’re attached to becoming bent or misshapen and you might hear a banging or squealing noise. You might also notice that the drum isn’t spinning evenly.

This will lead to certain items becoming caught in the space between the rollers and the drum which will cause black marks on those items.

To solve this, you will need to get the rollers replaced and, as they come in kit form, you will be replacing the wheels and axles at the same time.

Again, this can be done by an enthusiastic DIYer but is best left to an expert as you will need to dismantle almost all of the dryer to get at the drum and rollers.

A person putting clothes into a washing machine

How To Remove Scorch Marks From Clothes

In some cases, as long as the scorching isn’t too serious, you might be able to remove it. You will need hydrogen peroxide which should be poured on a cloth.

This is then laid on top of the scorched item, you then iron the cloth with the iron on a medium heat setting. This should transfer the scorch mark from your clothing onto the cloth.

Or you could soak the item in a bucket with oxygen bleach and water. You will then need to use an enzyme pretreatment before washing the item in the washing machine again.

Check after washing and if the stain is still there, you’ll need to repeat the process. Definitely do not tumble dry the item until all of the stain has been removed as the heat could bake it in permanently.

SEE ALSO: Which Laundry Stains Can Lemon Juice Remove?

The Benefits Of Regular Tumble Dryer Lint Filter Maintenance

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does my dryer leave black marks on clothes?

If your tumble dryer is leaving black marks on your clothes it could be because; the drum is overloaded and certain items are getting too much heat, there’s something inside the drum like ink, oil or grease which is staining your clothes, the baffle is damaged, or it could be a mechanical issue like the gliders are damaged, the rollers are damaged, the felt seal is worn or the appliance is overheating.

Are stains permanent after dryer?

It is much more difficult to remove stains from clothes after they have been through the dryer. This is because the heat from the dryer literally cooks the stain into the fabric. However, some stains can be removed by soaking or pretreating the clothes before washing again.

Why is my tumble dryer leaving grey marks on my clothes?

The main reason for grey marks to appear on clothes after they have been tumble dried is because of fabric softener residue. Over time fabric softener or dryer sheets deposit a waxy film on clothes which appears grey when the items are dried.

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