Tumble Dryer Smells? Here’s why & what to do
We all rely on our tumble dryers during periods of cold, wet weather. But if we’re honest, we tend to take the dryer for granted and a sure sign of a neglected tumble dryer is bad smells emanating from the appliance.
Or worse still, clothes picking up a bad smell in the dryer which lingers after they are dry. If your tumble dryer smells you need to do something about it fast.
In this article we identify where those bad smells are coming from, what causes them and most importantly how to eliminate those bad smells for good.
What Type Of Smell Is Coming From Your Dryer?
The first thing you need to identify is exactly what that bad smell is. This will help us to locate the area that’s causing the bad smell which is the first step in eliminating it from your appliance.
To help you identify the type of smell, here’s a list of common tumble dryer smells;
If there’s a burning smell coming from your dryer it could be a number of things but you should always turn the appliance off and disconnect the power supply at the first sign of burning.
If your dryer is brand new, a slight smell of burning is quite common and is usually the result of dust on some of the electrical components. This should soon dissipate and not come back.
If the burning smell remains for any length of time, it could be that the power cable is overheating. This is usually caused by a damaged or frayed power cable which will need to be replaced.
Damp, Mouldy, Mildewy Smell
If the dryer smells damp, mouldy, mildewy or musty it is usually because there is mould or bacteria growth inside the drum. This can be caused by leaving damp items in the drum for long periods.
Other causes could be the vent hose and/or vent are clogged with lint that has started to breed mould and mildew, the condenser box is dirty and mouldy or the water reservoir has mould or bacterial growth.
If the dryer smells dusty, it is most likely because there is a buildup of dust on the heater element, motor or one of the other internal components. This should dissipate quite quickly and can be prevented by regularly cleaning the area around the dryer, the top and underneath the dryer to prevent dust from accumulating.
A dirty sewer like smell coming from your dryer is likely to be caused by the laundry not having been washed correctly before tumble drying. In some cases, mineral deposits from hard water can be the cause.
To solve this, pour some distilled white vinegar onto a cloth and run this through a drying cycle.
Now that you’ve identified the type of smell in your dryer, you’re one step closer to getting rid of it and preventing it from occurring again.
What Causes That Bad Smell?
These foul smells have all been caused by something, and now we have an idea of the type of smell we’re dealing with, we can identify the most likely cause.
|Overloaded Drum||Never Fill The Drum To More Than ¾ Full|
|Food Left In Clothing||Ensure All Pockets Are Empty Before Washing & Drying Clothes|
|Hard Water||Consider Fitting A Water Softener To Your Home|
|Clogged Vent (Vented Dryers)||Clean The Vent & Hose Regularly|
|Clogged Lint Filter||Clean & Regularly Maintain The Filter|
|Clothes Weren’t Clean||Ensure Laundry Is Clean Before Drying|
|Area Below The Dryer Is Dirty & Dusty||Clean The Area Below & Around The Dryer|
|Condenser Dirty (Condenser Dryers)||Clean The Condenser|
|Water Reservoir DIrty & Full (Condenser & Heat Pump Dryers)||Empty & Clean The Water Reservoir|
|Defective Thermostat||Replace The Thermostat|
|Defective Motor||Replace The Motor|
Now we have some idea of what’s causing your dryer to smell, let’s take a closer look and find some solutions.
Overloaded Drum Making Dryer Smell
In your user manual that came with your dryer, you will find the maximum load weight for the size of drum in your appliance. Unfortunately it’s all too easy to just keep cramming clothes into the drum.
We’ve all done it, thinking that it saves time and electricity. Sadly, the opposite is true. This is because overloading the drum can cause the dryer to stop mid-cycle because the moisture sensor detects that the items on the outside of the bundle are dry.
If you happen to leave the load in the dryer all day whilst you’re at work, the wet stuff in the middle of the bundle starts to breed mould and mildew. This then attaches itself to the drum of your dryer and then every load you dry can potentially come out smelling mouldy or damp.
You should never fill the drum of your tumble dryer (or washing machine) more than ¾ full. To resolve this, you’ll need to wash the laundry again on a hot (or as hot as the fabrics allow) wash and clean the dryer using white vinegar (see below).
Food Left In Clothing
You might question this, but you’d be surprised just how often this occurs. Especially in children’s clothes, they’re enjoying that piece of cake or whatever but lunch break is over and they have to get back to class.
So the food item gets stuffed in a pocket to be eaten later and is subsequently forgotten. You’d think the washing machine would deal with this but sometimes pieces of food survive the rigours of the washer and end up in the dryer.
Those pieces then get effectively cooked in the heat from the dryer. This eventually leads to a burnt food smell in the dryer and throughout your home.
Always check the pockets on clothes before washing and tumble drying, paying particular attention to children’s clothes.
This can be a serious problem and one that affects ⅔ of the population of the UK. Hard water is caused by mineral particles that are present in the water supply. Often lumped together under the umbrella term “limescale”, these minerals can include calcium and magnesium which are the most common.
However, there can also be traces of other things like sulphur for example. The problem arises after the clothes have been washed and rinsed using hard water and then heated up in the dryer.
The heating up of some of these minerals can cause a foul smell and the only real way to solve this is to use a water softener or add soda crystals to each wash.
Vented tumble dryers rely on the vent hose and vent to eject all of the hot, moist air from the dryer and from your home. Over time, the vent hose and the vent get particles of lint building up.
As this lint is damp, it becomes the perfect breeding ground for mould and mildew which leads to your dryer smelling mouldy and damp.
You need to regularly remove all of the lint from the vent and vent hose to prevent bad smells and also to prevent any chance of that lint catching fire.
Clogged Lint Filter
The lint filter on your tumble dryer traps all of the lint, hair and fibres that come off your clothes when rubbing together in the drum. If this filter becomes clogged it can cause the appliance to smell.
This smell could be damp and musty or, in some cases, it could be a burning smell.
You need to make cleaning the lint filter on your dryer part of your drying routine. We recommend cleaning the lint filter before using the dryer as it will be cool enough to handle once the dryer has not been used for a short period.
This will sound a bit odd, but it does happen and can cause your dryer to smell. After using the washing machine you assume that all of the laundry is clean.
However, maybe you overloaded the drum of the washer which meant that some of those clothes never even got wet, let alone washed. In other cases, the detergent used wasn’t good enough or not used in the correct quantity or you selected the wrong cycle to wash those particular items.
Either way, those unclean clothes have ended up in the dryer where the intense heat has increased those dirty, sweaty smells. The problem is that any clothes that actually managed to get clean during the overloaded wash cycle, now smell as bad.
Always make sure to never overload the drum on both the washer and the dryer. That way you can be sure that your laundry washes and dries properly and doesn’t come out smelling worse than it went in.
The General Area Around The Dryer Is Dirty
If the area around your dryer is dirty, it can cause bad smells to emanate from your dryer. The problem is the top and back of the dryer can accumulate dust and dirt which if left, will eventually find its way to the floor beneath the appliance.
Some of that dust will inevitably find its way inside the appliance and the heat from one of the internal components will cause it to burn and create a smell.
Sometimes, a spillage occurs near the dryer and although you’ve cleaned all visible signs of the accident, some might have seeped under the machine. Over time whatever was spilt will start to decay which can lead to bad smells which the heat from the drier accentuate.
Take extra care when using any liquids around your dryer and always keep the area clean and dust free.
If you own a condenser dryer, you will be regularly emptying the water reservoir. But do you pay any attention to the condenser box? This should be removed from the dryer every couple of months and cleaned to remove any lint, dirt, mould, etc.
If the condenser box is dirty germs, bacteria, mould and mildew can and will breed, All of which can lead to foul smells coming from your dryer.
Dirty Water Reservoir
If you own a condenser or heat pump dryer, you need to empty the water reservoir regularly. We would recommend emptying the water tank after every use to prevent your drying cycles from being interrupted.
However, just emptying the water reservoir isn’t enough, it should be regularly cleaned as well. Remove any visible dirt, lint or mould & mildew patches, and then wipe with a soft cloth dipped in white vinegar.
This cleaning should be done at least every month to ensure the water reservoir remains free from any bacteria or germs.
If the smell that’s coming from your dryer is a smell of burning, it could be the thermostat which is defective. If this is the case the temperature of your appliance is most likely getting too high which could cause a fire.
As soon as you smell burning coming from your appliance, switch it off and disconnect the power supply. Before removing all of the laundry to ensure the safety of your household.
The thermostat will almost certainly be the cause of your dryer overheating and will need to be replaced.
If you feel confident enough, you can replace the thermostat yourself, but as it involves dismantling the appliance, we recommend contacting a technician to do this task.
If there is a burning smell coming from your dryer and it isn’t overheating, it’s likely that the motor is defective. This is more common on old dryers that are reaching the end of their life.
If you suspect the motor is at fault, we recommend switching the appliance off, removing the plug and the laundry and seeking professional help.
The technician will determine the cause of the fault and advise you on whether it’s worth repairing or replacing your dryer.
How To Clean Bad Smells Out Of A Tumble Dryer
After identifying the cause of the smelly issue and resolving them, your appliance may still smell bad. To clean the dryer and eliminate bad smells just do the following;
- Remove And Clean The Lint Filter
Remove the lint filter and remove as much lint as possible. Then run the filter under a fast running tap to remove all of the stuck on bits of lint. Ensure the filter is dry before replacing it.
- Remove And Clean The Water Reservoir (If Applicable)
The water tank should be emptied before or after each use but it should also be cleaned to ensure there is no dirt, mould, mildew or bacteria left in the tank to breed and cause it to smell.
- Remove And Clean The Condenser Box (If Applicable)
The condenser box can become a breeding ground for mould, mildew and bacteria. Clean it using white vinegar to remove any germs, bacteria or mould and mildew spores.
- Clean The Door, Drum & Door Seal
Using a cloth dipped in white vinegar, wipe the drum and door of the dryer. Pay particular attention to the rubber seal around the door. Be sure to lift the seal and wipe underneath it as well.
- Clean The Vent & Vent Hose (If Applicable)
If you own a vented dryer, be sure to remove the vent hose and remove any lint, dirt or dust that’s formed inside. Then ensure the vent isn’t blocked and remove any buildup using a vacuum cleaner.
- Remove Smells From The Drum
Pour some distilled white vinegar onto a couple of cloths and place them in the drum. Run a drying cycle to remove any bad smells. The vinegar will neutralise any bad smells.
Ways To Prevent Your Tumble Dryer From Smelling
Once you’ve solved the smelly issue with your dryer, it’s a good idea to implement preventative measures to stop this from happening again. The best way to achieve this is to keep the appliance regularly maintained.
That doesn’t mean becoming a tumble dryer engineer, all we’re talking about are a few basic things like;
- Clean the lint filter before every use
- Clean the interior & exterior of the dryer once a month
- Clean all around the dryer regularly (and remove any spillages as they occur)
- Clean the vent & vent hose (if applicable) weekly
- Clean the condenser box (if applicable) every 2 months
- Clean the water tank (if applicable) once a month
- Never overload the drum (keep it between ½ to ¾ full)
- Never leave wet clothes in the drum
- Always ensure the door is left open when not in use
- Disconnect from the power supply when not in use
If you make all of the above points part of your regular routine, you should get years of trouble free usage from your tumble dryer.
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Frequently Asked Questions
To remove any bad smells from your tumble dryer, clean the drum using a soft cloth dipped in white vinegar, then pour some white vinegar on a couple of cloths and run a drying cycle with the cloths in the dryer.
The main reason why a vented tumble dryer makes clothes smell damp is because of lint trapped in the vent and vent hose. This lint becomes damp and allows mould and mildew to form which then spreads onto your clothes. Another cause could be you’re trying to dry too many clothes at once (overloading the drum).
You should clean the condenser box on a tumble dryer every month. If left it can cause the dryer to smell and take longer to dry your laundry.