Why Your Dryer Smells: 5 Odors & How To Get Rid Of Them

Why Your Dryer Smells

Stuck trying to figure out why your dryer smells bad?

You’re not alone! Opening your dryer only to be hit by an unpleasant smell can be super annoying.

But don’t worry; I’m here to help!

If your dryer smells bad, it’s probably because you haven’t cleaned the lint screen in a long time, you’ve left wet clothes in your appliance, or there’s an animal stuck in the exhaust vent. Your dryer can also smell bad if it’s new or if some of its components need to be replaced.

Read on to eliminate the unpleasant smell!

Why trust us? This article was written by Craig Anderson and James Blackford.

Craig has helped thousands of other homeowners repair their appliances since 2016.

James is one of our resident appliance experts with over 16 years of experience. He currently works as a Master Technician for SquareTrade, and runs his own appliance repair business.

Does Your Dryer Smell Bad? 5 Common Odors and How to Fix Them

Your dryer can have different smells, which must be solved differently. This is why I’ve prepared the guide below, which will help you identify the odor and learn how to fix it.

#1 Dryer Smells Like Sweat

If your dryer smells like sweat, it’s likely because you’re leaving wet clothes inside for too long, leading to mildew growth and worsening the smell.

dryer clothes
If your dryer smells like sweat, you probably left wet clothes inside it for too long.

From what I’ve seen, certain types of clothes, such as those made of synthetic fibers or polyester, are more susceptible to developing mildew and retaining a sweat smell.

So, to prevent the sweat smell in your dryer, it’s important to promptly transfer your clothes from the washer to the dryer and run a drying cycle as soon as possible.

#2 Dryer Smells Like Mold

When I see a dryer that smells like mold, I always check the exhaust vent.

You see, if there is lint buildup in the dryer, it will clog the exhaust vent. As a result, the lint will clog the filtration system in your dryer and create a warm and humid environment.

If the filtration system malfunctions because of lint buildup, mold can grow behind your dryer. Then, when you turn the dryer on, the mold smell will circulate throughout the entire machine.

In addition to leading to foul-smelling clothes, lint buildup can also be a serious fire hazard because lint is flammable.

Keep in mind that lint buildup can also cause a burning smell in your dryer. Please clean the lint filter after every load to prevent odors from developing.

Cleaning dryer lint filter
Clean your dryer’s lint screen regularly

I also recommend regularly cleaning your dryer’s door gasket with equal parts of warm water and vinegar to prevent mold growth.

#3 Dryer Smells Like Burning Oil

If you detect a burning oil smell coming from your dryer, it’s most likely because the appliance is brand new.

You see, new dryers often emit the smell while burning off the chemicals used to protect them during the manufacturing process.

To eliminate the burning oil smell, try running your dryer empty to allow it to “burn off” the lingering chemicals.

Keep in mind that if your dryer emits a chemical burning smell, it could indicate that one of the boards is beginning to overheat. In such cases, you’ll need to unplug your dryer, access the main control board, and take a moment to look for any burnt spots.

A diagram of where a dryer's main board is located
Inspect the main board for damaged or shorted components which may be causing the burnt chemical smell.

I also recommend examining the area where your dryer cord connects to the appliance. To do it, safely unplug your dryer from the wall and remove the cover to carefully look for any signs of shorting, melting, or burning.

If you notice any damaged components, you’ll need to replace them. However, it’s best to consult a qualified technician when dealing with components that are burnt.

#4 Dryer Smells Like Burnt Hair

I’ve seen dryers that have a burnt hair smell because there’s an animal inside the exhaust vent or the vent hose.

In such cases, the animal hiding inside is probably not alive, causing the bad smell to permeate your entire laundry room. 

It can be difficult to figure out which animal has made its home behind your dryer. So, it is important to contact a professional who can look at the area behind your dryer and figure out what is happening.

#5 Dryer Smells Like a Burning Piece of Metal

If you notice a metal smell coming from your dryer, chances are you haven’t cleaned the filtration system, or your dryer is old.

If that’s your case, the first thing you need to do is shut off the dryer or turn it off at the circuit breaker.

dryer circuit breaker
Switch your dryer’s breaker to the “Off” position.

Your dryer has a filtration system designed to remove dirt particles from your clothing and the air used to dry them. If you don’t clean the filter, it could start to overheat and produce a burning smell.

In my experience, a dryer can also smell like a burning piece of metal if it has reached the end of its life.

When it’s time to replace your dryer, some components will degrade, leading to a foul smell. In such cases, I suggest buying a new dryer.

If you’re looking for a new dryer, don’t forget to check out our specialized buyer’s guide or our dryer brand comparison guide to make an informed decision.

4 Ways to Prevent Odors from Building Up in Your Dryer

Now, let’s discuss how you can prevent smells from building up in your dryer.

A few of the most important tips you should keep in mind are:

  1. Clean the lint screen of your dryer every time you use it. If you clean the lint screen, you can prevent unpleasant smells from returning to your dryer. You’ll also avoid damaging your clothes and fire hazards.
  2. Make sure you move laundry from the washing machine to the dryer as quickly as possible to prevent mold growth and unpleasant odors.
  3. If your dryer smells musty, you can eliminate the odor using vinegar and warm water. Then, take a soft cloth and wipe down the inside of the dryer. 
  4. Inspect the venting system at least once per year. Remove any lint buildup and clean the duct. In my opinion, using a vacuum is the best way to do it.
dryer vent duct
Examine your dryer’s venting system regularly.

If you follow the tips above, you can prevent smells from building up in your dryer. Remember, if you can’t address these issues on your own, you should reach out to a professional for help.

Don’t forget to look at our dryer maintenance & care guide to extend the life span of your dryer, avoid unpleasant odors, and save money on repair costs and energy bills!

Wrapping Up: How to Prevent Odors from Building Up in Your Dryer

Hopefully, now you know how to eliminate unpleasant smells from your dryer.

Remember, if your dryer smells bad, clean the lint screen every time you use your appliance, check the exhaust vent, and avoid leaving wet clothes for too long.

Don’t forget to reach out to a professional if you need help.

Thanks for reading this quick guide. If you found it helpful, please check out our related posts below.

Good luck!

I've been helping homeowners with appliance repair since 2016. Starting out as an enthusiastic amateur, I've since worked with many Appliance, HVAC, and DIY experts over the last 7+ years. My mission is to help fix your appliances and prevent future issues - saving you stress, time, and money. Visit my author page to learn more! Read more