Dryer Heating But Not Drying Clothes? 4 Basic Things To Check

Is your dryer heating but not drying your clothes? There are several reasons why this could be, which include: a clogged exhaust vent, faulty heating element, malfunctioning cycling thermostat, or a clogged lint trap.

One of the more frustrating things for a homeowner is to come back an hour after putting a load of wet clothes in the dryer – only to find the clothes still damp!

We’ll walk you through each possibility of what can cause this, and show you how to remedy the problem.

Many of these fixes are easy to do and will not cost you a lot of money, if any at all.

dryer heating but not drying clothes

Most Common Causes For A Dryer Heating But Not Drying Your Clothes

1. Clogged Lint trap

Most clothes dryers work the same way; they use heated air inside the drum to dry the clothes. To help this happen, the drum continuously turns and the clothes tumble around inside.

This tumbling action allows the air to circulate throughout the drum helping to dry everything inside it.

During the washing cycles, the fabric is relaxed and fibers are released into the water and then subsequently get deposited onto the clothes.

As the clothes are tumbling and drying these fibers are then released into the air.

Unfortunately, having these fibers flying around can be a fire hazard, so to help reduce or totally eliminate this danger all dryers come with a lint trap.

This trap has a removable screen that catches many of the free-flying fibers inside the dryer during each load. 

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clogged lint trap filter

To be safe you should check the screen of the lint trap before and after each and every load of clothes.

If there is any lint built up on the screen you should immediately remove it and put the screen back into the lint trap.

You should also inspect the area inside of the trap to be sure that there is no stray lint that did not get trapped on the screen. 

If it is severe enough, one other symptom of a clogged lint trap can be a burning smell, which could indicate a potential fire hazard.

Read: Why Amana Dryer Heats, But Doesn’t Dry Clothes

2. damaged or clogged air vent

A clothes dryer uses heated air to dry the clothes that are placed in the drum and tumbled dry.

While the key is the heated air, it has to be able to circulate. Once circulated, the air must be removed from the drum.

If the air is not able to escape readily it will impede the proper drying time of the clothes in the drum.

There are a couple of things that can cause this reduction in the proper airflow and each one of them will need to be checked.

It is imperative that there is no obstruction of the vent opening that exits the house.

Be sure that the little flap is not obstructed and is allowed to open and close easily.

The other thing you want to check is the ducting the runs from the outlet of the dryer to the vent opening in the wall.

clogged vent pipe

If you find any problems with the ducting such as partial collapsing of any part of the ducting, or you find any holes that have developed anywhere along the length of ducting, it needs to be either repaired or replaced.

As with the clogged lint trap, a severely plugged vent can also cause a burning smell and poses a fire danger.

Also, if there is a problem with the vent flap you want to address that as soon as possible. The flap prevents backflow of air into the house, but also keeps out rodents and bugs.

3. Faulty heating element with 2 zones

The clothes in a clothes dryer are dried by two things: The first is the tumbling action that happens when the drum is turning with the clothes inside.

The internal fins that are mounted on the inside drum are what helps to move around the clothes as the drum is turning.

The other part is the hot air that heats up the inside of the drum and helps to evaporate the moisture from the clothes. 

The primary heating element is responsible for supplying the hot air inside the dryer and to ensure that there is an even supply of heated air throughout the full time of the dryer cycle.

However, if there is an interruption of the heating of the air during the cycle, this will undoubtedly lead to a delay in the amount of time it will take to fully dry the clothes in the drum. 

It is applied ONLY to the heating elements with 2 zones or 2 coils (HIGH and LOW heat). Only some LG and Samsung advanced Dryers have this type of heating element. The majority of other dryers use 1 coil heating element.

If you suspect the heater is the problem, you need to test the heater for continuity with a multimeter. If it’s bad, you can purchase a replacement heating element and swap it out.

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heating element with 2 zones

When it is time to replace it, you want to be sure that you unplug the dryer from the wall receptacle and open the back access panel.

After locating the heater, take the mounting screws out and disconnect the wires. Be sure to take a picture of the original setup before you disconnect anything so you know how to put it back together.

Install the new heater, hook up the wires, and reassemble the dryer panels. Plug in the dryer a nd do a test run. It should dry your clothes like new!

Read: Samsung Dryer Is Not Heating or Frigidaire Dryer Is Not Heating

4. Faulty thermostat

Most things that produce heat have a device called a thermostat that is designed to regulate the heat that is being produced (or used) by the device in some way.

Most clothes dryers have a number of these thermostats inside in order to help regulate the air temperature.

It is very important for any dryer to be able to maintain the constant amount of hot air inside the drum in order to dry the clothes properly. 

dryer thermostat

So, while it is unlikely that the failure to dry the clothes in the dryer is directly caused by a failure of one or more of the thermostats, it is the next thing to check.

You can get the correct replacement thermostat by searching with your model number online. 

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If you do need to replace a defective thermostat, start by unplugging the dryer’s power cord from the wall receptacle.

Open the back panel of the dryer to gain access to the thermostats.

You’ll will want to test all of them until you find which one (or more) is bad. To do this, use your multimeter‘s continuity function.

Once you have the thermostat replaced and hooked up, you can test the operation of the dryer and enjoy your warm, dry clothes!

Reader Comments (13)

  1. I have a whirlpool set. Gas dryer. It’s getting near 10 years old and sometimes the dryer doesn’t do its job. After checking all the obvious (see the article above), I sat and watched it in action. After a few minutes, with heavy items in the dryer (blue jeans or a large blanket or wet towels) the door would get nudged just enough to shut off the dryer. Within 5 minutes, the timer would shut off and anyone coming into the laundry room, would think that the cycle had completed but would find the clothes wet. I was able to adjust the latches and problem went away for 6 months. Just started again.

  2. I have a Whirlpool dryer and I have been experiencing the same thing for a couple of weeks — taking 4-5 cycles to dry the clothes. Dryer is heating up, tumbling, vent hose is clear, and warm air is blowing out the vent outside. I disconnected the vent hose from the dryer and reached in and cleaned it out. Still no luck. The whole thing was driving me crazy. Then, I shined a flashlight onto the back wall of the dryer to see two perforated circles where, presumably, air circulates. One is completely clear. The other looks to be completely covered on the back side, the side I can’t get to. I assume that is the intake and, over time, dust and lint has accumulated, like it does on the back side of any fan. I am certain clearing that will solve the drying problem. Now, I just have the problem of taking apart the dryer to get to it. As I write this, I might try putting a crevice nozzle on my giant shop vac to see if I can’t suck it out before learning to be a dryer mechanic. Maybe this will help someone else having this problem.

  3. You all could have a bad Thermal Fuse. I had the same issue and did all the steps listed above only to find my thermal fuse was getting weak. This caused a myriad of issues but the biggest was the dry could run for hours and not fully get the clothes dry.

  4. Same as above. I changed all sensors etc. Changed the igniter. Aluminum vent tube is almost too hot to touch where the air exits. Drum spins. All vents are totally clean. Dryer has to run about 6 Cycles to dry one load regardless and I’m at my wits end.
    Tho it doesn’t seem like anyone replies here…

  5. After changing the heating element, thermostat and fuse, our dryer is still not drying clothes. I have cleaned the lint screen, hose and vent. The tumbler seems to move fine and both breakers are engaged. Is there something else to check? Or just time to buy another dryer?

    • Only first two reasons are correct. The other reasons in this article don’t cause this symptom. The only possible reason for hot but wet clothes is blocked circulation. Either lint filter clogged or vent hose blocked or lint in fan.

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