Seeing a thick plume of white smoke or steam coming out from your dryer vent can be very worrying, especially if you don’t understand why it’s happening. Still, if the weather outside is cold and you’ve got the dryer running, then it’s nothing to be worried about.
Steam is a byproduct of the drying process, and it’s no reason to worry. Dryers work by forcing heat through a load of tumbling wet clothes to remove moisture from the fabric. That moisture gets converted into steam which then escapes through the vent. It’s only a problem if you don’t see any steam or heat venting out, even on cold days.
In this article, we’re going to explain to you why you see steam coming out of your dryer vent. Then, we’ll explain the possible reasons why you don’t see steam coming out or why you only see steam trapped inside the dryer.
Why Does Steam Come Out From My Dryer Vent?
When someone witnesses steam coming out from a dryer vent, it could cause them quite a bit of concern. That’s understandable, especially if they mistake the steam for ‘white smoke’ and assume that something is burning in the laundry room.
However, a dryer vent with steam coming out of it is nothing to worry about. Not only is that a regular part of using a dryer, but it’s also a good sign that the appliance and its vent are both in good working order.
Here are a few crucial things to understand about steam coming from a dryer vent.
Steam Is A Natural Byproduct
First and foremost, it’s essential to understand that steam is a natural byproduct of the drying process.
When you take your laundry out of the washer and transfer it to the dryer, they’re likely to be a little damp still. As those clothes tumble in the machine, they then come into contact with the heat generated by the dryer, which helps to remove all excess moisture in the fabric.
The result? All of that moisture converts into steam that must be vented out from the machine.
All of that steam is blown through the dryer’s vent and is pushed out of the building.
Suppose someone was standing on the outside of the building watching the dryer’s vent. What they’ll see while standing there is steam coming out from the dryer vent.
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Some Dryers Have Additional Steam Functions
Steam dryers have also become a lot more common these days. These are tumble dryers that offer unique drying cycles with steam to soften and sanitize clothes. To make that possible, steam dryers have either a connected water supply or an onboard water reservoir to produce additional steam during the drying cycle.
As the clothes inside are tumbling around, the dryer will spray a fine mist of water into the drum. That mist will instantly turn into steam as it comes into contact with the hot air being produced by the dryer.
As the clothes continue to tumble, they’ll absorb a lot of the steam that’s floating around. Still, excess steam that isn’t absorbed will then be forced out with the rest of the hot air.
Overall, that process will result in even more steam coming out of the dryer vent outside the building.
Steam Can Be Mistaken For White Smoke In Cold Climates
In warmer climates, the steam coming out from a dryer vent is barely noticeable. However, the opposite is true when outside temperatures are much lower.
People unfamiliar with any of this might assume that they’re seeing thick white smoke coming out from the dryer vent while the machine is being used. That might alarm them into thinking that there’s a severe problem with the dryer inside the building.
But what causes the cloud of ‘white smoke’ to form? Well, when the hot steam from the dryer suddenly meets the frigid air outside, the water vapor condenses very quickly, forming clouds that resemble white smoke.
Again, that’s no reason to panic. It’s just harmless steam coming out of the dryer that’s operating inside the building.
What If No Steam is Coming Out From The Dryer Vent?
So, remember: hot air and steam are supposed to come out from a dryer vent when you use the machine. It’s perfectly normal, and it’s nothing to worry about.
However, if you notice that there is absolutely no steam coming out from the dryer vent even when the weather outside is cold, then that’s a clear sign that you might have a problem.
Here are two reasons why there’s no steam coming out from your dryer vent even when the weather outside is cold:
Dryer Is Not Generating Heat
If you’ve turned on your dryer, but you notice that no steam is coming out of the vent, then your dryer is likely not generating any heat, to begin with. Bear in mind that it’s still possible for your dryer to tumble the clothes inside even though it’s not drying any heat to dry them at all.
Without any heat, the dryer cannot function correctly and none of the moisture will be removed from the wet laundry inside.
As a result, no steam is generated, and nothing but room-temperature air will come out through the dryer’s vents.
Why it fails:
There are several reasons why a dryer isn’t generating any heat. The most common reasons are that the heating element is burnt out, the thermal relay on the control board has failed, or the thermal cut-off fuse has blown.
If any of these three components fail, the dryer will still tumble the clothes inside though it won’t generate any heat.
That is why you won’t see any heat or steam coming from the dryer vent despite turning on the appliance.
How to fix:
To fix this problem, the component that has failed must be replaced.
That means replacing the burnt-out heating element, the failed thermal relay on the control board, or putting in a new thermal cut-off fuse.
Dryer Vent Flap Is Stuck Closed
The dryer vent will run from the dryer and terminate on the outside of the building. In most homes, that termination point is covered by a dryer vent with flaps. When the dryer runs and blows steam out of the vent, all that air will push the vent flaps open.
However, the vent will stay closed whenever nothing is coming out, preventing any dirt, dust, debris, and cold air from coming in through the vent.
Why it fails:
Over time, the dryer vent flap might get stuck in the closed position. A common reason is that lint and dust have built up around the flappers’ moving parts, causing them to stay closed even when they should open.
Besides that, rusted parts could also cause the flapper to get stuck in the closed position.
The metal parts are continually exposed to moisture coming through the vents and the outside air, all of which contribute to quicker rusting of metal parts.
How to fix:
To troubleshoot this issue, you’ll want first to try cleaning the flappers themselves. Remove any lint or dirt that has built up around it and see if it’ll work.
Adding a lubricant like WD-40 may also help.
If the vent flapper is still stuck, then you might want to consider replacing it with a new one. A new flapper will open and close quickly, allowing the hot air and steam to escape whenever the dryer is on.
Why Is There Steam Inside The Dryer But Not The Vent?
As mentioned before, it’s entirely normal for your dryer to generate steam as part of its regular operations. However, steam should find its way out of the machine and through the vents that terminate outside the building.
So, what does it mean when there’s steam inside the dryer but none coming out of the vent?
Why it fails:
If you find steam inside the dryer, but none of it is coming out of the vent, that means the airflow in the vent has become restricted. That could happen for several reasons, but the most common one is that a severe buildup of lint in the vents is blocking airflow.
If you’re using flexible ducts for your dryer, then it’s also possible that the vent has somehow become kinked or pinched by an object falling onto it.
A simple way to troubleshoot this is to remove the vent from your dryer’s back and run a quick cycle. If steam comes out of the dryer as it should, that means the problem is with blocked airflow in the vent.
How to fix:
To fix this, you’ll need to inspect the entire dryer vent duct starting from the machine to where it terminates outside. Be sure to keep the duct as straight as possible to maximize airflow and clean out any buildup of lint, dirt, and any foreign objects that might have found their way inside.
So, in conclusion, seeing steam coming out of your dryer vent is nothing to worry about. Steam is a normal byproduct of a well-functioning dryer. You should only be concerned if there’s no steam coming out, even when it should.