Dryer Smells Like Burning? 3 Easy Things To Check, Plus 3 More

When you notice that your dryer smells like burning, there may be several different causes.

First and foremost, this isn’t a good sign and it could indicate a real fire hazard. Therefore, stop using your dryer if you notice a burning smell from dryer.

Why Your dryer smells like burning

Here are some of the common reasons it might smell like something is burning:

1. Clogged Lint Trap

There may be excess lint built up in the lint tray. Built-up lint not only causes your dryer to take longer to dry clothing, but over time, can also be a fire hazard.

Any restriction in air flow will cause the dryer to take longer to dry the clothes because the moist air has no way to exit the drum.

Be sure to clean out the lint trap after each use.

Dryer smells like burning lint trap

2. Vent Hose Blockage

The vent hose connects your dryer to the vent pipe in the wall behind your dryer. Due to the flexibility of the hose, it can easily get kinked or clogged with lint.

Be sure to completely detach the hose from both the wall and the dryer, and check it out thoroughly for damage or debris.

If the hose has been flattened as all, it is likely going to need to be replaced with a new one. Once they kink, it is sometime impossible to permanently straighten them back out.

Dirty dryer vent hose

3. Vent Pipe Blockage

The vent pipe is the ductwork that takes the air from the vent hose through the wall and exhausts it outside. Make sure there are no obstructions in the vent pipe.

You can either check this yourself, or hire out a duct cleaner to take care of it. But it needs to be done on a regular basis.

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4. Worn Belt

If the drum drive belt gets worn unevenly, it can start to rub against the pulley in a way that causes extra friction. This friction will generate heat, and therefore a burning smell.

Check out the drive belt for signs of wear and, if needed, replace it. Find the right belt for your model here.

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It’s also possible that the belt is rubbing on something else that it shouldn’t, causing the smell. Make sure it’s free and clear throughout its entire revolution around the drum.

5. Thermostat Failure

The thermostat regulates the temperature of the heating element(s). If the thermostat has failed, it could be allowing the element to get too hot, causing the burning smell.

A faulty thermostat is a potentially dangerous situation, so replace a bad one immediately. You can test them with a multimeter.

6. Bad Motor

A motor that is beginning to fail will often emit a burning smell. That’s because the brushes inside are worn and arcing excessively.

There’s really no feasible way to repair it yourself, in most cases. It will have to be replaced. Be sure to match the new motor to your specific dryer model.

7. Piece of Fabric

Though rare, sometimes even a piece of fabric can cause a burning smell.

If a small piece gets caught between the outside drum and dryer wall, it can get scorched. Although this happens infrequently, make sure to avoid piling in too much clothing when using your dryer.

Can dryers catch on fire?

Yes, it is absolutely possible for your clothes dryer to catch on fire. Some of the causes of this might be:

  • Dryer vents aren’t properly cleaned/maintained (at least once annually)
  • Dryer vent fires are more common in winter months (sweaters, thicker clothing, wool, and heavier materials)
  • Too much lint buildup in the lint tray
  • Volatile chemicals on clothing
  • Clothing that has come into contact with gas, chemicals, toxic/toxins, oils, etc. When spinning at high heats, it can cause a fire
  • Heating element burning out

Each of these are possible reasons that a dryer fire can occur. Regular maintenance and routine cleaning, are simple steps you can take to prevent a dryer fire.

Can a dryer belt cause a fire?

A broken dryer belt doesn’t only result in burning smell from dryer, but can also lead to a dryer fire if it is not properly tended to.

Replacing a broken dryer belt should be done as soon as you find out this is what’s causing your dryer to malfunction (not spin).

The high heat which your dryer is producing while drying clothing, combined with the friction from the motor wheel spinning fast against the motionless rubber belt, all in an enclosed space…. is a recipe for disaster.

Although it is not the most common cause of dryer fires, it is important to ensure your dryer drum belt is intact, functioning normally, and isn’t getting jammed while the dryer cycle is operating.

If you hear a squeaking sound while you’re drying clothing, or if you notice the drum skips or doesn’t spin as easily as it should while drying clothing, these might be signs that the dryer drum belt is broken or is cracking.

If you don’t know how to replace it, you should contact a repair technician who can assess the dryer and drum belt, and if necessary, replace the broken drum belt with a new one.

It’s a quick fix, and it is a simple way to prevent dryer fires in the home.

Will aluminum foil catch fire in the dryer?

In most instances, no. In fact, many people use aluminum foil dryer balls to help prevent static in the dryer/clothing and to help speed up the drying cycle process.

It is a good idea, however, to make sure the aluminum foil dryer ball or dryer sheet you make is properly placed, surrounded by clothing, and is immediately removed with your clothing after your dry cycle is complete.

foil ball

What to do if your dryer smells like burning?

The first thing you’ll want to do is stop the dryer. Burning smell from a dryer indicates that there’s something broken, a part is malfunctioning, or that there’s something caught in the fans, belt, or vent system.

You don’t want to allow the dryer cycle to finish before trying to figure out what the problem may be.

So, the first thing you’ll want to do, is turn off the dryer. If you can stop the cycle directly on your machine, do so immediately.

Otherwise, unplug the dryer to stop it from continuing to rotate.

Once the parts have cooled down, you can check the lint tray for buildup.

You can also check the vent hose to see if it’s kinked up behind the machine. Or a belt might have snapped.

There are several reasons that the burning smell from dryer is present, as highlighted above.

So, if you aren’t sure, or can’t pinpoint precisely what is causing the smell, your best option is to call a repair technician to assess the dryer, to determine what the exact nature of the problem is.

Can dryers overheat?

Yes, your dryer can overheat. Some newer models/series, might have an auto shut off feature which will automatically stop the dryer if this is the case, to prevent a fire.

However, most models will not shut off automatically.

The most common cause of a dryer overheating is that the airflow is restricted somewhere.

When there’s a blockage in the internal ductwork, the hot air becomes trapped inside the drum, with no way to escape.

This is not only going to cause your dryer to become too hot, but it is a major fire hazard if not dealt with properly.

Other common reasons the dryer tends to overheat includes a damaged/broken thermostat (which may have to be replaced by a technician), or problems with the heating element.

Final Thoughts

Even though dryer fires are not something most folks will have to deal with in their lifetime, they do pose a serious risk. And you don’t want to be one of the statistics, no matter how slim the chances are.

Keep your dryer and venting clean with periodic maintenance, and you’ll have peace of mind that you’re safer than you otherwise might be. And you get the added benefit of having an efficient machine that lasts longer…. and dries your clothes on time!

Reader Comments (2)

  1. Thank you for informing me that dryers can overheat, which can be a fire hazard and is bad for the dryer. Yesterday, I noticed that there was a really weird clanking sound and smell coming from the dryer. I thought it was just something I was drying but it is still happening. I have no idea what could be wrong. It sounds like I should look for dryer repair services that could help me.

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