Why Do My Clothes Smell Burnt After Washing?

When you take your fresh laundry out of the washing machine, it’s only reasonable to expect the clothes to smell clean and fresh. Still, there might come a time when you discover your clothes smelling burnt after washing instead. But why does this happen?

An overloaded washing machine can cause the motor to overheat, leading to the smell of smoke getting into the laundry. The smell could also come from the drum touching the door gasket if the drum bearings are worn out. Friction or heat from a foreign object stuck inside the machine can lead to the same outcome, as does the odors coming from buildups in and around the drum itself.

This article will explore the top reasons why your clothes smell burnt after coming out of the washing machine.

Where Is The Burnt Smell Coming From?

If you notice a burning smell after washing a load of laundry, you must do a little bit more troubleshooting. Most importantly, you need to figure out if the burning smell is coming from a load of laundry or if there’s a burning rubber-like smell coming from the washing machine itself.

That is an incredibly crucial troubleshooting step because the source of the smell will also point to the different possible causes. 

Check The Laundry

To be sure, remove the load of laundry and take it out of the room. Then, inspect the washing machine and laundry separately to see where the smell is coming from.

Suppose you’re certain that the smell is coming from the laundry and not the washing machine. If that’s the case, then the possible reasons are very different from that of the smell coming from the machine.

If The Smell or Smoke Is Coming From The Washer

For starters, the drum might be touching the door gasket and generating too much friction, or the washer motor might be overheating. 

Besides that, there could also be a foreign object stuck inside the machine or a buildup on the exterior of the drum. These reasons will cause a burnt smell that gets into the fabric of the clothes you were washing in the machine.

Let’s take a look at each of those possibilities.

Drum Touching The Door Gasket

As the name suggests, the door gasket wraps around the door area of the washing machine. Its purpose is to form a tight seal when the door is closed so that none of the water will leak out when the washing machine is in operation.

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Why it fails:

Remember: the drum is continually spinning as it agitates and cleans your laundry. It’s not supposed to come into contact with the door gasket. However, if it does, the friction will generate heat and cause the inside of the drum to have a burning smell.

In more severe cases, this problem could even cause there to be a cloud of smoke inside the drum, which will escape as soon as you open the door.

Still, the drum and the door gasket touching each other is just the symptom, not the root cause. All of this happens because the drum bearings that were meant to keep the drum stable as it turns have worn out. 

When that happens, the drum will not remain stable as it turns and will come into contact with the door gasket, eventually generating heat, smoke, and that burnt smell that gets into your clothes.

How to fix:

To solve this issue, you’ll have to fix the root cause: the worn-out drum bearings.

These parts can’t be fixed, so you’ll have to take the washing machine apart and replace it entirely. Once the new drum bearings are in place, the drum can spin as it should.

Besides that, you’ll also want to inspect the damage to the door gasket. If rubbing against the drum has caused extensive damage, you’ll need to replace the gasket as well.

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Overheating Motor

The motor inside of your washing machine is responsible for generating power and turning the drum. Depending on the washer’s design, some motors turn the drum using a belt. Direct drive models have motors that are connected directly to the drum using a motor coupling.

Why it fails:

All washing machines have a maximum weight that they can carry inside the drum. When the laundry inside exceeds that maximum weight, it will force the motor to work harder than it should to tumble the clothes inside. 

As that continues to happen, the motor will overheat and give off a burning smell that ends up getting absorbed by the clothes inside.

How to fix:

To prevent the motor from overheating, you have to be more mindful of how much laundry you put in a single load. Firstly, check the user manual to know your washing machine’s maximum capacity.

From there, you can estimate how many clothes you should load into the washer in a single load. As a rule of thumb, the laundry load must always be able to tumble freely as the drum turns.

Foreign Object Stuck Inside

Another possible source of the burnt smell is a foreign object that has somehow gotten lodged inside the washing machine. The object could have gone unnoticed inside clothes pockets when you loaded them into the machine and fallen out during the wash cycle.

When this happens, the object could get lodged somewhere inside the drum. As the drum turns, the friction will cause excessive heat, leading to a burnt smell filling up the drum and the clothes inside of it.

Some common examples include chains, rings, coins, credit cards, and more. The location of the jammed object will be different depending on if you have a front-load washing machine or a top-load model instead.

  • On Front-Load Washers: For these kinds of washers, the item is likely to have gotten stuck between the drum and the door gasket.
  • On Top-Load Washers: On these kinds of washer units, you’ll probably find it stuck between the agitator and the drum.

How to fix:

To solve this issue, simply locate and remove the foreign object that has gotten stuck inside your washing machine. 

For safety reasons, always disconnect the power supply to the washing machine first. That will reduce any risk of injury, especially to your fingers, as you’re searching for and removing any foreign objects.

Also, bear in mind that there might be more than one item causing the problem, so be sure to look for and remove all of them.

Drum Buildup

Over time, many different substances can accumulate in and around the tub of your washing machine. That includes soap scum, limescale, bacteria, as well as mold and mildew.

Each of these buildups can give off a nasty smell of their own inside the drum, all of which absorbs into your clothes.

Understandably, the combination of all those different odors in your clothes can be mistaken for a burning smell.

How to fix it:

Firstly, you can reduce any buildups in your washing machine by running a self-cleaning cycle while the drum is empty. That is sometimes known as a ‘self-cleaning’ cycle, and it’s a standard feature on many newer washing machines. 

If your washer doesn’t have this cycle or preset, don’t worry. You can also do it manually.

To run a cleaning cycle manually, set the washing machine to the highest water temperature and for the longest time possible. The hot water will help to remove any buildups inside of the drum.

For more severe buildups, you might have to take the washing machine apart so you can remove the drum entirely. That will allow you to thoroughly clean the inside and outside of the drum, removing all buildups that shouldn’t be on it.

Trapped Clothing Items

Another possibility is that smaller clothing items have gotten stuck between the inner and outer drums of the washing machine. Smaller items like socks and bras or items like slippers could get trapped in that space. 

As the tub turns and rubs against those items, it could generate a burning smell that gets absorbed by the rest of your laundry load.

How to fix it:

To fix this, you’ll have to do a bit of digging in the space between the movable inner tub and the static outer tub. Be sure to disconnect the washing machine from the power supply to prevent any risk of injury.

If you’d like to be thorough, you could open up the washer’s side and top panels to inspect all parts of the drum just to be sure no clothes or foreign objects are stuck where they shouldn’t be.

To prevent this from happening in the future, you can place smaller clothing items in mesh laundry bags. These bags will keep all of your socks, bras, and other items together as they tumble in the washer.

Plus, they also remove the risk of those items getting ‘eaten’ by the machine and stuck around the tub.

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