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Burning smell coming from your dryer? Here’s how to fix it

Illustration of Dryer with fire and smoke detector

When your dryer is doing its job, the drum gets hot. Sometimes very hot. But if your dryer smells like it’s burning? That could be dangerous. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that dryers and washing machines cause an average of 15,970 fires each year, with dryers causing 92% of them. Don’t worry. There are simple steps you can take like cleaning your dryer vent and your lint filter to prevent dryer fires.

Asurion Experts can answer your appliance questions—and help protect your appliances from unexpected breakdowns—plus share tips to keep your family safe. Here’s our guide on what to do if there’s a burning smell coming from your dryer. 

What causes a burning smell from a dryer?

If you’re wondering, why does my dryer smell burnt? There are several possible causes—from easy to fix to time to call a pro: 

  • Lint buildup 
  • Dirty dryer vent 
  • Worn-out belt 
  • Failing thermostat
  • Faulty motor

How to troubleshoot when your dryer smells like it’s burning

If a burning smell is coming from your dryer, unplug it immediately. If you have a gas dryer, you’ll need to turn off the gas supply, and if your machine is hard-wired to your home’s electrical system, contact a professional for help. After your dryer has cooled, remove your clothes from the drum then follow these steps:

Clean the lint trap 

According to the NFPA, failure to clean is the leading factor (34%) of clothes dryer fires. So, the first thing to do is remove the lint tap and clean it thoroughly. Check out our guide for detailed lint trap cleaning tips. 

Check and clean the dryer vent

Lint and other debris can evade your removable filter and get stuck in your dryer’s connected hose or vent. Check that the hose isn’t kinked or excessively bent, as this can restrict airflow. Then follow these instructions to safely clean your dryer vent

Inspect the drum and drive belt 

Check inside the dryer drum—you may need to open the dryer panel to do so—for any trapped items or excessive lint buildup and clean as necessary. Look for signs of wear and tear on the belt. If it looks damaged, it could be melting due to friction and may be the cause of the burning smell. You should replace it. 

Test the thermostat and motor

If your dryer smells burnt, your thermostat or motor may be defective. If you have some appliance knowledge, you can check these parts with a multimeter. If you’re not comfortable performing these tests yourself, consult a repair pro.

Run a test load 

After troubleshooting, turn on the power or reconnect the gas. Then, run a short test load with a few towels and see if the burning smell is gone. 

What to do if your dryer starts smoking?

If you see smoke coming out of your dryer, take action right away. Here’s what to do: 

  1. Use the Power button to turn off your dryer, then unplug it immediately. 
  2. Keep the dryer door closed. 
  3. Open your laundry room door and windows and let the smoke dissipate.
  4. Once the smoke is gone, carefully remove the clothes from your dryer. 
  5. Don’t start your dryer again. Call a repair expert to find the source of your issue. 

If you see heavy, black smoke, turn off your machine if it’s safe to do so, and dial 911. 

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