How To Fix A Dryer That Smells Like Burning (8-Step Guide)

dryer smells like burning (1)

Nothing can be more unnerving than smelling a burnt odor from a dryer.

Most of the time, it is from a clogged lint filter, a broken thermostat, lint buildup inside the dryer, or a clogged dryer vent.

Lint is a highly flammable substance and can easily burn so it is important to find the source of the smell.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, there were 13,820 home fires from 2014-2018 related to dryers.

Keep reading to learn our 8 steps to fix a dryer that has burn smells.

Step #1: Clean The Lint Filter

It is essential to clean the lint filter after every dryer load.

If the lint filter is dirty and blocks airflow, it can get very hot and start to give off burning smells. Homeowners should check the area around the lint filter compartment.

Some lint will always get past the filter, and this is a common place where lint accumulates. There are custom vacuum attachments that can reach into the lint filter compartment to clean any residual lint buildup.

Step #2: Check The Thermostat

The dryer thermostat shuts off the dryer when it reaches a specific temperature to prevent over-heating. If the thermostat is broken, the dryer may get too hot and give off a burning smell.

To check the thermostat:

  1. Unplug the dryer
  2. Remove the rear dryer panel and locate the thermostat (it will be next to the heating element and will have wires going to it)
  3. Remove the wire connectors from the thermostat
  4. Open Circuit Test: Using a multi-meter set to the lowest ohm setting, put both leads on the thermostat terminals and it should read 0-ohm if operating correctly
  5. Closed Circuit Test: Heat up the thermostat on an electric griddle. The thermostat should 'click' and break the circuit when it reaches within 5% of the lowest rated temperature. The temperature rating should be stamped on the thermostat.

Step #3: Check The Flex Vent

The flex vent is the small flexible vent that runs from the dryer to the wall. These short ducts are usually flexible metal or a foil type of vent, but sometimes they are rigid metal.

crushed dryer flex vent

Sometimes these short ducts can get crushed behind the dryer which leads to lint buildup, blocked airflow, and resulting burning smells.

Simply remove the flex vent and look inside for any lint buildup or charring. Make sure that it is installed behind the dryer in a way that doesn't block airflow.

Step 4: Clean Inside of The Dryer

Similar to cleaning the lint filter and compartment, lint can buildup in other locations inside the dryer that gives off burnt smells.

Lint can accumulate on:

  • The dryer bottom and sides
  • Near or on the heating element
  • Inside of the flame housing
  • Interior exhaust duct (the duct that connects to exterior flex duct)
  • The motor
  • Drive belt
  • Belt pulleys

Lint is composed of fine particles and it can travel to a variety of places inside the dryer. Homeowners should first unplug the dryer and then remove the rear dryer panel to access the inside of the dryer.

Step 5: Check The Drive Belt

The rubber drive belt is what turns the dryer drum. It is connected to pulleys and to the large drum that spins the laundry.

testing dryer belt

If the drive belt is loose, rubbing on a foreign object, or touching the heating element, it may cause a burning smell.

Verify that the belt is tight and spins the drum smoothly.

Step 6: Check The Motor And Wiring

If the motor is faulty or if there is over-heated wiring, this can also lead to a burnt smell.

Signs of a bad motor include loud or unusual sounds, humming, or the dryer shuts off before the load is finished.

Over-heated or faulty wiring would give off an electrical burning smell.

Test the motor with a multi-meter and it should read 0-ohms (or close to it).

Step 7: Inspect The Exterior Cover

The exterior vent hood of the dryer can get blocked with lint, bird nests, wasp nests, and other debris.

If the vent hood is on an exterior wall, it may be pretty easy to inspect if it's low to the ground. However, if the dryer vent goes to the roof, soffit, or crawlspace — you may want to hire a professional.

wasp nest inside duct

Frequently, dryer hoods have pest screens which can trap lint and lead to blockages.

When the dryer is turned on, homeowners should be able to feel strong airflow coming from the exterior cover. If airflow is weak or absent, you know there is a clog or some other problem along the duct.

Step 8: Professional Dryer Duct Cleaning

If you are certain the dryer and flex duct are clean but there is still a burning smell, consider a professional dryer vent cleaning.

Dryer vent cleaning companies use either compressed air tools or long brush attachments that can go into the duct 25-35 feet to remove any clogs.

Always make sure that the air flow is strong after the duct cleaning to be sure that the clog is removed.

Conclusion (And Additional Resources)

To summarize, most burning smells usually come from a:

  • Dirty lint filter
  • Lint buildup inside the dryer
  • Crushed or clogged flex vent
  • A clog at or near the exterior cover
  • Faulty thermostat

Here are some additional dryer venting resources:

Meet Your Home Inspector Secrets Author

Ask Me A Question! Or Leave A Comment...

join the 'save my home' newsletter

Get a weekly email every Tuesday with a single home maintenance tip to save, protect, and improve your house!