A stinky tumble dryer can put you off drying clothes for life. The smell coming from the machine can sometimes be so vile that you literally feel quite sick. Not to mention the fact that the stench slowly creeps its way around the house too…
But, there’s usually a pretty good reason why a tumble dryer smells.
Check out my list of causes and solutions below.
What Does My Tumble Dryer Smell Of?
If you’ve got a smelly tumble dryer and you want to cure the problem, the first thing you need to do is identify what type of smell you have.
Here are the most common smells that come from a tumble dryer:
Identifying what type of smell is coming from your tumble dryer allows you to narrow down what’s causing the problem. Then you’ll be able to find a solution much quicker.
There are quite a few causes to consider. Some you may find very obvious, others you might never have thought about and some causes might be very humorous!
Without further ado, here are the most common causes for a smelly tumble dryer.
Do let me know if you know of a different type of cause that isn’t listed below, so I can add it in.
Cause 1: Dryer is Too Full
While it may seem silly at a first glance this cause actually holds more weight than you think.
On a tumble dryer, there are usually instructions on the front of the machine, or in the user manual, that tell you how much weight you can load into the machine in one go.
Sadly, a lot of people get tempted to overload their dryers, so that they can “get more clothes dried faster”. In reality, this doesn’t work out as planned.
What actually happens is, an overloaded dryer won’t dry all the clothes at once. So, while some clothes are drying, other clothes are ‘sitting still’ and are not drying.
Clothes that just sit in dryers inevitably start to smell quite mouldy and musky, and it’s not pleasant at all.
A simple exercise like filling up the dryer too much could be the cause of your stinky troubles.
Cause 2: Hard Water
In some cases, homes are supplied with hard water. This hard water is used in the washing machine and during the cleaning process.
The smelly problems start when clothes cleaned in such water are exposed to high levels of heat in a dryer.
Given the fact that tumble dryers are incredibly hot, they could be aggravating the hard water and causing it to give off some kind of bad smell.
Cause 3: Food
It’s an easy mistake to make, and one we’ve all probably done at some point – left food in our pocket.
Although you’d hope that the washing machine would wash the food out, it doesn’t always. So, sometimes you end up with a blob of gooey mess in your wet pocket. You then stick the item of clothing in the dryer, and you basically end up ‘cooking’ whatever you forgot to pull out of your pocket.
The end result is… a horrid smell working its way around the house. It can sometimes smell like a saucepan of potatoes that have boiled dry on a hob.
This cause is a little disgusting but this happens more often than you think. And such a simple mistake can cause mayhem in a home.
Cause 4: Vent is Full
Tumble dryer vents need to be cleaned on a regular basis. So, if you don’t really do this, you’re going to end up with some smelly odour seeping out of your tumble dryer.
Think about it, any fibres, hair and dirt can get caught in the vents, so it’s important to clean this part of the machine for hygiene reasons, but also for safety reasons.
Cause 5: Clothes Aren’t Actually Clean
As odd as this cause may seem, it actually happens more than you think.
When you throw your clothes into the tumble dryer you assume that they are clean. And rightly so, after all they’ve just come out from the washing machine.
But are your clothes really clean?
Sometimes clothes, after being washed, are still dirty. There are a number of reasons for this, from the washing machine not working as it should to the wrong setting being chosen and perhaps the detergent being used isn’t strong enough.
Whatever the reason, when these clothes eventually make their way into the tumble dryer, the heat from the tumble intensifies the dirty sewage-like smell, and it starts breaking out of the machine.
So, your smelly dilemma might actually be caused by the washing machine not cleaning your clothes in the first place. It’s worth checking it out.
Cause 6: Dust Build-ups
If you don’t thoroughly clean your dryer, dust will inevitably build up in and around the machine.
When the machine is switched on then, this dust manages to travel about a little and it gives off a bad burnt smell.
Cause 7: Filter is Full
It’s imperative that you clean your tumble dryer filter after every single drying session. The filter is where all of the excess fibre and hair goes when a drying cycle is being completed.
If you don’t clear this area you will get a poor smell coming from the machine, and even a burning smell on occasions.
Cause 8: Grime Under the Machine
It’s easy to assume that the odour you get when you switch on your tumble dryer is coming from inside the dryer. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
In some cases, foul smells are actually caused by liquids, and/or rubbish, under the machine.
For example, if you tipped a glass of red wine under the tumble dryer, and you cleaned up most of the mess, but you left some of the spillages under the machine, this would start to smell when the machine is in action.
If you don’t move your machine out to clean under it, there could be something a lot worse lurking beneath it. And this could be the cause of your smell.
Cause 9: Hose
If you have a tumble dryer that uses a hose, you might find that the hose can be a bit pongy.
Sometimes anything that’s inside the machine can escape into the hose, and this can cause a smelly problem. It’s worth keeping an eye on the hose and making sure that nothing is stuck in it before you use the machine.
Additionally, removing any blockages in the hose is also a very good practice. As well as, acknowledging and repairing any damages to the hose.
Cause 10: Aging Motor
If you have an ageing tumble dryer, you might find that you get a burning smell when the machine is drying clothes.
The cause of this is likely to be the motor starting to wear out. It’s really not uncommon in older machines as they approach the end of their life. But you really should be careful when you use the machine.
You shouldn’t try and repair the motor yourself as it requires the skills of a professional.
Cause 11: Broken Thermostat
If you’re getting a burning smell your thermostat could be broken.
The thermostat is inside the machine and it regulates the temperature. If the machine’s thermostat isn’t working the temperature will get too high, and a burning smell will start to be thrown out of the dryer.
This is a good time to switch the machine off and to unplug it.
If you think that your smelly tumble dryer is on its last legs, think again. You’ve got a meaty list of causes to consider above, and below there’s an even bigger list of solutions to try and cure your pungent problem.
A bad odour doesn’t really mean the end of the road for your dryer. There’s so much to consider before writing the machine off! Check out and try the solutions in the list below.
Don’t forget to let me know if you’ve got your own solution that I’ve not mentioned below.
Solution 1: Clean the Vent
Your tumble dryer’s vent needs to be cleaned regularly. To do this you need to switch the dryer off, and unplug it from its power source.
All you need to do is give it a good hoovering. Using the various hoover heads you have, you’ll be able to reach into the gaps in the vent, so you can give it an extra good clean.
Solution 2: Remove the Filter and Clean It
You need to hoover and clear out your filter after every single drying session.
To do this you need to locate the filter inside the machine. It’s usually on the door side and has a handy lip to help you pull it up and out of the tumble dryer.
Next, open the filter up, you’ll hear a clicking noise, and gather up all the ‘fluff’ looking leftovers that have been caught in the mesh-looking part. You then need to hoover the filter.
When the filter is still out of the dryer, hoover inside the filter’s space in the machine. This will remove any excess dirt that didn’t make it into the filter to begin with.
Solution 3: Manage Your Drying Loads
If you believe that your dryer is smelling because you’re putting too much in the machine, so it cannot possibly dry the clothes sufficiently – don’t put so much in the dryer to start off with.
If you don’t know how much you should be putting in, look at the dryer to see if there is a sticker on the outside, consult your user manual or check the manufacturer’s website for further guidance.
If in doubt, follow the ‘less is best’ rule.
Solution 4: Clean the Hose
As mentioned above, you need to maintain and check your hose on your tumble dryer. Not keeping an eye on it could lead to poor smells, or worse.
Clean out any mess you do see inside, and if need be detach the hose and flush some warm water through it, if possible.
Solution 5: Clear Out Any Dirt Left Behind in the Dryer
You need to keep your machine clean, so after every drying session, have a quick look inside your dryer and remove any leftovers you see behind.
These leftovers can be anything from clothes fibres to hair and even gum, and they’ve just not made it to the filter. They’re usually fairly visible and can be removed with ease from the machine.
This also ensures that your machine is clear and clean ready for your next drying load.
Solution 6: Clean the Dryer Every Month
It’s important that you clean the inside of the dryer because bacteria could be living inside the machine. Plus, it’ll help to remove any poor odours.
To clean the inside of the machine you need to grab a clean cotton cloth and dip it gently into some white vinegar. Then slowly wipe down the inside of the dryer with the damp cloth. You do not need to drench the cotton cloth in vinegar.
You need to clean all the nooks in the machine, this includes the door and the seals. You’ll probably have to dip the cloth into the white vinegar a few times during this process.
Allow the machine to rest for a few minutes and leave a window and the door open, so that air can circulate around the machine.
When you’ve done this you need to go around the machine and clean away any dust you can see. Look at the plug, the sockets, cables, the feet and anywhere else dust could be housed.
Then you need to wipe down the front of the machine. A warm cotton cloth, that is not saturated in water, will do the job nicely here.
Always remember to switch appliances off before cleaning them.
Solution 7: Clean under the Machine
If you think that you may have tipped something under your dryer, check to see if you’re right and clean up the mess. Remember to switch your machine off and unplug it before you go shifting it around.
Any old pieces of food will start to stink if they’re left under the machine, plus bacteria and germs will be thriving under there and in the heat.
Sanitize the area and push the machine back into its spot when everything is clean. You should aim to pull the machine out to clean it on a weekly basis. You’ll be surprised to see how much dirt can actually fit under the dryer!
Solution 8: Check your Washing Machine
If you think that your tumble dryer is working fine, and you believe your problem is actually with the washing machine, get it checked out.
As I mentioned above your washing machine may need a good clean itself.
It’s not uncommon for washing machines to be left in quite a dirty condition. People occasionally assume that because the clothes inside are being cleaned, the detergent will also clean the machine. It doesn’t really work like that.
A washing machine has to be cleaned properly, if not it starts to look old and it starts to smell.
Here are some articles that’ll give you some tips on how to clean a washing machine:
- How do you get mould off washing machine rubber?
- Washing machine smells like sewage – causes and solutions.
- Can you put bleach in a washing machine?
Additionally, you need to make sure that you choose the correct wash setting for your clothes, and you need to use an appropriate detergent. Not picking the right cycle, for example, means that your clothes aren’t receiving the wash they actually need.
Not sure what type of wash your clothes need? Check the tags on your items.
Solution 9: Check Clothes Before Drying Them
It’s worth having a quick glance over your clothes before you stick them in the tumble dryer to make sure they’re clean. Plus, you can check the pockets of your clothes to ensure that they’re empty.
If your clothes aren’t clean you can re-wash them, and save yourself from an odour-ly ordeal.
Solution 10: Thermostat is Broken
To solve this issue you’ll probably need to call in a professional who can fix the issue.
Or if you have experience with fixing dryers, you’ll need to use an ohmmeter to check if the thermostat works. If a number other than 0 shows up then the thermostat is failing. It needs to be repaired and replaced.
Solution 11: Replacing Parts
There may be some cases when new parts are needed because the current parts in the dryer have become worn down. Usually, you need to call someone for help in this situation.
Tumble dryer repairs can be done but prices can vary, particularly if a product is no longer under warranty. If too many parts need to be replaced to cure the stinky problem, it might be worth looking into buying a new model.
Solution 12: Professional Support
If none of the causes and solutions above has worked for you, then it is time to call for professional support.
If you’re lucky enough to have a warranty, an engineer can be called out to inspect the machine, and perhaps they can fix the problem there and then.
If your machine is older, you’ll need to either call/write to the machine’s manufacturer for help or find a repair shop in your local area.
It is much easier for professionals in this field to see your dryer in action, and to help you from thereon.
A really good way of keeping any home appliance in good working order is by maintaining the machine regularly. This doesn’t mean that you have to perform a ‘professional maintenance check’ on a monthly basis.
All you need to do is keep the machine clean and follow the user manual so that you can prevent as many future problems as possible.
- Here are a few ideas that you could try with your tumble dryer.
- Clean the filter after every drying session.
- Clean the machine on a monthly basis.
- Wipe any spills up before they start to smell (around or under the dryer).
- Don’t put too much in the machine.
- Air the dryer – open the door after every use and leave it open for some time.
- Don’t leave wet clothes in the machine – either dry them or remove them.
- Unplug your dryer when you’re not using it – plug it in again when you plan on using the dryer.
- Air dry clothes – ask yourself if it’s essential for you to tumble dry your clothes, could they be put on the line outside? This’ll also prevent your tumble dryer from wearing out too!
There are so many reasons why a tumble dryer is smelling, and there are even more solutions to get rid of the pongy problem! If one solution doesn’t work for you, try another.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
I think I smell gas coming from my dryer. What should I do?
Turn the machine off, pull the machine away from any other goods and call for professional support. The smell of gas may or may not be coming from that particular appliance, so until you know more, don’t use the machine.
Bethan has a passion for exploring, reading, cooking and gardening! When she’s not creating culinary delights for her family, she’s concocting potions to keep her house clean!