how to clean a dryer that smells

Clothes Dryer Maintenance: How to Clean a Dryer That Smells Bad

Have you ever been hit by an unexpected and unpleasant smell while pulling your freshly dried laundry out of the dryer? If you’re puzzling over “How do I get the smell out of my dryer?”, you’re certainly not alone. It can be disconcerting to catch a whiff of mustiness or a burning scent when you expect the comforting aroma of freshly laundered clothes. That’s why understanding how to clean a dryer that smells and what causes the odor is crucial. Stick with me, and let’s freshen up that dryer!

Here’s How to Clean a Dryer That Smells Like Mildew, Burning, and More

Before we can solve the problem, let’s examine the likely suspects behind your dryer’s stinky behavior. Dryers can start smelling bad for several reasons: build-up of lint, mold growth due to residual moisture, or even mechanical issues. In this section, we’ll discuss the variety of smells your dryer can produce, and then I’ll guide you through solutions to each.

When Your Dryer Smells Musty

Musty odors are often the first type of smell to invade your olfactory senses. The reason behind this? A dryer is a warm, dark, and often damp environment, which is a perfect breeding ground for mold and mildew. It often becomes a problem when damp clothes are left sitting in the machine for an extended period or when the dryer is situated in a humid environment.

To get the musty smell out, start with a thorough lint filter cleaning. That’s your dryer’s first line of defense against bad smells and decreased efficiency. Simply remove the lint trap and wash it with warm, soapy water. Let it air-dry fully before putting it back.

If your dryer’s drum still smells musty, it’s time to take it up a notch. Freshen the inside of a dryer by using white vinegar, a powerful odor neutralizer. Dampen a few towels with the vinegar and run them through a drying cycle. This method effectively “scrubs” the inside of your machine, neutralizing odors without leaving a vinegar smell behind.

how do I get the smell out of my dryer

That Alarming Burning Smell

A burning smell from your dryer can be disconcerting and is often a sign that something more serious is at play. It can mean that lint has built up in the exhaust vent or even on the heating element—both fire hazards.

First, turn off your dryer and unplug it from the electrical outlet for safety. Now, let’s tackle that lint screen again. Use a vacuum with a nozzle attachment to suck out lint that’s stuck below the filter area.

Next, examine your dryer exhaust vent. If it’s clogged or partially obstructed, this could be causing your clothes to smell burnt after drying and can be a serious fire risk. Clean it thoroughly and consider replacing it if it’s damaged or excessively dirty.

what would cause a dryer to smell

The Ultimate Dryer Deep-Cleaning Routine

If you’ve tackled the individual issues and you’re looking for a more holistic approach, let’s deep-clean that machine. Here’s how to comprehensively freshen up and how to clean a dryer that smells:

  1. Unplug the Machine: Always unplug your dryer before performing any maintenance or cleaning.
  2. Lint Screen and Trap: You’re familiar with this part by now. Clean these thoroughly and don’t forget to vacuum out the slot where the lint screen sits.
  3. Exhaust Vent: Disconnect the exhaust vent from the back of the dryer and vacuum it well. If it’s too clogged, you might consider replacing it.
  4. Interior Drum: A mixture of white vinegar and water works well for wiping down the interior drum. For stubborn stains or residue, a magic eraser can work wonders.
  5. Exterior: Don’t forget the exterior of your dryer. Dust and lint can accumulate behind and beneath the dryer. A damp cloth works well to wipe down the exterior, and a vacuum can remove dust from the back panel.
  6. Test Run: Once everything is spick and span, reconnect all parts and run a cycle with old towels or rags to make sure everything is working well and smelling great.


If you’ve taken all these steps and still encounter lingering odors or other issues, it might be time to seek professional help. For expert dryer repair services, contact the local pros at Northeast Appliance Service for any problem you may be facing.

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