If you notice smoke from the clothes dryer wafting through your bathroom, you may have some cause for concern. Of all of the appliances in your house, the clothes dryer is one of the most likely candidates to start a house fire. If you see smoke from the clothes dryer in your laundry room, you should immediately unplug the device and look for the cause of the smoke. In this article, we’ll explain exactly how you ought to deal with this phenomenon as well as detail a number of possible causes.
Smoke from the clothes dryer is likely caused by excess lint that has gotten too close to the heating element in your dryer, though it could be caused by another material such as a fabric or an electrical problem. For safety purposes, if you notice this, shut down your dryer immediately and unplug the appliance. Then you may begin investigating the culprit.
Read on to learn everything you need to know regarding smoke from the clothes dryer. Be sure to exercise caution in the event of an electrical fire, and always call 9-1-1 if the situation becomes unsafe!
Smoke from the Clothes Dryer? 3 Likely Causes
If you pick up on a burning smell when you switch on the dryer, immediately switch it off from the wall outlet or circuit breaker, then check the following:
1. You selected a higher temperature than is recommended
In most cases, it’s a safe bet to dry clothes in a lower setting. For one, this will help extend the life of your clothes.
Secondly, lower heat settings decrease the risk of accidents such as a fire started by scorched fabrics. Some dryers have extremely high heat settings for heavy-duty jobs. If you place a flammable fabric in a dryer with a setting that’s higher than recommended, you may end up with smoke coming from your dryer.
2. A build-up of lint from the clothes in the lint trap or vent
A combination of the build-up of lint and the high temperature in the dryer can result in a burning smell. When was the last time you cleaned the lint filter? The National Fire Protection Agency discovered that in 2020 32% of all dryer-related fires resulted from a failure to clean!
You really ought to clean out the lint trap and dryer vent after every load of clothes. This prevents the buildup of lint, allowing your dryer to run more efficiently and decreasing the risk of a fire. Use a brush with soft bristles or a vacuum to remove the lint in the trap, or simply just remove it with your hand. If you notice smoke from the clothes dryer, there’s a good chance it’s lint related.
3. Electrical fault in the dryer or power source?
Shorting wires in the dryer can give off a burning smell. The short can be within the dryer, along the power cord, or at the wall outlet.
To determine whether or not this is the cause of the smoke from the clothes dryer, switch off the dryer and check for gashes in the power chord or burn marks around the wall outlet.
How to get rid of the smoke from the clothes dryer
When you detect the burning smell, as a first step, switch off the dryer immediately as a precaution.
With the dryer switched off, locate the source of the smell. Do not use the dryer until you’ve identified and resolved what’s causing the burning smell. Should there be smoke at the outlet, switch off the outlet or circuit breaker to stop the electricity supply to the dryer.
There are several possible explanations why there might be smoke – perhaps there’s a short in the power cord, plug, or wiring at the outlet, or perhaps there is excess lint trapped near the heating element. Additionally, loosely fitted plug and wire connections in the wall receptacle are prone to sparking and heating of the plug/outlet, which gives off a burnt smell.
Confirm that you’re using the recommended wire gauge for the power cord, and plug type and that the electrical circuit to which it is connected can handle the dryer amp draw.
If the fire is lint related, you’ll have to take off the outer plastic covering of the dryer to get back to the heating element.
Take an electronic hand vacuum and run it over every part of the dryer you can access. Then take a microfiber cloth and dust out the inside of the dryer by hand. To prevent further lint-related smoke, make sure you clean out the lint trap after every load.
If the burning smell in the dryer persists, leave the dyer door open. Open windows and vents to improve the airflow so that it dies down faster.
You may also be interested in this post: Electric dryer element keeps burning out – what to do
Is it Normal for a New Dryer to have the Smell of Smoke?
It is normal for the dryer to give off a burning plastic smell the first time it’s used. This should stop after about 20 minutes of use (run the dryer empty). If the dryer has been in use for some time and there’s still a burning smell, then you should be concerned.
If you become concerned, feel free to contact a technician.
Smoke from the clothes dryer summary
It is normal for a new electric dryer to give off a burning smell during the first 15-20 minutes of use.
After a dryer has been used for a while, the smell is a bad sign and should be investigated and resolved before continuing to use the dryer. Make sure you’re using the correct temperature setting for the clothes, and check for lint buildup and any electrical faults.
removing lint buildup in the dryer
To remove lint and keep it from building up in the dryer, you’ll need to clean the lint trap after every load and occasionally unhook the dryer vent and vacuum it out as well.
Smoke smells and what causes them in a clothes dryer
Smoke smells could be coming from lint that has gotten too close to a heating element, or it could be from an electrical short or surge.
clothes smell like smoke after drying
This could be related to the heat setting you placed the dryer on before use. If the setting was too high, some of the fabrics may have scorched.
common dryer smells and whether or not you should be concerned
There are some common dryer smells that don’t require any level of concern. A new dryer may smell like burning plastic on its first few runs. Simply run a cycle or two without any clothes in it to get rid of the smell.