How to Troubleshoot a Dryer That Smells Like It Is Burning

A burning smell coming from your dryer is not a good sign—it’s a fire hazard. Try removing any built up lint from the lint catcher, cleaning the inside of the dryer, and/or cleaning the hose duct and vents. If the smell persists, you may need to check the electrical components inside the dryer and have them replaced. Stop using the dryer immediately and, if necessary, call an electrician to fix it.


[Edit]Removing Lint Buildup

Remove any lint from the lint catcher. This is the small mesh screen that pulls in and out of the dryer. For forward-facing dryers, it can be located on the front of the loading panel. For top-load dryers, it may be located under a small flap.[1]
Clean the lint catcher after each load to avoid lint buildup and, consequently, a fire hazard.

Unplug the power cord from the wall. Disconnecting the power is a necessary safety precaution before messing with any parts of your dryer. If you have a gas dryer, turn the gas valve on the dryer line or turn the valve supplying gas to your whole house. Then unscrew the flex hose to disconnect the dryer from the gas line and use a gas line cap to seal the line until you’re done cleaning the dryer.[2]

If you’re not sure whether your dryer is gas or electric, refer to the manual or look up the manufacturer and model number online for more information.
Some dryer manuals will also give you specific cleaning instructions.

Use a screwdriver to remove the top panel of your dryer. Lint can build up in the screen (especially if you don’t clean it after each load), falling down into the shaft that holds the lint catcher. Removing the top panel will allow you to clean any lint that may have fallen beyond the lint trap. First you’ll need to take out the screws located around the opening of the lint trap. Then pull the entire top panel towards you and lift it up to release the metal catches.[3]

If your dryer faces forward, the metal catches are typically located about to down from the top and up from the floor. You’ll have to slide the panel upwards or downwards depending on how your dryer is assembled.
If your dryer has a condenser unit that holds the lint trap, remove it from the dryer and rinse away any lint under the faucet of a large sink. Make sure to rinse both sides of the unit and let it air dry for a few hours before inserting it back into the dryer.
You may need to wedge a screwdriver between the top or front panel and the base of the dryer to pry it open.

Use a dryer brush to remove lint from the lint filter opening. Depending on your dryer, the lint filter opening will look like a rectangular tray (this is where the lint catcher slides in and out) or a deep crevice (for front loading machines). Stick a dryer cleaning brush down into it and twist it around, moving it back and forth to get all of the lint out.[4]

You can purchase a dryer lint cleaning kit at any hardware store.
If you don’t have a lint cleaning brush, you can use a large pipe brush cleaner or a vacuum with a hose attachment that’s small enough to fit inside the opening.

Replace the lint trap, the lint panel, and plug in the dryer to test it. After cleaning the most common places for lint to accumulate, replace all the parts and reconnect the dryer to the power source. If your dryer is gas-powered, reconnect the gas line and turn it on. Run the dryer for up to 1 or 2 minutes to see if the burning smell is gone.[5]

If there’s no smell you can use your dryer as usual—just remember to clean out the lint trap after each load.
If the burning smell persists, there may be lint stuck around the parts inside of the dryer.

[Edit]Vacuuming the Inside of the Dryer

Unplug the power cord and disconnect the gas, if applicable. You’ll need to shut off the power and gas to stay safe before opening up the body of your dryer. If your dryer is gas-powered, turn the gas valve on the dryer line to the “off” position or turn off the valve supplying gas to your whole house. Then unscrew the flex hose to disconnect the dryer from the gas line and use a gas line cap to seal the line.[6]
Refer to the manual that came with your electric or gas dryer if you’re not sure where to locate the power cord or gas line.

Use a screwdriver to wedge open and remove the bottom panel. Insert a screwdriver into the gaps close to the where the catches are (usually at the top corners of the panel). You may need to slide the screwdriver to the left or right and wiggle it around until the catches release.[7]

Refer to your dryer’s manual to see exactly where the catches are and if there are any additional instructions about how to remove the panel.
If your dryer doesn’t have a removable panel underneath where you load clothes, you may need to slide it away from the wall and remove the back panel.

Use a vacuum’s hose attachment to suck out any lint buildup. Sometimes lint can drop into the body of the dryer, coming in contact with the heating element and causing the lint to heat up (hence the burning smell). Use a vacuum attachment to clean out all the lint.[8]

Reattach both panels, replace the lint screen, and test the dryer. Reattach the bottom and top panels, sliding and pushing them into the correct position until you hear the catchers click into place. Then replace the screws on the lint trap opening before plugging in the dryer. Run it for about 1 or 2 minutes and if you still notice the burning smell, stop it immediately and unplug it again.
If the smell persists, you may need to clean the hose duct or call a professional.

[Edit]Cleaning the Hose and Vent

Unplug the power cord from the wall for safety purposes. Make sure there is no electrical current running to your dryer before you handle any parts of it. If your dryer is gas-powered, you should also turn off the gas. Turn the valve connecting your dryer to the gas line to the off position or shut off the main valve that supplies gas to your entire house.[9]

Unscrew the flex hose to disconnect the dryer from the gas line and use a gas line cap to seal the line until you’re done cleaning the dryer.
Failing to disconnect the power can result in moderate shocks to electrocution, so be sure to disconnect it!

Slide the dryer away from the wall to access the exhaust hose. Slowly pull the dryer away from the wall so you can access the venting hose, the flexible tube connected to the back of your dryer.[10]
Depending on your model, the hose may look shiny and silvery or like white corrugated plastic.

Use a screwdriver to unscrew the clamps that hold the hose in place. Loosen and unscrew the clamps that keep the hose attached to the dryer and the wall. Detach each end of the hose and pull out as much lint as you can with your hand. Use a vacuum with a long wand attachment to clean deeper into the tube.[11]

Clean out the hose every 6 months or so because lint buildup is a fire hazard.
Look at both ends of the hose to check for any kinks—these small depressions can reduce airflow and allow bits of lint to get into the central dryer cabinet.
Dryer repair companies can also clean this for you if you don’t want to do it yourself.

Use a dryer vent cleaning brush to clean out lint from the vent. The vent is where the hose attaches to the wall. It’s easy for lint to get trapped in the vent. Use a cleaning brush with a long stick attachment to pull out lint, making sure to clean as far into the vent as you can.[12] long stick attachments. You can fit these together to make a or cleaning tool to go deeper into the vent if necessary.}}

[Edit]Inspecting Internal Parts

Use a multimeter to see if you need a new thermostat. The thermostat monitors the internal temperature of the dryer and shuts it off if it gets too hot. If your thermostat is broken, the burning smell could be due to overheating. Unplug the machine, remove the back panel of the dryer, and remove the small cylindrical or rectangular-shaped thermostat by disconnecting the wires from both sides. Then set your multimeter to the lowest ohm reading (RX1) and place the two probes of the meter to the terminals (on one each, it doesn’t matter which color probe goes on which side).[13]

The terminals are the two metal prongs on either side of the thermostat.
Before disconnecting the thermostat wires, take a photo to keep track of which wires go where or jot it down on a notepad.
At room temperature, the multimeter should have a reading of zero. If it reads infinity, get it replaced.

Inspect the heating element in electrical dryers for signs of breakage or burning. The heating element looks like a coil (made of nickel and chrome) or series of interconnected coils housed inside a small open-faced box. Unplug the machine and remove the back panel in order to access it. Take it out by unscrewing the sensors located at the top and bottom of the vessel and unhooking the 2 wires located below the bottom screw.[14]

Be sure to inspect each coil. If you see any dark spots (blackening) or broken coils, call a repair service to replace the element.
If two adjacent coils are touching (as if they’ve been smashed together like a slinky), it could cause an electrical short and needs to be replaced.
You can also use a multimeter to test for proper functioning. Set the multimeter to the continuity setting and press the probes onto the wire terminals (one on each terminal) located at the outside corner of the encasing. If the multimeter beeps, the element is still good. If it makes no sound, the element needs to be replaced.[15]

Inspect the wires attached to the heating element in a gas dryer. If you have a gas dryer, the heating element is located inside the electrical cabinet on the backside of the dryer. Look for a long white or silver cylindrical tube (the combustion tube) with two or three wires attached. If the wires or old or have come unattached, they may have partially melted and caused the burning smell.[16]

Call a professional to replace the belt if you see physical slack or damage. The belt loops around the drum, under the pulley, and around the motor pulley. A worn out belt might loosen, causing slippage, friction, and heat (hence the burning smell). Unplug the dryer, slide it away from the wall, and remove the back panel to access the belt. It should be tightly wound around something that looks like a pulley system.[17]

In some models, the belt and motor pulley are located toward the front of the machine. If this is the case, remove the front panel in order to access and inspect the belt.
Use your hand to tug on the belt, making sure it remains taught. If you notice any slack, parts that appear melted, or sections that have been rubbed away (revealing the internal fibers), call a professional to replace it.
Be careful when inserting your hand into the body of the dryer, the edges of the cabinets and internal casings are sharp!
Depending on the make and model of your dryer, the belt will be located either behind the back panel or behind the front bottom panel.


Get a dryer lint cleaning kit from any hardware store to help you clean out lint buildup.
Have a friend or family member help you remove the top or front panels of the dryer.
Read the instruction manual that came with your dryer for disassembly and cleaning instructions.


Always unplug the dryer before cleaning it.
If the burning smell persists, you may have an electrical issue inside the dryer. Do not use the dryer and call a professional repair service.

[Edit]Things You’ll Need

[Edit]Removing Lint Buildup

Dryer lint cleaning brush
Vacuum (with hose attachment)
Dryer lint cleaning kit (optional)

[Edit]Cleaning the Venting Hose and Duct

Vacuum (with hose attachment)
Dryer lint cleaning kit (optional)

[Edit]Inspecting Electrical Parts

Multimeter (for thermostat and element inspection)
Screwdriver (for thermostat and belt inspection)


[Edit]Quick Summary