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Why Does My Tumble Dryer Smell Bad?

smelling clothes from tumble dryer

You’ve washed your clothes in the washing machine, with your favourite smelling soap powder. Clean, fresh, and ready for drying, you pop them into the tumble dryer and put your feet up – life’s going great!

Sometime later (why did I hear that in Spongebo’s voice), when removing your clean and dry laundry from the tumble dryer, you notice a horrible smell. What is that?

Sometimes the tumble dryer is to blame because there are some things that can cause a tumble dryer to smell, just like any other appliance. So let’s talk about some of the most common reasons for this, and what you can do about it.

When Your Dryer Smells Like Mould

The smell of mould usually arises if the water tank has not been emptied for a long time. This can cause mould to form, which in turn causes a bad odour. Empty the tank and let it dry well, if you noticed that it looks black or dirty, or smells really bad, rinse it out with hot water and lemon juice. The dryer usually indicates when the tank needs to be emptied.

Nevertheless, you should not leave the water in it for too long. Empty it out at least once a week.

Another common cause of musty mould smells in the dryer, is from damp clothes being stored in the drum for too long with the door close. Do not leave damp washing sitting on the dryer for more than 24 hours, as this will result in a mouldy smell developing.

Burnt Smell in Dryer

There are several possible causes here. The foul odour could be a defective electrical wire, jammed drive belt, motor problem, or excessive internal dust build-up because of a blocked filter.

First, check and clean all filters, and use a vacuum cleaner nozzle to get into gaps to remove any accumulated dust. Ensure you’re cleaning the lint filter regularly. If this does not go away, inspect the internals, looking for burned wired or damaged rubber drive belts – if anything looks burned or damaged, call a technician.

Do not use your dryer again until any fault has been professionally repaired or replaced.

Plastic Smells

A strong plastic or chemical odour can occur especially with a newly purchased device. This usually disappears by itself after a number of cycles. If, on the other hand, the smell occurs with an older machine, a dirty exhaust air hose may be the cause. In this case, remove the hose, rinse it with hot water and then let it dry well before reattaching it.

Generally, brand new dryers smell of new plastics, paints, and rubbers, as the dryer has been sealed since production, trapping these chemical smells. Some people like this smell of “newness”, like a new pair of shoes.

Clean These Dryer Parts Regularly

Water tank: empty the water. Depending on the humidity of the laundry, it may be necessary to empty it after each use. But even if the dryer does not indicate the change, you should empty the water weekly to prevent unpleasant odours

Lint filter: After each use, remove the lint that has collected here with your hand or a brush
Heat exchanger: With most devices, it can be pulled completely out of the machine. Then you can rinse it off with a hand shower. Then let it dry well. If it cannot be removed, just wipe it with a damp cloth. It is enough if you do this once or twice a year.

Exhaust hose: Rinse with warm water every three months.

Back of the tumble dryer: clean once a year with a vacuum cleaner.

Moisture sensors: Put vinegar on a cloth and rub the sensors to remove scale or residue from the fabric softener. Then let it dry well. Depending on how much lime there is in your tap water, cleaning should be done every two to six months.

Tumble Dryer Smells Like Fish

If your laundry has a fishy smell after drying, then the problem probably could be from plastic parts heating in the dryer. Old plastic, in particular, can give off unpleasant odours if it gets too hot as a result of a clogged lit filter. Check the filters for a blockage.

Smells Like Rotten Eggs

The extremely unpleasant smell is usually also caused by dampness. To fix, wipe the inside of the dryer drum thoroughly with fragranced cleaning wipes, such as Flash or Dettol wipes. Sometimes, this can be worse with heat pump tumble dryers because of stale water on the heat exchange.

Further, if you’ve had damp washing sitting in the machine for some time, and some items were still a little dirty, the smell can become quite unpleasant, so always dry clothes as quickly as possible.

Dryer Smells Like Urine

The cause here is usually from the laundry. To get rid of the odour, fill a dryer ball with vinegar or lemon water and put it in the wash. Then clean the inside of the dryer thoroughly with warm water, in which you put a few drops of detergent beforehand.

Rewash all the clothes will strong detergent. Sometimes clothes have sweat mixed with antiperspirant in the fibres, which is hard to remove and can cause a foul smell when wet.

Use Dryer Balls

Fluffy laundry, fewer wrinkles and lower energy consumption when drying – that is what the little miracle balls promise. Various materials are available and can help make your drying laundry smell great.

Wool balls: gentle on washing, biodegradable, suitable for allergy sufferers and can be coated in fragranced essential oils of your choosing.

Plastic: Heavier, louder and often provided with knobs that loosen up the laundry. The plastic alternative can handle heavy items of laundry and spraying them with Febreze can add come nice smells to your drying load.

Ceramic: Stable and with a non-slip, porous surface. An additional plus: the hollow interior can be filled with fragranced water, which then evaporates in the dryer and provides an additional soothing effect and pleasant odour.

Related: Do tumble dryer balls work

Other Strange Smells From The Dryer

bad smell from tumble dryer

If you use an exhaust air dryer for your laundry, you should check where the air that is drawn in is coming from. Because the exhaust air dryer leads moist air into the open air and draws in the fresh air. If this is already contaminated with odours, these can later also be found in the dryer.

Reasons Why the Dryer Smells

Sometimes the laundry comes out of the washing machine smelly because, for example, it was not washed hot enough and bacteria remains. Since the fabric softener covers unpleasant smells at first, nobody will usually notice it. So do not use the additive the next time you wash and then check your laundry. If you have been able to narrow down the cause of the odour to the washing machine, it is time to thoroughly clean the washing machine.

Dry Clothes Properly

You can avoid or dispel most odours with little effort if you heed the following tips:

Put damp laundry in the dryer immediately, don’t let it sit for hours. If the wet things lie around too long, they start to smell musty.

If your clothes are still stained after washing, help by hand and remove the stains. On the other hand, if you just put the dirty things in the dryer, the heat could ingrain the stains in the fabric.
Also, be sure to clean and maintain your dryer regularly. Then you will literally have your fragrant laundry in dry towels in the future.