Burning Smell from Dryer? Here’s What to Do

You’ve just thrown a load of clothes into the dryer and sat down to relax when suddenly you notice a burning smell from the dryer. Now, you’re wondering if it’s something innocuous, like dust on a heating coil, or something that could start a major fire. Thankfully, we know what to do when there’s a burning smell from a dryer.

If you’d like professional help immediately, call Mr. Appliance® or schedule an appointment online with our dryer repair experts.

Causes of a Burning Smell from a Dryer

Common causes of a burning smell from a dryer include lint buildup or a failing thermostat, motor, or belt. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, appliances and electronics start 24,200 house fires yearly. About a third of fires related to dryers are caused by excess lint buildup, so it’s time to investigate.

A burning smell from a dryer is cause for alarm but not full-on panic. Many of the causes behind these smells can quickly be addressed, particularly if lint buildup is the culprit. The first thing to do is unplug the dryer and remove the clothes from the drum. This is your best bet to prevent the dryer (and your clothes) from catching on fire. Then, you can check the troubleshooting guide below to pinpoint the cause of the burning smell from a dryer.

Troubleshooting a Burning Smell from a Dryer

Here are some strategies to identify and troubleshoot the various issues that can lead to a burning smell in your dryer:

Lint Buildup

Is there visible lint buildup in your dryer? If so, that’s a major fire hazard. Thankfully, there’s a simple solution. Use a vacuum hose attachment to remove as much of the lint as possible. Be careful when vacuuming the motor and heating element. Also, clean the inside walls of the housing and the floor underneath the unit.

This is also a great time to detach the vent hose and shake the debris and lint out of it. Reassemble the dryer and try running an empty cycle to see if the burning smell goes away. Don’t leave the unit unattended as you test.

To get the most thorough clean possible, schedule professional dryer vent cleaning with Mr. Appliance.

Failing Thermostat

If lint is not an apparent problem inside the dryer, the thermostat may be failing. When a dryer’s thermostat goes bad, it can’t sense or control the temperature inside the dryer, so it may get far too hot and cause a burning smell in your dryer.

While the dryer is unplugged, use your owner’s manual to locate and remove the thermostat from the dryer. Use an ohmmeter to test the thermostat. If the ohmmeter reads anything besides zero, the thermostat needs to be replaced.

Mr. Appliance can do this dryer repair job quickly and efficiently; all you need to do is schedule your appliance repair at a convenient time.

Bad Drive Belt

All dryers, use a rubber drive belt to turn the drum. If the belt is old or slips out of place, it can melt due to friction or contact with the heating tube in a gas dryer.

Look for a long rubber belt inside the dryer and verify that it’s wrapped snugly (but not tightly) around the drum. Inspect it for signs of wear, drying, melting, or cracking. If it appears that the belt needs to be replaced, take the old one with you to the store to make sure you purchase the right replacement. You can also ask your local Mr. Appliance to source the ideal appliance part and install it for you.

Damaged Dryer Motor

An aging dryer motor can burn out and cause burning smells. If the motor is going bad, the burning smell from a dryer could be accompanied by a lot of noise. Dryer motors should always be replaced by a qualified service professional.

Burning Smell from Dryer FAQs

What does a clogged dryer vent smell like?

A clogged dryer vent can smell a few different ways depending on the operational state of the dryer. If the dryer is on, it can smell like something is on fire. This usually means that the lint is dry and starting to burn slightly.

Other common smells include the concentrated smell of fabric softener or a musty odor. Musty odors usually occur when the lint gets wet and doesn’t fully dry, leading to mildew growth in your dryer.

What to do if your dryer starts smoking?

If your dryer starts smoking, the first thing to do is turn it off. You can attempt to do this by pressing the power button on the machine or by unplugging it. Once the machine is off, keep the door closed. This prevents more oxygen from reaching the heat source.

If it is smoking heavily, dial 911 and then turn off the machine if it is safe to do so. Heavy smoke means a fire is already present.

Sometimes, a dryer can smoke a little because of motor issues, belt issues, or other mechanical problems. When this happens, turn off the dryer and let the smoke dissipate. Once it is done smoking, remove your clothes and call a dryer repair expert. If it smokes for more than 5 minutes, call 9-1-1.

Let Mr. Appliance Resolve Your Dryer Smells

Mr. Appliance repairs washing machines, dryers, refrigerators, and any other household appliance that’s giving you trouble. We offer flexible appointments that work with your busy schedule. Our flat-rate pricing means there will be no surprise add-on charges when our work is complete. Our service professionals pass background checks and receive ongoing training to ensure you always receive the best service possible.

A dryer fire can quickly become a house fire! If you have a burning smell from a dryer, unplug it and call Mr. Appliance today, or schedule your dryer repair online with our appliance repair experts.


This article is intended for general guidance only and may not apply to every situation. You are responsible for determining the proper course of action for your property and your situation. Mr. Appliance is not responsible for any damages that occur as a result of any advice or guidance derived from blog content. For the most accurate guidance, contact an independently owned and operated Mr. Appliance business for a professional custom and on-site assessment.