how to clean a smelly clothes dryer

How to Clean a Smelly Clothes Dryer and Odor Prevention Tips

It’s a familiar scene for many: you eagerly open your dryer, expecting a burst of freshness, only to be hit with an unwelcome stench. Fear not! We’ve crafted an extensive guide on how to clean a smelly clothes dryer, ensuring every laundry session ends with the aroma of cleanliness.

What Causes Dryer Odor and How to Clean a Smelly Clothes Dryer

Before delving deep into the cleaning regimen, it’s essential to understand what might be causing that off-putting aroma in the first place.

Dryer Makes a Burning Smell

Ah, that dreaded burning scent! More often than not, lint accumulation or a clogged exhaust vent is to blame. Remember, lint is incredibly flammable; thus, tackling this issue is crucial for both the freshness of your clothes and your safety.

  1. Deep Clean the Lint Screen:
    • Always start by turning off and unplugging the dryer.
    • Gently remove the lint screen, typically located either inside the dryer door or on the unit’s top.
    • Using a soft brush or your hands, delicately remove the accumulated lint.
    • For a comprehensive clean, place the lint screen under lukewarm water and scrub gently using a soft-bristled brush with a mild detergent.
    • Allow it to air dry completely in a shaded area before reinstalling.
  2. Inspect and Clean the Dryer Exhaust Vent:
    • Carefully move the dryer away from the wall to access the back.
    • Disconnect the exhaust hose from the dryer’s back.
    • Employ a long, flexible brush or a vacuum cleaner extension to extract lint build-up from inside the hose.
    • Once cleared, reattach the hose securely and return the dryer to its original position.

dryer smells bad

Mildew Smell in Dryer

If your dryer smells eerily like an old basement or, worse, like something perished inside, it’s likely mildew’s handiwork. Damp clothes left inside the machine for too long can cultivate a moist environment, a haven for mildew.

  1. Thorough Lint Filter Cleaning: Start as previously directed by meticulously cleaning the lint filter.
  2. White Vinegar Magic:
    • Soak a few sturdy towels with white vinegar until they’re damp but not dripping.
    • Place these in the dryer and run a full cycle. White vinegar’s acidity acts as an organic dryer odor remover, neutralizing and banishing those foul smells.

Complete Dryer Cleaning Steps

To guarantee your appliance is entirely odor-free and running efficiently:

  1. Interior Drum Deep Clean:
    • Combine equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle.
    • Spritz the solution generously inside the drum.
    • Using a microfiber cloth, wipe down the entire interior, focusing on any stained or sticky spots.
  2. Exterior Perfection:
    • Combine a few drops of mild dish soap in a bucket of warm water.
    • Soak a cloth in this mixture, wring out excess water, and wipe down the dryer’s exterior. This not only cleans but also adds a subtle shine.
  3. Inspect Drum Seals and Door Gasket:
    • The drum seals, usually found at the front and back of the drum, can often harbor lint, hair, or even small lost items like socks.
    • Use a flashlight to inspect these areas, removing any debris you find.
    • Additionally, clean the door gasket (the rubber seal around the door) using the vinegar-water solution. This prevents mold and mildew buildup.
  4. Monthly Maintenance is Key:
    • Beyond these steps, make it a ritual to give the lint screen a quick clean post every drying cycle.
    • Dedicate time monthly for a thorough dryer check-up, ensuring any potential issues are nipped in the bud.


With these steps on how to clean a smelly clothes dryer, your clothes and laundry room should be smelling fresh and clean! For those who’ve ventured into these steps and still encounter an adamant odor, or if any step feels too daunting, it’s time to call in the experts. Mid America Service offers top-tier professional dryer repair services to put your concerns to rest.

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