Why Do My Clothes Smell Weird from the Dryer?

Updated November 21, 2016

When you pull your clothes out of the dryer after doing a load of laundry, they should smell like your detergent or your dryer sheet. If your clothes smell weird after you remove them from the dryer, however, it is a warning sign that your dryer requires maintenance. Once you handle the problem, the smell will go away.


The two most common smells to encounter inside a clothes dryer are the musty odour of mould and the smoky smell of something burning. These odours can be alarming, especially if you smell smoke while the dryer is operating and think that you have an electrical fire or that your clothing is burning. The odours do not remain inside the dryer; they can get into your clothes during the drying process. Instead of smelling fresh and clean, your laundry could smell of mould or smoke.


The earthy smell of mould is caused by mould spores living inside your dryer. Your laundry area is a moist environment and can be a target for mould growth unless it is well ventilated. If you leave wet clothing in the washing machine for a day or two, mould and mildew can grow on them. If you do not notice and throw them into the dryer, the mould spores can linger inside the clothing, imbuing it with an unpleasant odour. Additionally, when lint builds up within your dryer, it overheats when you run the unit. While it usually does not catch fire or even begin to smoke, overheated lint emits a smoky odour that gets into your clothes.


Removing the mould spores will remove the odour of mould from your dryer. Pour ½ cup of bleach into a gallon of water. While wearing gloves, use a sponge to wipe down the interior and exterior of your dryer. Then wipe down the interior and exterior with pure water. To remove the smoky odour of lint build-up, remove the lint. If you cannot reach the lint with your fingers, purchase a wand at a home improvement store and run the wand up and inside the lint trap area of your dryer to pull free all of the lint. Once the lint is gone, the smoky smell will dissipate too.


Installing an exhaust fan in your laundry area and running it whenever your washer or dryer are in use will help reduce moisture build-up and the risk of mould growth. Avoid letting wet clothes sit in either the washer or dryer for an extended amount of time. While the smoke smell lint gives off does not mean it is burning, lint can catch fire. Always clean the lint trap after running of load of laundry through your dryer. This helps your dryer run more efficiently and reduces the risk of weird smells and fire danger.

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