How To Rid Your Clothes Dryer of Smells

Loading freshly-washed clothes into a smelly dryer certainly seems counterproductive to keeping them clean. Why does my dryer smell so bad? Clothing that stays damp for too long can develop mold and mildew that linger in the dryer drum. Determine why your clothes dryer stinks as well as how to remove odor and prevent its return.

What Do I Do When My Clothes Dryer Stinks?

While air drying your clothes may be a temporary solution, banishing odor and keeping it away are key to keeping your dryer functional. We’ll detail how to do both with a list of supplies and simple cleaning steps. But, first, knowing why your clothes dryer stinks is essential to fighting odor.

Silly cat climbed into a clothes dryer machine

Why Your Dryer Smells Bad

Dryer odor results from several possible sources, most of which are due to a lack of regular maintenance or proper use and care. 

These common causes are often responsible when your clothes dryer stinks:

  • Damp clothing:

    Allowing damp clothing to linger in the washer or dryer fosters growth of mold and mildew. Even after clothes are dried, both can remain in the dryer drum, causing odor.

why does my dryer smell

  • Pests in dryer vents:

    Small animals often seek out dryer vents for nesting, entering via the exterior duct. What if my dryer smells like something died in it? Their odors can worsen if an animal dies inside the vent or ducts.

  • Lint buildup:

    When lint accumulates in dryer vents, it limits air circulation, allowing existing odors to remain. Another sign of restricted airflow is when your dryer takes too long to dry clothes. Lint that originates from smelly clothing can also retain that odor so the dryer smells bad when running.

How to Clean a Smelly Dryer

When your dryer smells bad, a thorough cleaning can eliminate odor.


Here’s what you’ll need:


  • Clean rag
  • Towels
  • Bleach
  • Water
  • White vinegar


After disconnecting the dryer’s power, follow these cleaning steps:

Dirty and clogged lint filter from a clothes dryer, from doing laundry.

Step 1: Clean the lint trap


Remove the lint trap and wipe away any accumulated lint with a clean rag. Use a vacuum’s narrow hose attachment to remove smaller particles. To remove residue, run the trap under running water, scrubbing it with a soft brush before letting it air dry.

Step 2: Clean the lint trap housing


While the lint trap is drying, remove any accumulated lint in the trap’s housing with the vacuum hose attachment. Vacuum the floor around the dryer as well, particularly under the vent.

Step 3: Remove lint from dryer vent


Move the dryer away from the wall and disconnect its vent. Vacuum out the vent to remove lint and foreign objects. Make sure you clean the vent opening and flaps on the exterior of the house as well. Reconnect the interior vent and reposition your dryer. 

Step 4: Wipe down the dryer’s interior


Dip a clean towel in a solution of  1 cup bleach diluted with 1 gallon of cool water. Alternatively, you can dip the towel in white vinegar. Wipe down the dryer drum with the towel, dipping it in the bleach solution or vinegar repeatedly, as needed. Wipe the dryer door and its seal as well before leaving the door open so the interior can air dry. To lessen the odor of bleach or vinegar, dampen a second cloth with water and wipe down the dryer again before air drying.

Step 5: Wipe down the exterior


Don’t forget the exterior when your clothes dryer stinks; lint and dirt can collect on the outside too. Wipe down the outside of the dryer with a damp cloth and dry it thoroughly before restoring the dryer’s power.

Woman doing laundry by putting clothes into a dryer

Tips to Prevent Dryer Odors

Once your dryer is clean and odor-free, some simple maintenance can prevent its return.

Use these dryer maintenance tips to keep bad smells at bay:

  • Remove damp clothing quickly: To prevent mold and mildew, take damp clothing out of the washer as soon as the wash cycle is complete, drying it immediately.
  • Clean the lint trap before each drying cycle: Remove lint with your hand or a clean paper towel and regularly clean the trap and its housing with a vacuum hose attachment.
  • Maintain dryer vents: Clean your dryer vents annually to remove lint and debris. You may need to clean them more frequently if bad smells return or the dryer takes too long to dry clothes.


Is your dryer still plagued with bad smells or just not working like it should? It may be time for a professional assessment. Contact Salem County Home Services today to handle any clothes dryer repair!

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