January 22, 2023

Why Your Clothes Dryer Smells and How to Clean It 

Having a musty or bad smell emanating from your dryer can be quite frustrating and unappealing. Not only is the odor unpleasant, but it can also indicate an underlying issue that needs to be immediately fixed.In this article, we’ll discuss various home solutions that you can use to make your dryer smell better and eliminate any off-putting, unwanted odors.On top of that, if you’re a handy person like me, who likes to indulge in a little DIY, I’ve got you some recipes with the know-it-all information you might need.Let’s start by addressing the problem.

Why Does It Smell So Bad?

The following are the most likely causes of a crappy dryer odor:

1. Lint piles up in the combustion vent: If you don't clean your dryer vents regularly, lint can accumulate in the exhaust vent and restrict airflow. You may also notice that the dryer isn't drying properly due to insufficient airflow.

2. Sweaty clothes: Items with smelly stains don't always get clean in the washer and can transfer their odor to the dryer. When the dryer’s running, the heated airflow carries the odor with it.

3. Pest infiltration: Have you ever wondered why your dryer smells like something dead is in it? Animals can enter the exhaust vent through the outside vent opening and build a nest in the housing.

What Should You Do to Make It Smell Better?

1. Clean the lint filter: As we mentioned earlier, lint building up in the vent is one of the most common causes of bad smells from a dryer. Lint is the small bits of fabric and fibers that come off clothes during the drying process.

Over time, lint can accumulate in the vent system, reducing airflow, and creating an ideal environment for bacteria and mold to grow. To prevent this, it's important to regularly clean the lint filter after each load of laundry.

2. Clean the Condenser Unit: Another potential cause of a bad smell from a dryer is a clogged condenser unit. The condenser unit is responsible for venting the hot air and moisture generated during the drying process.

If the condenser unit becomes clogged, the hot air and moisture cannot escape, which can cause mold or mildew to grow and produce an unpleasant odor. 

To avoid that, ensure that the condenser unit is clean, and run the dryer with a cleaning solution once a month. (there’s a cleaning solution recipe later in the DIY section)

3. Use Natural Fabric Softeners: Fabric softeners are a type of laundry product that’s used to improve the feel and appearance of clothes, linens, and other fabrics. They work by reducing the amount of static electricity in the fabric and by coating the fibers to make them feel softer.

It’s important to read the label carefully because some fabric softeners can cause an allergic reaction, especially if you have sensitive skin.

4. Use essential oils: You can put a few drops of essential oils like lavender, lemon, or peppermint in a dryer ball and put it inside the dryer to make your clothes smell nice.

5. Clean the drum: over time, small bits of food, hair, or other debris can accumulate in the drum, creating an unpleasant odor. To clean the drum, use a damp cloth to wipe it down, and make sure to remove any debris that may have collected in the drum.

6. Air it out: Allow the dryer to run empty for a few minutes after each use, with the door open. This will let fresh air circulate inside the dryer and help dissipate any odors that may have accumulated.

7. Regular Maintenance: Regularly maintaining and cleaning the dryer can help prevent bad smells. Make sure to clean the drum, the door seal, and the exterior of the machine. For the best result, it’s always good to follow the manufacturer's recommended cleaning schedule.

8. Dryer balls: Consider using dryer balls. These are small, ball-shaped objects that you toss into the dryer with your laundry. They help to separate clothes, which allows for better air circulation and reduces drying time. They can also absorb unwanted odors and release a pleasant scent.

9. Scented dryer sheets: You can use scented dryer sheets instead of regular fabric softener to add a pleasant fragrance to your clothes and make your dryer smell better.

DIY Detergents to Fix Dryer’s Smell

Homemade detergents for dryers can be a cost-effective and eco-friendly alternative to commercial detergents. They’re also a great option for people with sensitive skin or allergies, as they typically don't contain harsh chemicals.

Method 1: In a bowl, combine 1 cup of bleach with 1 gallon of water, toss it in the drum, and let it work its way to the bad odors.

Method 2: Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of detergent to your dryer drum along with your clothes.

Method 3: Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of vinegar to the fabric softener compartment of your washing machine, or add it directly to the dryer drum with your clothes.

Method 4: 1/2 cup of borax with 1 cup of baking soda. Add this mixture to the dryer drum along with your clothes.

Method 5: Combine 1/4 cup of baking soda with 1/4 cup of white vinegar and a few drops of your preferred essential oil.


When using homemade dryer detergents, it’s important to test a small area of a garment before using any homemade detergent on all of your clothes. That’s because some fabrics or dyes can react badly with certain natural ingredients.


In summary, bad-smelling dryers can be caused by so many factors, and it’s important to keep an eye on them and be determined to keep them as good as a newly purchased one.

It’s not much of a hassle, but if you ignore the problem, your dryer will continue to smell bad, and you may need to have a professional technician take a look at it.

In addition to that, making your own homemade dryer detergent isn’t only an opportunity for you to create a custom scent for your clothes; but it’s also super simple and cost-effective.

With a few basic ingredients and a little bit of time, you can create a detergent that’s gentle on your clothes and the environment.

Related Articles