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Dryer Burning Clothes | Reasons & Solutions

Dryers are supposed to make your life easier. So, when they are spitting out burn-marked clothing, it is easy to feel betrayed and frustrated.

Thankfully, many of the reasons for your dryer burning clothes can be solved with minor repairs that oftentimes can be done on your own. You don’t want to let these problems linger, though, because the longer you wait, the more difficult they may become to fix. 

Overloaded drums, blocked vents, and bad venting impede airflow, so clothes burn. Broken belts don’t turn the drum, worn rollers and glides create gaps that snag clothes, and faulty thermostats and broken heating elements produce too much heat. Install, use, and maintain the dryer properly to solve this.

Overloaded Drum (Air Can’t Flow Properly)

The size of each load you put in your dryer can drastically affect your dryer’s ability to function. An over-loaded drum is a common issue when it comes to clothes not being completely dry at the end of the cycle as well as clothes coming out scorched. 

loading too much clothes in dryer

Why This Causes Clothes to Burn

When a dryer is loaded beyond its normal capacity, this allows less room for the air to flow and dry the clothes. The hot air will concentrate in pockets among the clothes in the drum, exposing them to a consistent heat that will cause them to burn.

Furthermore, the drum itself is made of metal and will be heated by the hot air. When the clothes can’t tumble correctly because the drum is overloaded, then they will remain in contact with the hot metal for longer than they should.

It’s much the same principle as ironing. You need a hot iron to take out wrinkles, but the iron must keep moving over the fabric or it will burn it.

How to Tell This Is the Cause

One way to tell if your drum is overloaded is to feel the casing of your dryer while it’s running. Usually, the casing nearest the pulley motor (near the bottom) of the dryer will be unnaturally hot (i.e., hotter than usual) to the touch due to the motor working harder than it should in order to turn the overly heavy drum.

An overloaded dryer is notorious for leaving parts of your clothing wet because they have not been exposed to the hot air. So, a dryer load that is comprised of clothing that is scorched, clothing that is dry, and clothing that is still wet is likely too large a load for the drum to handle.

Solution and Future Prevention

To avoid burning your clothes from an overloaded drum, simply load your dryer with fewer clothes. It may seem like you’re being more efficient with a large load but in most cases it’s counter-productive. Another thing to avoid is tumble drying soaking wet clothes as these are much heavier than clothing that has been spun dry.

fewer clothes in dryer

In the long run, you will save your dryer wear and tear as well as money on the electric bill.

My recommendation is to check the weight capacity of your tumble dryer and take the time to weigh a load of freshly washed (and spun-dry) clothes. See what amount of clothing brings you to the weight capacity so that you can judge all future loads.  

Blocked or Clogged Dryer Vents

Overloaded dryers can also result in a blocked internal vent.

Dryer vents can also become clogged with lint, dust, and small pieces, such as buttons, that may break off of your clothing in the dryer.

Illustration of Blocked or Clogged Dryer Vents where the air does not exit the vent properly compared to the unclogged filter where the air can exit the vent properly

Why This Causes Clothes to Burn

The air that enters and moves around the drum also needs to be able to escape in order to prevent sustained exposure of fabrics to hot air. When the dryer drum is overloaded, the internal vents that shuttle hot air out of the drum can be blocked by the clothing and over-exposure occurs.

Similarly, when the lint filters in these vents as well as the external vents are clogged, the hot air cannot escape and it sits in the drum, burning your clothes. Lint build-up is completely normal, but it has to be managed or it causes more problems than just burned clothes (lint is flammable!).

How to Tell This Is the Cause

There are a few different ways to tell if your dryer’s vents are clogged. 

If the clothing comes out of the dryer covered in lint, then this can be a sign that the vent is being blocked by material and/or that the lint filters are clogged and the airflow out of the dryer may be restricted.

clothes in lint

Another way to tell is if the casing of the dryer (usually the side where the blower motor is) is warmer than usual. You may even feel that the room in which the dryer is installed is starting to get hotter than normal while running the appliance.

You can also remove the lint trap to see if it is full.

Checking the exterior exhaust is also an option. If the terminal vent is clogged, there will be a good amount of debris surrounding the exhaust. 

Solution and Future Prevention

Depending on the severity of the lint build-up, you may be able to use a vacuum cleaner to solve the problem. Simply use the vacuum to clean out the vents for lint and debris. If this doesn’t work, the issue may be further inside the ducts and you may need to consult a professional technician to clean these out for you.

To prevent a similar situation in the future, be sure to keep the lint filter cleaned out. Vacuuming the vent areas regularly will also be beneficial.

Cleaning your vents regularly to avoid lint build-up is important to not only save your clothes from burning but also to prevent a fire from starting. 

Improper Venting 

It’s always important to follow the recommendations of the manufacturer when venting your dryer (this is what the building codes tell us).

added venting

There are certain materials that are prohibited from use as dryer ducts for very good reasons. These materials include PVC, ABS, and foil duct. There are also specific sizes that the ducts need to be as well as specific lengths.

When you go against installation instructions, then you risk improper functioning of the dryer, which can result in your favorite jumper coming out of the dryer with a black scorch mark.

Why This Causes Clothes to Burn

The way that improper venting causes clothing to burn in the dryer is by impeding proper airflow in much the same way as a clogged or blocked vent.

  • When you use a plastic material like PVC or ABS, then static can build up within the dryer ducts. This will readily catch lint, which accumulates to the point where airflow is impeded.
  • Foil ducts have a ridged inner surface, perfect for collecting piles of lint and restricting airflow.
  • Ducts that are too narrow will more easily be blocked by the normal level of lint build-up that is expected with a dryer.
  • Ducts that are too long are susceptible to condensation as the hot, moist air cools down before it is exhausted outside and all the water in this air condenses out. Water catches lint and can cause blockages in the ducts.

There are two ways that this increases the heat in your dryer. The first is that it is harder to get the hot air out of the drum, so it is in contact with the clothing for longer. The second is that the dryer’s motor will be working harder to move the air and can over-heat, adding to the excessive temperatures in the drum.

How to Tell This Is the Cause

If your dryer isn’t vented properly (e.g., you are using a condensation box instead of venting outside) or the vents are being clogged, you’ll be able to tell because you can probably smell it. In many cases, a poorly vented dryer will give off a burning smell

If there is no smell given off but your clothes are still coming out burned, check the back of your dryer. If there is a ventilation issue with the dryer, you’ll be able to identify discoloration near the back of the drum where the dryer became too hot. 

You can also check the material and size of the ducting to make sure that it conforms to the code.

Solution and Future Prevention 

Identifying this issue early on is important to ensure your clothes no longer get burned as well as prevent a bigger issue like a fire. A burning smell or discoloration of your dryer means it’s time to get your exhaust and lint trap checked out. 

Calling a professional in this situation would not be a bad idea given the potential fire hazard. This will also allow you to see exactly how to prevent another build-up from occurring. 

Broken/Stretched Dryer Belt 

Broken or stretched dryer belts in a properly functioning dryer don’t spring up until the dryer has gotten older and close to the end of its life.

inside a dryer

However, there are a plethora of other reasons why dryer belts break too soon or break repeatedly. Some are in your control and others are not, but they all have the potential to lead to your clothes burning.

Why This Causes Clothes to Burn

When the dryer belt is stretched, then it can slip over the drum without turning it. When the belt first begins to stretch out, this slip and the resulting pause in the tumbling action shouldn’t cause too much of an issue.

But, over time, it can happen more and more frequently during the cycle. The result is that there are times when the drum is not moving at all. It can also slip off the drum and pulley system completely.

When the belt is broken, the drum won’t turn at all. Now, many machines won’t turn on when the belt is broken, but there are still some older models that will still generate heat, even if the drum doesn’t turn.

The result of both stretched and broken belts is an uneven distribution of hot air in the drum and prolonged periods of time when the clothing is just sitting up against the hot metal of the interior surface of the drum.

Both conditions can lead to your clothing being burned.

How to Tell This Is the Cause

You’ll know the belt is the issue if the drum is no longer rotating or only rotates intermittently when the dryer is switched on. Having some clothes scorched and others still wet can also be a sign of belt issues. Then, of course, there is the tell-tale thumping sound.

Solution and Future Prevention

If the belt is stretched or broken, it will have to be replaced. Luckily, this is a very common problem with dryers and is something you could repair on your own. Just be sure to purchase the correct belt for your specific make and model. 

Also, be sure not to overload your dryer to avoid excessive strain on the dryer’s inner workings.  

Worn Rollers

Many models of dryers are held up by a set of roller wheels. If the bearings of these rollers become worn, the drum shifts, and the opening of the drum will no longer be properly placed up against the door of the dryer.

Illustration of worn rollers that leads to the drum and door of a dryer being misaligned compared to the normal case where the drum and door is aligned

Why This Causes Clothes to Burn

Worn rollers cause clothes to burn because of the gap that is created. Clothes can easily get snagged and stuck in this gap and because of the excessive friction, scorch and burn marks will be left. It’s also possible for your clothes to tear when this happens. 

Clothes getting caught in the gap created by worn rollers can also interfere with the dryer’s thermostat. False readings of the thermostat can cause the dryer to keep the heating element on for too long, which can also lead to some clothing items being burned. 

How to Tell This is the Cause

You’ll be able to tell if your rollers are worn because the dryer will make some sort of noise. Scraping, squealing, or thumping are all possible signs that the rollers have to be replaced. Additionally, as mentioned already, you may also fund your clothes to be torn as well as burned.

Of course, a sure sign that your drum is not sitting correctly is finding a visible gap or an item of clothing stuck between the drum and the dryer.

Solution and Future Prevention

Most appliance parts stores will have replacement rollers that you can install yourself. Be sure to check the make and model of your dryer so that you buy the correct parts. 

A professional technician is also an option when replacing worn rollers.  

Worn-Out Front Glides 

In the front of your dryer are either nylon or plastic glides that give support to the drum. If worn out, the drum can become misplaced and drop slightly. This misplacement can potentially create a gap allowing tumbling clothes to get stuck in between the drum and the outer structure of the dryer. 

Worn-Out Front Glides that causes gap where clothing falls and get trapped

Why This Causes Clothes to Burn

Worn-out gliders can cause clothes to burn because they get stuck in the gap it creates in the same way as worn-out rollers.

It’s very common for scorch marks to appear if this is the case. Also, clothes may rip or tear because of this issue. 

How to Tell This Is the Cause

The purpose of gliders is to ensure that the drum rotates smoothly. Aside from your clothes coming out of the cycle damaged, you’ll be able to identify the front gliders as the problem because of the noise your dryer makes while it’s running. 

Broken or worn front gliders will make a scraping or screeching noise because the drum isn’t turning properly.

Again, seeing that the drum has moved or finding an item of clothing such in the dryer are indicators of this issue.

Solution and Future Prevention 

The solution to this problem is replacement.

When replacing your front glides, know that you will want to replace both even if only one seems to be the problem. Gliders are typically sold in sets anyway, so you’d only be doing yourself a favor in the long run.   

If you don’t want to call a professional technician, glides can be replaced relatively easily as a DIY project.

Faulty Thermostat 

All dryers come equipped with a thermostat that regulates the temperature within the drum. Once a certain temperature is reached, the thermostat switches off the heating element so that the air within the dryer can begin to cool and avoid overheating or burning your clothes.

Why This Causes Clothes to Burn

A faulty or defective thermostat within a dryer can cause the dryer to never heat up in the first place. However, it can also cause the dryer to heat up beyond what it should. Obviously, if your dryer never begins to cool down, the result is going to be burned clothing items. 

How to Tell This Is the Cause 

Unlike some of the other causes of burned clothes, telling if your thermostat is faulty isn’t quite so easy.

If your dryer is noticeably overheating, be sure to check for other issues like the ones addressed previously, then if this yields no fruit, you can look into the thermostat.

Solution and Future Prevention 

Testing the thermostat of your dryer requires a device called a multimeter (amazon link). A test that proves your thermostat is not the issue should give a reading of zero or infinity. A reading of any other value means your thermostat is faulty and will need to be replaced. 

Learning more about your dryer’s thermostat will help prevent it from failing as well as testing to see if it’s defective. Keep in mind a professional technician is recommended for issues concerning the thermostat.  

Broken Heating Element 

Finally, broken heating elements are another reason your clothes are coming out scorched and burned.

Essentially, if the heating element is broken, the element wire may be loose creating a grounded element. In this instance, the heating element won’t cycle between on and off based on information from the thermostat. Instead, it will always stay on. 

Why This Causes Clothes to Burn

Obviously, if the heating element isn’t cycling, you’ve got a problem. Clothes get burned due to this because instead of the heat turning off, it stays on and continually heats your clothes unchecked.

clothes burning

Unless you were to manually turn the dryer off and remove your clothes before it gets too hot, they will get burned. 

How to Tell This is the Cause 

If you’re noticing that even during the cool-down phase of your drying cycle the dryer is still very hot, it’s most likely due to a broken heat element.

You can easily test to see if the heating element is malfunctioning by placing your dryer on a setting that doesn’t use heat. If it still heats up, then you have an element problem.

Solution and Future Prevention 

A broken element has to be replaced.

This is another relatively easy maintenance job and can be done on your own. Just be sure to purchase the correct replacement parts according to your make and model.  

Sometimes, the black/brown stains on your clothes are not scorch marks. There are a number of other reasons why your clothes come out of the dryer stained.


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