It is disappointing to find that your clothing isn’t dry after you specifically put it in the dryer. It’s especially disheartening if you are doing washing at odd hours or in-between working schedules and don’t have the time to deal with complications.
So, if you find a load of clothing in varying stages of wetness and dryness, it’s likely due to one of the following reasons. I have highlighted what issues cause this and how you can resolve it to save you time, money, and inconvenience.
Dryers can leave clothes wet if:
- Drum is overloaded
- Vents are clogged
- Heating element is faulty
- Ignitor is faulty
- Gas supply is insufficient
- Cycling thermostat is broken
- Thermal fuse is broken
- Timer is faulty or set wrong
- Drum is not rotating
- Air supply is insufficient
- Makeup air is required
1. Overloaded Drum
Running bigger loads might seem like a more effective use of the dryer cycle, but it can prevent clothes from drying properly and damage the appliance’s heating element and dryer belt. Unfortunately, it can also end up scorching your clothes.
Overloading can mean there simply isn’t enough room in the drum for the rotation to aerate the clothing properly. This will result in poor airflow that cannot reach all parts of the clothing inside.
As load size increases, the heating element must run hotter for longer. This strains the component and increases wear and tear, resulting in failure.
The weight of the drum is why the dryer belt can stretch out. Meaning that there is no smooth rotation or any rotation at all to aerate the clothing because of a lack of tension.
You either need to reduce the amount you put in the dryer at once or get a bigger dryer with a greater drum capacity that can handle heavier loads.
2. Clogged Vents
As strange as it sounds, if your dryer’s ductwork is clogged, this can lead to undried clothes.
A buildup of dirt and lint in the vents provides extra resistance to airflow through the system or can create blockages.
The exhaust system is supposed to remove the hot air from the machine. If this hot air is not being exhausted correctly because the volume of air able to fit through the ducting decreases, it stays in the dryer.
The buildup of heat that results can trip the thermal fuse as the dryer begins to overheat. The fuse turns off the heat source to help balance the temperature and prevent fires. The problem is that this stops the dryer from functioning properly.
You need to clean out your dryer vents. I also recommend cleaning or replacing the lint filters, as they are the first defense against lint in your dryer ducting.
Cleaning the actual ducts should be done annually at the very least. You can use a vent brush and vacuum to clean out the ducting (including the flexible duct at the back of the dryer).
Lint filters need to be checked every few weeks. Cleaning or replacing might not need to be done as frequently as this, but keeping an eye on things is helpful.
How often you need to maintain the filters depends on how much you use the dryer, it could be every few weeks or months.
3. Faulty Heating Element (Electric Dryer)
The heating element is supposed to last 8-18 years, but this is often not the case. The heating element in electric dryers can fail after a year, making it a little harder to catch if you expected the part to be fine.
They can be faulty from the start or become defective due to age, faults in other components, or poor airflow (overloading or clogged ducts).
Aside from clothes that aren’t drying because the element is not heating up, if you notice any black or brown staining on the clothes coming out of the dryer, that is a sign your element is burnt out.
Faulty heating elements are not repairable and will need replacing. However, replacing this dryer component is one of the tougher jobs. You can always hire a professional, which will cost more, or you can do it yourself.
If you choose the DIY option, check out this article on DIY installation for a heating element.
4. Faulty Ignitor (Gas Dryer)
Your ignitor might be broken if the dryer isn’t working correctly. This is how gas dryers ignite and turn gas into heat energy.
The delicate filament of the component does eventually burn out, or it can be faulty to begin with (either from manufacturing or being touched during installation). Power surges can also damage the ignitor.
If the ignitor is broken, it cannot heat up (glow) and is not able to light the gas supply, meaning that no heat is provided to the machine for drying your clothing.
You can confirm the problem by testing the ignitor. It is located in the front of the burner housing underneath the tumbler. If your multimeter (amazon link) shows zero or infinity (O.L.), you know the ignitor is not working.
You need to replace the ignitor. Connecting the new component will allow the gas fuel to be burned and heat to be supplied to the clothes in the drum again.
5. Insufficient Gas Supply (Gas Dryer)
It’s frustrating to find that your gas dryer is failing to dry your clothes thoroughly. It means you need to sort out a problem. If it has the audacity to have picked up a whistling sound too, that adds insult to injury.
However, this can be helpful since you are more than likely dealing with a gas supply problem. The whistling sound comes from the pressurized gas being forced through a reduced opening within the gas assembly.
In all cases, less gas is being admitted into the burner housing because something is blocking its path. That something is more than likely dirt, although the valves and coils can be faulty.
Dirt can build up around and in the gas assembly, constricting gas flow. Less gas means less heat energy for the drying function.
First, you must access your burner assembly by deconstructing your dryer.
You can test the gas valves and coils for resistance if no obvious dirt is blocking them. You will need to replace the part if they are broken and not opening fully.
If you have a dirt problem, you will need to clean inside the burner assembly and the dryer casing. Dirt can also come from inside the gas pipes to create these blockages, so you should check your sediment trap.
6. Broken Cycling Thermostat
The cycling thermostat is a temperature control feature for dryers. It monitors the heat of the air going into the drum, signaling the heating element/ignitor on and off to maintain a steady temperature for the machine.
It prevents the air from getting too hot from the heat source being on for too long. However, if this component is faulty or broken, it can misfire and cause the heat source to turn off even when the air isn’t getting hot enough to dry the clothes.
The solution is to open the dryer access panel (or you may need to deconstruct the whole dryer), so you can see the cycling thermostat. You need to unplug the dryer (and disconnect the gas) before you start working on it.
Use a multimeter set to ohms (W) to test the wire terminals of the thermostat. If your reading is not zero or infinity, then you have found your problem.
Once you have located a replacement part, installing it is relatively simple. You need to remove the old thermostat and mount the new part.
7. Thermal Fuse Is Broken
The thermal fuse might also be the problem. This is a type of thermostat within the dryer that you will find on the blower housing.
The thermal fuse is a safety feature to prevent the dryer from overheating. It monitors the temperature within the machine and trips if the temperature gets too high.
A broken thermal fuse can mean that your dryer’s heat source isn’t able to turn on. So, if you notice this or keep returning to a still-wet mess, this can be the issue.
Thermal fuses need to be accessed and checked. It is attached to the blower housing, so you need to open up the dryer and get under the drum.
Then, disconnect the wires from the fuse and test its terminals for resistance using a multimeter. You should receive a reading of zero ohms for a working component and no change if it’s blown.
Once you have determined that the fuse is your issue, you need to replace the part. Remove the old fuse from the blower housing and connect the new fuse to the housing and the wires.
8. Timer Is Faulty or Set Wrong
Your dryer’s timer may be faulty or incorrectly set. The timer directs electricity to the dryer’s heating element and the motor. Thus, it controls if the dryer heats and dries.
If the timer is faulty or set wrong, the heating element or ignitor may not be receiving the appropriate signals, if any at all. If there is no heat, then your clothes aren’t going to dry.
A faulty timer may also stop moving, meaning the signals for progressing the drying cycle aren’t being given.
To test whether the timer is sending a signal to the heating element, you need to test the contact for resistance. Each dryer has its own wiring diagram for the control panel for your reference.
Unplug the dryer and open the control panel. Turn the dial to an “on” position that uses heat, and test the contacts with a multimeter.
The two largest/thickest wires are the ones for the heating element. These are commonly red and black, but this can differ across brands and models.
If your reading isn’t zero, it means the timer needs to be replaced. The same solution applies to a timer that doesn’t move.
9. Drum Not Rotating
Although heat is the main reason water is removed from your clothes, drying them, the drum plays an important role in the heating being able to reach all the clothes.
The drum rotates, tumbling and mixing the clothes. This allows the hot air coming through the drum to pass by all parts of the clothes.
If your clothes come out with wet and dry patches, it is likely that the drum is not able to rotate properly or at all. The cause is likely the dryer belt, which can be broken, stretched, or slipping.
In addition to clothes that aren’t properly drying, there are a few signs that your dryer belt needs replacing:
- The drum isn’t turning or only spins occasionally.
- There are thumping sounds coming from the dryer as it runs.
- The machine keeps stopping during a cycle.
Dryer belts aren’t supposed to need frequent replacing, but it can happen.
You can address the issue of wet clothes by replacing the belt if stretched, worn, or broken.
A slipping dryer belt can occur because of the belt itself, but it might also be a problem with the motor, pulleys, or tension. You will need to install a new belt since the slipping happens when it becomes damaged, but you will also need to address the issue causing damage to the belt.
10. Insufficient Air Supply (Gas Dryer)
Dryers need oxygen (combustion air) for a complete combustion process, which is an exothermic reaction and, therefore, produces heat.
When there is not enough oxygen for this reaction, incomplete combustion occurs. Incomplete combustion produces less energy, creating less heat, and making it less efficient. It also produces carbon monoxide.
This means that less heat than is necessary for a regular cycle is being provided to the dryer, so your clothes aren’t drying properly.
Combustion air can be supplied naturally by the air that slips through the building’s thermal envelope, but it can also be provided mechanically if the need arises.
The problem might be that the room is too airtight, or there isn’t makeup air to protect the combustion air.
You need to ensure a good supply of oxygen to the dryer. This might mean you need to install a makeup air unit or ensure the dryer is not running while a nearby exhaust system is on.
You can also open windows near the appliance while running a heated drying cycle.
11. Lack of Makeup Air
Makeup air is required for gas dryers that are installed in a closet, have an exhaust rate of 200 CFM or more, or if they share a room with an exhaust system that affects the dryer’s function.
These situations can create a negative air pressure system that interferes with the dryer’s air supply if natural air infiltration cannot compensate for the loss.
Not only can this negative pressure system steal a gas dryer’s combustion air to balance itself out, but it can pull air back out of the dryer, creating a backdraft.
So, not only is the dryer producing less heat from incomplete combustion (which also produces carbon monoxide), but the air it heats can be pulled back out of the appliance into the room. This includes combustion gases.
You can provide makeup air passively by opening windows or doors. This means that air is pulled from outside instead of from the dryer. However, more than likely, you will need to install a makeup air unit.
These units bring in air to specifically make up for deficits in the air system caused by an exhaust system.