Why Would Clothes Smell Bad After the Dryer? [An Expert’s Guide]

Picture this: you have an important job interview in a couple of hours. To prepare, you do a load of laundry, including your most confidence-boosting business casual outfit.

To your horror, your dress pants and blouse don’t come out warm, fluffy, and wrinkle-free. Instead, you discover that your clothes smell after the dryer.

Why do my clothes smell after washing and drying?! This exclamation, along with other expletives, may cross your mind.

While this experience is incredibly frustrating, it can be easy to fix when you’re familiar with some troubleshooting tips.

Below, you can check out some reasons why clothes stink after washing and drying. We’ll outline tips on how to prevent having clothes smell bad after the dryer. That way, you can rock your favorite outfits and smell fresh as a daisy.

Mold & Mildew Odor: Why Your Laundry Smells Bad After Drying

Do your clothes smell like mildew after drying? Mildew and mold buildup are some of the most common culprits of foul-smelling laundry.

According to the CDC, mold, and mildew develop in the presence of excessive moisture. You may have excess moisture build-up if you wait too long to transfer your clothes from the washing machine to the dryer. Or, extra moisture can build up and lead to mold growth if you forget to turn the dryer on and leave damp clothing in it for too long.

Letting your wet clothes sit around is like letting them boil in a stew. However, instead of a delicious beef and vegetable concoction, you’ll end up with musty, putrid clothes that you’ll want to toss in the trash.

To prevent yourself from passing out after opening your dryer door, make every effort to transfer your clothes quickly. And, never forget to turn the dryer on as soon as you do.

Are you throwing your clothes into your dryer the second the timer goes off? The problem might be not with your diligence but with your lint trap. This essential device may be why your clothes smell bad after the dryer.

Allowing your lint trap to build up lint can spell bad news for your clothes’ odor. Strong smells from previous loads can find refuge in your lint trap and infect current loads.

Give your lint screen a good swipe before each load. To clean the whole contraception more thoroughly, remove the screen and use a vacuum to clean out the slot that it slides into.

Don’t Be So Quick to Blame Your Dryer — Your Washer Is Moldy

Because drying is the last step of doing laundry, you may be quick to blame your dryer for causing the odor on your clothes. However, the problem may originate with your washing machine.

Washing machines of all designs can develop mold and mildew. However, more contemporary front-loading machines are more likely to contain these fungi than machines that you load from the top.

To eradicate mold from your washer, fill the otherwise empty drum with a cup of vinegar. Run the machine for a cycle to remove mold and its associated odors. To prevent mold accumulation in the future, switch to a high-efficiency laundry soap.

Explore some specific mold-inducing issues that can occur during the washing process:

Stuffing Your Washing Machine to the Brim

over fill washing machine

We’ve all been there. Whether you’ve been pressed for time or felt unmotivated, you’ve surely thought to yourself, I can get all these clothes into one load at one point or another

While you may think doing one laundry load will save you some soap and time, it can actually make your clothes smell after washing and drying.

If you have enough dirty garments that warrant two loads, perform two loads. Don’t skimp out on the process, as doing so can make your clothes smell musty after drying.

Better Homes & Gardens suggests only filling the tub to three-fourths of capacity. Stuff it any fuller, and your washing machine won’t be able to clean your clothes effectively. You’ll likely be left with moist, smelly clothing articles that you’ll have to wash again.

Too Little Water in Your Washing Machine

Can’t figure out why your clothes smell after drying and washing? 

Your washing machine might not be using enough water. This lack of water can result in a poor cleaning job, making your clothes retain their stench.

You can adjust your machine’s water level sensor to eradicate this issue.

Your Clothes Have Gone through Heavy Use

If you or any of your family members work at an outside job or partake in heavy exercise, the clothes you wash may contain a lot of sweat and grime.

Are you not sure why your duvet or blanket smells after washing and drying? The dirt and perspiration from a family member may be transferred to the other items you wash.

To fix this issue, separate your laundry loads by category. Wash each family members’ items separately, as well as blankets and towels. This way, your husband’s sweat won’t touch your son’s clothes or your family’s towel set.

Why Do Clothes Stink After Drying? — Dryer Complications

You keep swearing to your husband that the smell from your dryer isn’t quite musty—it almost has a chemical smell.

You aren’t going crazy. If your clothes stink after drying, the odor doesn’t necessarily have to be mildewy or musty.

You might be getting more of a synthetic, chemical smell.

If your clothes smell bad after drying and give off a chemical odor, explore some potential causes below:

You Have a New Dryer

brand new washing machine

A new dryer should be producing sweet-smelling clothes right out of a Febreze commercial. Right? Who doesn’t want their clothes to smell like fabric softener?

Not so fast. All new machines need to undergo a process called off-gassing, which is when they release VOC (volatile organic compounds) and other chemicals after manufacturing. During off-gassing, your dryer will burn off any debris left behind when it was made.

As unpleasant as this process sounds, it’s unavoidable with a new dryer.

However, the off-gassing process should only last for about one or two 50-minute laundry sessions. It may go on for a little longer if you tend to use shorter drying sessions.

If you smell a chemical-like odor that lasts for longer than two weeks, the cause is likely something other than off-gassing.

If your dryer isn’t brand-spanking new, you can keep reading to determine the potential cause.

There’s Something Stuck Inside Your Dryer’s Drum

If the question Why do my clothes smell after drying? is plaguing your nightmares, the answer might be closer than you think.

Take a close look inside your dryer’s drum. Is there anything stuck to the inside of it? Even a tiny candy wrapper or sticker attached to your drum can emit a pungent smell as it burns during a drying cycle.

If you don’t take action to remove these, the pungent smell will stick around for the long term.

Use a multi-surface stain remover like Goof Off to chip away these stubborn stickers or wrappers. The Goof Off might leave some residue behind, but you can easily get rid of it using soap, water, and a washcloth.

You Accidentally Mix Elastic Items in with Your Clothes

If we haven’t yet answered your inquiry about Why do clothes stink after drying? the problem may lie in your actual clothes.

Some garments like bras and underwear contain elastic bands. These elastic components can burn in high heat.

To pinpoint the items that are causing the chemical odor, try smelling all your articles separately. The ones with burning elastic will stick out as the strongest.

If you have certain items emitting a burning smell, you don’t have to resort to hand-washing and air-drying. Just make sure you’re following the washing and drying instructions on the clothes’ labels for minimal issues.

Avoiding Mold, Mildew, & Chemical Smells in Your Laundry

If your clothes smell after drying, you’re not alone. There are multiple potential causes, but you’ll be able to get to the root of the issue once you evaluate your laundry habits and the condition of your washer and dryer.

Use this guide to ensure everyone in your family can dress confidently and leave a fresh fragrance everywhere they go.

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