Why Isn't My Dryer Drying Properly? 11 Common Causes to Look For

The efficiency and effectiveness of a dryer can be impacted by overloading, clogs, blockages, and other damage to the appliance.

When you're in a rush to get dressed and out the door, the last thing you need is to open the dryer and find your clothes still damp. A clothes dryer is designed to remove moisture from clothing, towels, sheets, and other laundry. This is typically accomplished by physically moving the laundry inside a rotating drum while air flows through the dryer. The air can be cool or it can be heated by an electric heat element or a gas burner, depending on the type of dryer and the selected settings. If your clothes dryer isn't performing as expected, use this guide to answer the question: Why isn't my dryer drying?

laundry room in closet with barn doors and washer dryer

Marty Baldwin

1. Incorrect Setting

Sometimes the only issue is that you chose the wrong setting for the items you're laundering. If you select an air dry or air fluff setting to dry a full load of heavy cotton items, like towels, the items are going to come out damp. Similarly, if you select a timed dry function, there is a chance that the laundry won't be finished drying once the time runs out on the dryer cycle.

To ensure clothes dry properly, select dryer settings that suit the type of laundry. High heat is typically used for heavy cotton items, medium heat works for most T-shirts, low heat is ideal for thin, stretchy items, like yoga pants, and delicate or flat dry settings are used for knit or woven items. You can also set the dryer to the auto dry function instead of relying on a timed cycle.

2. Power Supply Problems

If the dryer setting isn't an issue, there may be a problem with the power. Check to make sure the dryer is plugged in and that the circuit breakers haven't tripped. If the circuit breakers tripped during operation, you can reset the breaker and test the dryer. However, if the breaker trips again, there is likely a short that will need to be fixed by an appliance repair professional or an electrician. For gas dryers, make sure the dryer is connected to the gas supply and the shut-off valve is open.

3. Overloading

Overloading the dryer is another issue that can result in wet or damp laundry at the end of a drying cycle. For a dryer to function, there needs to be enough space for the air to flow through the laundry as it is tumbled around inside the drum. Putting too much laundry in the dryer can also lead to more serious problems, like worn drum bearings or a burned-out dryer motor. The fix for this dryer issue is easy. Check the manufacturer's directions for use to determine how much laundry you should load into the dryer.

4. Clogged Lint Filter

As mentioned, for a dryer to function air needs to be able to flow in through the blower wheel and out through the vent. The lint filter is a simple mesh screen that helps to keep the vent hose clear of debris by trapping lint before it can pass into the vent. However, if the lint filter is not regularly cleaned, it can become clogged to the point that it affects the drying function of the appliance. You can avoid this issue by cleaning the lint filter after every use.

5. Air Vent Blockage

The lint filter plays a part in preventing debris from flowing into the air vent, but over time, the vent can become blocked by lint, dust, and other debris. If the dryer air vent is blocked, even partially, airflow through the dryer is reduced, leading to damp laundry at the end of the drying cycle. It's recommended to clean the dryer air vent about once a year to clear out any debris that's trapped in the vent.

This maintenance task can be accomplished relatively easily. Start by closing the gas valve, unplugging the dryer, and pulling it away from the wall. Then disconnect the dryer air vent and use a shop vac to remove the lint from inside the vent hose. If necessary, invest in a dryer vent cleaning kit that includes a brush and a series of flexible rods to reach every inch of the air vent hose.

6. Cracked or Damaged Vent Hose

Another issue that can cause laundry to come out damp is if the air vent hose is cracked, bent, or otherwise damaged. This can reduce the flow of air through the vent, creating a problem similar to an air vent blockage. To resolve this dryer problem, it's necessary to patch or replace the damaged vent hose. Dryer air vent hoses are relatively inexpensive, so it's likely more worthwhile to completely replace the hose than attempt to patch it. Make sure when you move the dryer back into position that the air vent isn't trapped or crushed behind the appliance.

7. Faulty Door Switch

Your dryer has a door switch that keeps the dryer from running while the door is open. If your dryer isn’t working, make sure the door is closed. If the door is closed but still won’t run, open the door and manually press on the door switch before trying to start the machine again. If the dryer turns on, you may simply need to make an adjustment on the door so that it presses down on the door switch when closed. If it still doesn’t run, you may have a malfunctioning door switch that needs to be replaced.

8. Worn Drive Belt

A dryer drum needs to be able to rotate to keep laundry moving. Otherwise, laundry just sits in the bottom of the dryer and only the clothing on the top will come in contact with the air flowing through the unit. The dryer spins the drum with the help of a drive belt connected to the motor. However, if the drive belt is worn, stretched, cracked, or otherwise damaged, the drum may not be able to rotate during a drying cycle.

This dryer repair is more advanced, so it's best to leave it to a trained appliance repair professional. They will need to open up the top and front panels of the dryer, disengage the belt from the motor and pulley, then replace the old belt with a new one to fix the issue.

9. Heating Element

As stated, your dryer makes use of heat and airflow to dry your clothes. In electric dryer units, air is heated by an electric heating element. In gas dryers, the air is heated with a gas burner. Check your heating element to make sure it’s heating the air. Make sure that the heating element is clean of any debris and that it isn’t touching other parts of the dryer. If the heating element isn’t working, you may need to replace it.

10. Blower Wheel Failure

The blower wheel is responsible for pulling air into the dryer from the outside and blowing it past the heating element to warm the air before it flows through the rotating laundry drum and out the dryer air vent. If your dryer makes rattling sounds or violently vibrates during operation, the issue is likely the blower wheel.

A professional appliance repair technician will be able to inspect and replace the blower wheel if this part is causing problems. It isn't recommended to tackle this fix on your own, as it requires opening up the back panel, separating the top and front panels from the main dryer cabinet, pulling the drum off the drum bearing, and unscrewing the blower wheel from the motor to complete the replacement.

11. Blown Thermal Fuse

A thermal fuse is a necessary safety component that prevents a dryer from overheating during operation. However, if the thermal fuse blows, it may stop one or more components of the dryer from working properly. This problem can be fixed by replacing the thermal fuse with a new fuse that is compatible with the make and model of the dryer.

You can attempt this repair on your own, though it may be easier to hire a professional appliance repair technician to source the correct parts and complete the job. If you try to tackle this fix as a DIY project, you will need to unplug the dryer, open the back panel, locate and disconnect the thermal fuse, and install a new thermal fuse to fix the issue.

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