A tumble dryer is a great bit of kit but in order to get the best from it, you’ll need to treat it correctly. Read on to find out what that means.
Maintaining a Tumble Dryer
As your tumble dryer ages, its components will begin to deteriorate, but thankfully, we can limit this deterioration. Regularly cleaning the key components on the interior of the dryer can help in a big way.
Many tumble dryers come equipped with a sensor, that’s role it is to detect how wet your laundry is. Over time, as the drum accumulates tiny particles of dirt from your clothes, this sensor might stop working properly. You can prevent this by wiping the drum down every few months, either with vinegar, or with a special stainless-steel cleaner.
Another important device within the dryer is the lint filter (or ‘lint trap’); a fine mesh which allows air to circulate through the dryer, whilst preventing lint (small, fine fabric fibres from your clothes) from passing through. Over time, the filter will become blocked with these fibres, which will make the dryer work harder at forcing air through while preventing it from working to its maximum capability. Clean the filter in order to prevent this.
If you have a condenser dryer, you’ll have a few additional components to worry about. One of these is the heat exchanger. The heat exchanger’s role is to cool the steam in your dryer to convert it back into water. In order to be effective, it’ll need regular cleaning. You might do this by rinsing it with tap water, and thereby removing any stray dirt. Some dryers will come with self-cleaning exchangers, which allow them to work effectively for longer periods without maintenance.
Another device unique to the condenser dryer is the water tank. This is where the water condensed by the exchanger will end up. It will gradually fill over the course of a cycle – and if it fills up beyond a certain safe threshold, it’ll stop the dryer in its tracks. In order to prevent this from happening, be sure to empty the tank before each cycle.
What can go wrong with a tumble dryer?
Like all electronic equipment, things can and do go wrong with tumble dryers. Let’s take a look at some of the more common problems you might encounter.
Why is my tumble dryer tripping the electric?
You might find that every time you turn the dryer on, the power trips out, and you must reset the fuse box. This means the dryer is drawing more power than it should. This might happen for several reasons, but among the most common is that the heating element is damaged or dirty, or that it working too hard because of a clogged lint filter.
If your dryer is adequately cleaned and maintained, then you might need to call out an electrician to find (and fix) the source of the problem.
Why is my tumble dryer not heating up?
If your tumble dryer is blowing cold air, then it won’t be able to dry your clothes very well – if at all. There are a few different faults which can prevent the dryer from heating up:
Blown fuse – at the back of your machine, behind the panel, is a fuse. Unplug the wires from either side and remove the fuse. Test it, and, if necessary, replace it. Be sure that your replacement is of the same size and rating. If necessary, take your old fuse to the hardware shop to secure a perfect match.
Bad switch – it might be the controls that move the temperature up and down are broken. In order to test this, you’ll need a multi-meter. Remove the cover from the front of the dryer’s control panel and set your probes on either side of the switch terminals. If the reading doesn’t change when the switch is depressed, then it isn’t properly bridging and will need to be replaced.
Broken thermostat – if your dryer can’t accurately read the temperature within the drum, it might assume that the temperature is already high enough – or too high – even when it isn’t. The result is a dryer that never heats up. The thermostat is at the back – place the probes of your multi-meter on either side to establish whether it’s working.
Broken coils – the heating coils themselves may be broken, in which case you’ll never be able to get the dryer to heat up. These coils can be found at the back of the dryer, too – and should be tested in the same way.
Why is my tumble dryer getting so hot?
If your dryer is getting too hot it could be several of the components above, most notably the coils or thermostat, that might be to blame. Follow the directions we’ve already outlined. Alternatively, the culprit might be a lack of ventilation. Check that the lint filter on the front of the dryer isn’t blocked, and, if it’s a ventilation dryer, that the vent leading to the exterior of the house is clear.
My tumble dryer is making a grinding noise
If a foreign object has found its way into the dryer, particularly if it’s pressed against the drum, then all sorts of ghastly noises can be heard. If yours makes a grinding noise, then the chances are that something is lodged in there – perhaps loose change or keys that have slipped out of someone’s pockets. Disconnect the dryer from the vent hole at the rear and turn it on for a few seconds to see if anything is forced from the rear of the dryer. If that doesn’t work, turn the dryer off and vacuum the interior.
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My tumble dryer is not going around
If the drum inside your dryer is not rotating, its efficacy will be seriously limited. In the vast majority of cases where you can hear the motor spinning but the drum isn’t rotating, the culprit is a broken belt. This is the strip of fabric which connects the drum to the motor. If it breaks, you’ll need to replace it.
If not, the roller might be the problem. This is the device the drum sits on, that allows it to roll. It’s easy to replace; just open the dryer, remove the front panel and then the tumbler, and you should be able to access the roller. A bad roller is one which has worn so much that it no longer presses against the drum.
Sometimes the problem might be a little less easily defined. The pulley configuration on the drive motor might be out of alignment, and a little bit of re-jigging might be all that’s necessary to get things working again. Only occasionally will you need to replace the entire drive motor.
What if I don’t want to do my own repairs?
All the steps we’ve mentioned can be performed by an unqualified person – but there’s always the chance that something might go wrong. If you feel more comfortable allowing an expert technician to do the job on your behalf, then hiring one might be the right move.
How to get rid of bad smells in a tumble dryer
The cause of most cases of tumble dryer smells is mould. Since the interior of a dryer is wet and warm, it can provide mould with the conditions it needs to grow. What’s more, since the dryer’s interior rarely gets looked at, it’s an area that rarely gets cleaned.
In order to eliminate mould, you’ll need to open up your dryer then locate and destroy the mould. Unfortunately, this might not be so easy. You can try wiping clean the interior with antiseptic, soaking fabric softener into a sponge and putting it in for a cycle, or doing the same thing with bicarbonate of soda in an old sock.
A tumble dryer is an extremely useful device, and with the right care and attention it can serve for a long time. When it comes to maintenance, the best approach is usually a proactive one. Don’t wait for problems to develop before getting your dryer a once-over – make it a monthly appointment, and you’ll be able to keep your dryer working with the minimum of effort.
Check out our other helpful guides below. If you have any questions about our laundry appliances, they may have already been answered there.
- Washing Machine Buying Guide
- Tumble Dryer Buying Guide
- Washer Dryer or Separate Washing Machine and Dryer?
- Top Loading vs Front Loading Washing Machine
- How to Use a Washing Machine
- Guide to Washing Machine Spin Speeds
- How Much Does a Washing Machine Cost to Use?
- Washing Machine Labels Explained
- What Washing Machine Drum Size Do You Need?
- How to Install a Tumble Dryer