'Burning smell' in clothes dryer – stark warning over common oversight

Firefighters have issued a stern warning after “a strong smell of burning” led to a dangerous discovery in one family’s home.

The surprising source of the smell was found by the Berowra Rural Fire Brigade in northern Sydney after emergency services responded to a call for help last week.

To alert other residents, the brigade posted an image of the cause — a huge pile of lint trapped in the family’s clothes dryer — on social media.

“This photo of a lint filter was from a local resident’s home after they could smell a strong smell of burning and called 000,” they wrote on Facebook.

The large pile of lint found in the family's clothes dryer.
A huge pile of lint found in the family's clothes dryer was the source of the 'burning smell'. Source: Berowra Rural Fire Brigade

“They were unaware that a dryer’s lint filter existed and needed to be regularly cleaned out.”

The brigade warned others to frequently clean out their lint filters to avoid disaster.

The Northern Beaches Police Area Command backed up their concern, urging people to not forget to clean the lint filter in their dryer “on a regular basis”.

“With such a wet season and more to come, people have been using their clothes dryers more often,” police wrote online, referring to the persistent rain that has plagued NSW and Queensland for most of the year.

While numerous social media users insisted they clean their filter out after every use, other Aussies have previously not been so lucky.

Lint build-up in dryers can cause fires

In 2019, a family from Murrumbateman, about 30 kilometres northwest of Canberra, were sitting in their lounge room when their clothes dryer suddenly caught fire.

They were able to quickly move the dryer outside and extinguish it with a garden hose, Simon McGrath from the Murrumbateman Rural Service told the Canberra Times at the time.

The clothes dryer on fire as family members try to put it out with a garden hose.
In 2019, a family's clothes dryer caught on fire in their Murrumbateman home. Source: Murrumbateman Rural Fire Service/Facebook

The NSW Rural Fire Service later posted images of the charred and flaming appliance to Facebook as a warning to other homeowners.

“A terrifying event for a local family,” the fire brigade wrote.

A RFS spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia that people should always call 000 during a fire and have working smoke alarms.

Protecting yourself and your home

Lint is highly flammable and can be a recipe for disaster if it makes its way into a dryer’s heating element.

The RFS recommends cleaning the lint filter each and every time a clothes dryer is used to reduce the risk of fire in your home.

After removing them from the appliance, simply scrape the fluff off and dispose of it before placing the filter back into place.

Homeowners should also vacuum any lint that may accumulate at the back of the dryer because it can also be a hazard.

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