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What Causes Oil to Leak in Dryers Over Clothes?

Christie Gross

It can be frustrating to find oil or grease stains on clothes after removing them from the dryer. While the stains might have been on the clothing items before you placed them in the dryer -- and might have just gone unnoticed -- certain components on the dryer can leak an oily substance if they happen to fail. Hold off on using your dryer until you’re able to determine whether or not the appliance was responsible for producing the stains.

Food Stains

Placing clothes with oil stains into the dryer can spark a fire.

Although you might think that the dryer is leaving oil stains on clothes, sometimes clothing accidentally gets put into the washer, and later the dryer, with stains from oily or greasy foods. Unless the stains are pretreated prior to washing, it’s unlikely that the washer will completely remove them. Once the clothes are moved to the dryer, the heat from the dryer often deepens the stains, and can leave permanent blemishes that are more noticeable after drying. Thoroughly inspect clothes before you place them in the washer and dryer. Pretreat oil and grease stains by soaking the marked areas in undiluted detergent prior to laundering.

Fabric Softener Stains

Fabric softeners, such as drying sheets, can produce grease stains on clothes when the products aren’t used correctly, according to Frigidaire. To avoid stains, the dryer manufacturer suggests that you put the drying sheet on top of the load when you start your dryer rather than putting it in first and loading clothes on top. Don’t reuse the sheet for multiple loads, and instead dispose of it at the end of each load. If the laundry is warm, don’t add a drying sheet to the dryer, as the chemicals on the sheet are more likely to come off on warm clothes and stain them. Eliminate fabric softener stains by scrubbing the stained areas with bar soap and water, then rewash in the washing machine on a warm-water setting.

Ball Bearing Lubricant

Many dryers have a ball bearing support joint that allows the drum to turn. The bearing is encased in a high-temperature lubricant that allows it to turn without creating friction. Although rare, if the bearing is over-lubricated, it’s possible that the excess grease is dripping into the drum and depositing on clothes. Inspect the ball bearing joint at the back of the dryer. It’s the component that resembles a screw in the center of the drum. Wipe around the bearing with a clean, dry cloth. If lubricant rubs off on the cloth, the bearing has too much grease. Continue to wipe the bearing until grease no longer transfers to the cloth.

Motor Oil

The dryer’s motor uses oil to run. If the motor fails, it might leak oil, which could enter the drum and stain clothes. Besides oil stains on clothes, the dryer’s tumbling action might weaken, and the motor might produce strange noises when it malfunctions. Contact a dryer repair technician if you suspect that the motor is failing.