How Does a Dryer Moisture Sensor Work?

A close up on a dryer.
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A dryer moisture sensor is a useful device that keeps your clothes from being over dried or still wet at the end of a dry cycle. There are a few basic ways a dryer moisture sensor can work.


A clean dryer.

This is the simplest set-up and the least effective. An opening inside the dryer connects to a thermostat. The dryer the clothes get, the more the opening is uncovered, allowing heat to reach the sensor. When it senses a certain amount of heat, the thermostat shuts down the dry cycle.


The inside of a dryer.

Look inside your dryer and you may see two prongs or "fingers" near the back. Wet clothes are heavier, and as the cycle spins, they will cause the two fingers to stick together, indicated to the dryer that the clothes need more time. This system is generally more reliable than the thermostat system but can become problematic if grime builds up, causing the fingers to think they're "stuck" when nothing is there.

Conductive Sensor

A washer and dryer in a laundry room.

The most sophisticated and expensive dryers have a sensor that can detect the electrical resistance present in its contents. Since water is conductive of electricity, wet clothes have greater conductivity.

Simpler sensor systems can be confounded by the presence of lint or other build-ups, and even the best sensor is far from perfect. Therefore, it is wise to always keep an eye on your clothes as they dry.