At first, Carey Sue Ellens' Frigidaire Affinity Series dryer only caused problems on the high heat setting.
Her family's clothing would come out dry but pockmarked with circular black marks, a waffle pattern of burns that matched the dryer's exhaust grate.
To avoid the burn marks, Ellens began drying clothes on a lower setting.
Her solution worked, for a while. About six months ago, Ellens began noticing black marks even when she used the lowest setting. The machine burned holes in some of the clothes and left a substance she describes as "black melted crud" on others.
Hoping to get to the root of the problem, Ellens began calling Electrolux, Frigidaire's parent company. By then, the dryer had cost her more in damaged clothing than she paid for the machine three years earlier, she said.
Initially, Electrolux told her there was nothing it could do.
The Glen Ellyn resident hired a local appliance repair company, which tried unsuccessfully to fix the unit.
Undeterred, Ellens found contact information for an Electrolux representative and sent him an email. In the months that followed, Ellens and the representative kept a running dialogue about repairs. Electrolux picked up the tab for many of the parts and consulted with the repair company to ensure things were properly fixed.
Over the summer, technicians replaced the dryer's exhaust grate three times, as well as the thermal limiter, a gas valve and the main control panel.
Despite multiple attempts to repair the dryer, Ellens' clothing continued to burn.
In late July, the Electrolux representative told her the company had run out of ideas. He offered to let Ellens buy a new Frigidaire Affinity Series dryer at 50 percent off.
On Sept. 20, Ellens purchased a $999 dryer, for which Electrolux promised to reimburse her about $500.
But after about a dozen loads, the new dryer began burning her family's clothing, too.
Frustrated, Ellens emailed What's Your Problem? in early October.
"I feel like I have nowhere else to turn, and quite frankly I'm out of money and patience and my laundry is backed up," she said. "At this point I've got two useless dryers and a family of seven."
Ellens said she has been drying clothes on the lowest setting or hanging them to dry. On several occasions, she has given the laundry to her mom, who can dry the clothing for $1.25 a load in her building.
"I call this a nightmare," Ellens said.
The Problem Solver called Eloise Hale, a spokeswoman for Electrolux. On Tuesday, an Electrolux technician visited Ellens' house and attempted to diagnose the problem.
Ellens said the repairman instructed her to stop using dryer sheets, to replace the ridged exhaust tube with a smooth one, to regularly clean out the lint trap with a brush and water, and to leave the door to the laundry room open to help prevent overheating.
"I am 41 years old. I've been doing laundry for 31 years at least. I just kept looking at him like, really?" Ellens said.
The tech told her that if she had taken these measures on the first dryer, she would not have had to purchase the second one. Electrolux then agreed to pay the entire cost of the second dryer, Ellens said.
In a statement emailed to the Problem Solver, Hale said Electrolux takes the safety of its products seriously.
"Unfortunately, Ms. Ellens' dryer duct was installed incorrectly when she purchased her first dryer. She used a 15-foot flexible duct instead of a standard 8-foot rigid duct," Hale said. "This was causing the marks on her family's clothes. Though we did not install her first dryer or duct, we only determined this cause in our recent troubleshooting. As a result, we are reimbursing Ms. Ellens for the appliance and service repair expense that she incurred for the second dryer."
Although Ellens is skeptical the technician's suggested measures will solve the clothes burning problem, she said she already has implemented them and hopes they will work.
"I'm not optimistic about anything at this point," she said. "I really truly want it to work, but I worry it's not that simple."