How To Get A Burnt Smell Out Of The Microwave

Stacy Randall
by Stacy Randall

It’s movie night, and you cannot wait to cozy up with your family and watch a flick together. You hear the microwave running and smell the delicious familiar smell of buttered popcorn, with a few faint background “pops.” All of a sudden, there’s a putrid odor, and your entire family is yelling and running into the backyard.

Microwaves are amazing inventions that can save us a lot of time and money, but unfortunately, they aren’t foolproof. If you burn something, it requires time and effort to get rid of that “burnt smell.” Vinegar, lemon, coffee, and baking soda are all great ways to get rid of the burnt smell from your microwave.

You should avoid using chemicals and cleaners when dealing with a burnt microwave smell for a couple of reasons. First, the chemical smells can combine and make it even smellier, even creating toxic fumes. Secondly, you cook foods in your microwave and don’t want it soaked with chemicals; homeopathic methods are best.

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What Causes Burnt Smell?

Microwave ovens work 6 times faster than conventional ovens, which is why they’re so popular. They work using radio waves that can focus directly on the foods themselves instead of the container they’re in). Often people say microwaves cook food “from the inside out,” although that’s kind of a misnomer.

Microwaves use radiation to channel heat energy directly to the particles of food, using roughly 5-inch long radio waves. They rely on water to take that heat energy, just as if you were cooking pasta on the stove. Without water, things tend to burn.

If you don’t have enough water in your bowl of rice, pasta, TV dinner, or microwave popcorn, scorching can occur. Popcorn is a common culprit because it often sits for long enough to evaporate water inside the kernels. The result is a disgusting, burning smell that seems to last for hours.

How Do I Get Burnt Smell Out of a Microwave?

Microwave Popcorn is an easy thing to burn, and it also smells the worst. This is due to the bag the kernels come in and the many chemicals used for the butter flavoring. There’s also a Maillard reaction when sugars are burning– many scientists say it smells similar to bearcat urine.

If you’ve burnt popcorn, you’ll definitely want to act quickly to get that smell out of your microwave! The good news is that you can use various things that you can find around the house.

Tools and Materials You May Need:

  • Water
  • A microwave-safe container (like a coffee mug)
  • Dish soap
  • A lint-free cloth
  • Lemon juice
  • Vinegar
  • Coffee
  • Salt
  • Activated charcoal
  • A sponge
  • Paper towels
  • Baking Soda
  • Possibly new microwave filters
  • A scraper

Method 1: Clean your Microwave with Soap and Water

Steam cleaning is a really effective way to clean anything from furniture to clothes. Fortunately, a microwave can be a built-in steam cleaner! Heat up a large cup or container filled with water for 3-4 minutes.

Next, open the microwave and use a soft sponge and dish soap to rub the sides and the glass tray. You may have to use a scraper to get any pieces that are burnt onto the glass. Finally, dry the microwave with a lint-free cloth or paper towel.

Note: Your container must be microwave safe. Otherwise, you’ll be cleaning up a spill and broken glass or plastic. And, you’ll probably have a new smell to deal with!

Method 2: Clean your Microwave with Vinegar or Lemon Juice

If the soap and water didn’t work, you might need something with a little more acidity. Both vinegar and lemon juice are wonderful cleaners, and they neutralize yucky smells.

You’ll follow the same steps as above, except you’ll mix a few teaspoons of vinegar or lemon juice into your water. Microwave in a microwave-safe container for 3-5 minutes. Finish by wiping with a cloth or sponge and drying with paper towels.

Note: If you find this still isn’t effective, you can try again. This time, put vinegar or lemon juice directly on the glass turntable. Salt can also be used to really scrub.

Method 3: Try Baking Soda

Baking soda is a natural deodorizer, and you probably already have a box sitting in your fridge or freezer. Place an open box inside of your microwave, shut the door, and leave it overnight. You could also amp up your efforts by making a baking soda/water paste and spreading it around.

A baking soda paste will be hard to get off, so please be aware of that. If you don’t have baking soda, you can try other deodorizers like coffee beans, coffee grinds, or activated charcoal.

Note: It’s essential to make sure that no one uses the microwave while the deodorizer is inside. Otherwise, you’ll have a new batch of burnt smell problems. Let your entire family know, or leave a sign taped to the door.

Method 4: Air Out Your Microwave

If closing your microwave up with baking soda doesn’t do the trick, you may want to try the opposite. Leave your microwave open all night (turn the fan on if you have one) and see if that helps. You can even unplug your microwave and bring it outside in natural air.

Method 6: Wash the Microwave Glass

Another thing you can do is to try washing the microwave glass in the dishwasher. This is quick and easy and requires almost no effort. If you don’t have a dishwasher, you can leave the glass to soak overnight in the sink.

Method 7: Change the Microwave Filters

Newer models of microwave contain charcoal filters that eliminate odors and keep them from affecting future meals. It’s best to change microwave filters every six months for over-the-range microwave ovens.

So, if all else fails — you might as well change your filter because it should be changed anyway! You can look up instructions online or in your microwave’s manual from the manufacturer.

You can also consult YouTube, where you’ll find a variety of helpful videos. You can purchase a microwave filter from Home Depot, Lowe’s, your nearest hardware store, or Amazon. They range from $9 to $20. You can also follow instructions online to clean out your charcoal microwave filter.

How Do I Get the Burnt Smell out of MIcrowave Vents?

Some microwave vents can open, in which case you can run a slightly damp paper towel or cloth over them. Try using water or a mixture of water and vinegar or water and lemon. Because soap doesn’t evaporate, it might not be the best idea.

Be very careful always when applying water to the innards of any type of electronic. It might be wise to unplug the microwave before cleaning or changing any vents.

How Do I Get the Burnt Microwave Smell Out of the House?

If a microwave oven has made your entire house stink, there are only a few things you can do. Clean your microwave with the steps described above, and try opening doors, windows, and turning on ceiling fans. An air purifier can also work wonders.

In extreme cases, you might try to bring the microwave outside overnight taking care to protect it from elements and wildlife. Household refreshers like Febreeze are under $7 and also do the trick quite nicely.

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Related Questions

Are there certain things I can avoid microwaving to avoid this problem?

Anything that’s naturally dry, such as bread, rice, or popcorn will be susceptible to microwave burning. Keep an eye on these items while they are cooking so you can quickly press the stop button.  Also, try to microwave foods quickly after you’ve purchased them and avoid letting them sit on the shelf for months.

Is a burnt microwave smell hazardous? Do I need to wear a mask?

A burnt microwave smell certainly doesn’t smell great, but it won’t harm you. You may choose to wear a mask to make cleaning more bearable, but it’s not required. If you need relief from the smell –adding a tiny dab of Vicks Vapor Rub under your nose will help!

Stacy Randall
Stacy Randall

Stacy Randall is a wife, mother, and freelance writer from NOLA that has always had a love for DIY projects, home organization, and making spaces beautiful. Together with her husband, she has been spending the last several years lovingly renovating her grandparent's former home, making it their own and learning a lot about life along the way.

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