Why Your Oven Smells Like Burning Plastic (& What to Do)
Your oven should only have the pleasant aroma of the tasty cinnamon cookies or the savory rosemary and lemon roast chicken you made earlier.
But what if, instead of these pleasant aromas, your oven smells like burnt plastic? Well, if it’s any relief, an oven smelling like burnt plastic is a pretty common problem.
Some people describe it as a weird burning chemical smell, while others who’ve been in your shoes before call it a choking burning rubber odor. Regardless of how you describe it, check out the whys and how to fix the issue below.
Three Reasons Your Oven Smells Like Burnt Plastic and What You Can Do
Oven smelling like plastic? Here are three possible reasons why and how you can handle it:
You Forgot to Remove the Zip Ties
Most oven and appliance manufacturers often use zip ties to secure the grills and other oven inserts during transit.
If you recently bought a new oven and forgot to inspect it before use (don’t beat yourself up, it’s an honest mistake, after all, who wouldn’t be excited over a new oven?), you may have accidentally burned these zip ties. That’s probably why it smells like burnt plastic whenever you run your oven.
Check out the steps you should take to get rid of the lingering burnt plastic smell
- Remove all the oven inserts, place them on a flat surface, and put an ice pack on parts with the burnt plastic residue to harden them so you can remove them. If the residue was already cool, use a scraper to remove it.
- As the ice on the inserts melts, check and remove the residue of the molten zip ties from the oven cavity.
- Using a mild dishwashing detergent and a scrubbing pad, give your oven and the inserts a good clean down.
- Dry the oven cavity using a clean microfiber cloth and leave the inserts out to dry.
- As the inserts dry, fill a bowl or a cup with an odor absorber such as white vinegar, place it inside the oven cavity, and close the oven door.
The irritating burnt plastic smell should be gone by the time you remove the odor absorber. Replace the inserts, and enjoy cooking from a plastic and odor-free oven.
Note, instead of white vinegar, you can also use baking soda, fresh coffee grounds, or activated charcoal as the odor-absorber if you happen to have it.
It’s a New Oven Smell
If you remember to remove the zip ties and your oven smells like burnt plastic when you run it, you’re probably dealing with a new oven smell. Yes, you read it right; new ovens do have a burnt plastic smell. And it’s usually due to the insulation around the oven cavity being exposed to high heat for the first time.
In other instances, it can result from the protective oil coating used during manufacture burning. In both instances, the best way to eliminate the irritating odor is by breaking in your oven. Here’s how you do it:
- Using hot soapy water and a clean microfiber cloth (or your regular kitchen cloth), wipe down the oven cavity and the inserts
- In an oven-safe bowl or container, make a white vinegar and water solution or a lemon and water solution (whichever tickles your fancy) and place it in the oven
- Run the self-cleaning cycle for about half an hour, and then remove the bowl
The solution aided by the self-cleaning cycle will leave your oven smelling fresh. Note, you can always place the solution in there and leave it without running the self-cleaning cycle, but it’ll take much longer, usually about one to three hours, to absorb the smell.
Electrical Wiring Issue
If your oven isn’t new and the only time you experienced this issue is when you were breaking it in, the burnt plastic smell could signify your oven has an electrical wiring issue. Such problems occur when an electrical malfunction short circuits your oven’s wiring, conversely melting its insulation. Sometimes a short circuit may even cause other oven components to burn, resulting in a foul, burning rubber or plastic-like smell. To determine whether that’s the culprit, do the following:
- Unplug the oven from the power outlet
- Inspect the interior for signs of burned wiring insulation or oven components
- If any, call in a professional and have them diagnose and fix the problem
Note, burnt electrical wiring or components in an oven could be a sign of problems with the heating element, and it can be dangerous. Let a professional handle the issue as they’ll come equipped with the tools and have the skills to fix it safely.
Burnt Plastic Container
If you placed a plastic container in your oven and forgot all about it, the irritating smell could be due to it melting away. Here’s how to remove it and get rid of the smell as well:
- Let the oven cool off so the molten plastic can harden for easier removal. As in the earlier molten zip tie removal process, you can also use ice packs if you want to speed up the process
- Once it cools down and forms the residue, remove the racks, and peel it off. Do the same for any residue that might have found its way to the oven cavity
- Use a hot soapy water solution and a dish-friendly scrubber to scrub off the inside of your oven, and do the same for the racks
- Dry the oven and the inserts using a clean cloth
- Pour some baking soda on a plate, and leave it in there for a few hours to deodorize your oven
Your oven should be clean and free of any odors by the time you remove the baking soda. Note, if you don’t have time to wait for the plastic residue to harden, you can always scrape it off. But remember to wear your oven mitts as its interior might still be hot, and you don’t want to risk burns. Also, always remember to use oven-safe crockery (look for the oven-safe symbol). Here are examples of ovenproof materials to look out for:
- Stainless steel and cast iron
- Ceramic kitchenware
- Food-grade silicone
Avoid putting anything plastic or wooden in your oven as it’ll either melt or warp.
Is Inhaling Burnt Plastic Fumes Dangerous?
Although inhaling burnt plastic is generally not good for your health, how dangerous it is depends on the type of plastic material burnt. For instance, although it’s technically plastic, polypropylene is a long-chain polymer and is considered generally safer. However, that doesn’t mean you go inhaling its fumes.
Other plastic materials, for instance, PVC and polyurethane, produce toxic fumes, and inhaling them can be pretty bad for your health. They may release toxic fumes such as;
- Carbon monoxide
- Sulfur dioxide
- Volatile organic compounds
All in all, while some plastics produce less toxic fumes, it’s advisable you steer clear if possible as they’re not only bad for you in the long run, but also the environment. In unavoidable scenarios such as when your oven smells of burning plastic, open your windows and doors to promote ventilation and ensure you identify and fix the issue as soon as you can.
Natural Ways to Get Rid of Oven Smells
Besides burnt plastic smells, your oven can sometimes retain odors caused by grease and food spills, and sometimes it may even smell of pee. While cleaning helps clear these smells, some are usually too strong to get rid of using only a detergent. Here are some natural odor removers to use in such instances:
White vinegar contains acetic acid, which is known to have antibacterial and antifungal properties. The acid also bonds with volatile molecules making white vinegar an incredibly efficient deodorizer. To get rid of burnt plastic and other odors from your oven using white vinegar, mix it with water, place on the lower rack, and turn your oven’s self-cleaning function. The steam will absorb all the odors, leaving your oven’s interior fresher than ever before.
Lemons have a strong astringent scent that creates a hostile environment for bacteria and contains limonene, a natural compoundthat has a pleasant, lemony scent, is a good solvent, and helps neutralize odors. The citric acid in lemons is equally good at neutralizing compounds that cause bad, irritating smells such as amines. As a result, lemons are pretty efficient in absorbing odors in not only your oven but also your entire household.
To clear bad oven smells using lemon, mix ½ a cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice with an ⅛ cup of baking soda and two cups of water in a bowl, and place it in your oven. Like the vinegar and water solution above, the steam will absorb the odors and impart a nice citrus aroma in your oven.
And if you want to make it smell even more pleasant, fill an oven-safe container with an inch of water, add three slices of lemons, two stalks of lemons, and a teaspoon of vanilla. Place it in your oven, and turn on the heat to 120C. Leave it there for half an hour. The incredible aroma it produces will leave not only your oven but also your entire house smelling heavenly. Besides lemon, note, other citrus fruits such as oranges, lime, and clementine are also good deodorizers due to their citric acid content.
Of course, this list wouldn’t be complete without good old baking soda. As an amphoteric, baking soda reacts and neutralizes acids and alkalis, breaking them down into neutral sodium salts. When exposed to air, baking soda will react with smelly particulates, converting them into neutral salts, which explains why it absorbs instead of masking odors. To banish the odors in your oven using baking soda, you can mix it with lemon juice as described above or pour some of it on a plate and leave it in your oven overnight. Alternatively, mix it with one part vinegar, and place it in your oven for a few hours.
Getting Rid of Burnt Plastic Smells in Your Oven
Your oven should be a haven of pleasant aromas and not burnt plastic smells. Fortunately, as shown above, burnt plastic smells in an oven are no cause for alarm. Using the suggested natural odor removers above, you can easily eliminate the irritating odor using items you have at home and keep it from becoming smelly again.