The Best Way to Get That Burnt Smell Out of Your Microwave

updated Sep 30, 2020
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As convenient as it is, using your microwave well is somewhat of a delicate process — especially if you want to keep your kitchen free of offensive smells.

Take microwave popcorn, for example. The buttery scents of those popping kernels is nothing short of a delight. But if you miss the precise moment you’re supposed to pull the bag out, you could end up with a relentless burnt smell in your microwave that soon invades your entire kitchen. (Life hack: Make sure you can actually trust the Popcorn button setting before you use it.)

But it’s not just popcorn that’s prone to stinking up your kitchen. Rogue crumbs and debris from warmed-up leftovers can also leave your microwave smelling like a bonfire, especially if you keep on burning them in the microwave with repeated use. 

In part, microwaves are so susceptible to lingering smells because the type of heavy-grade plastic used to construct them tends to hang onto odors. Fortunately, nixing the burnt-on smell is relatively easy. You’ll just need a couple of simple ingredients and a little bit of time and effort. 

Ready to get started? Here’s how to clean your way back to a fresh-smelling microwave. 

2 Things You Need to Know Before You Start

There are two things to know before you get to work freshening up your microwave. First: When possible, it’s always a good idea to remove the source of the smell as soon as you notice it. Each time you use the microwave, you’re essentially re-baking the burned-on debris, which will only make matters worse.

“The longer you ignore the burnt smell, the harder it will be for you to deal with it — so take action as soon as you have burned something,” says Cyrus Bedwyr, a kitchen appliances technician and cleaner at Fantastic Services.

Another cautionary note: Abe Navas, owner of Emily’s Maids in Dallas, wants to remind you to avoid using a metal sponge when cleaning a microwave. Not only could the metal scratch the inside of your appliance; leftover metal bits inside of the microwave could cause a fire when it’s in use.

Is it Safe to Use a Burnt Microwave?

If your microwave simply smells and you can remove the burned-on residue, it’s safe to resume use once it’s clean. But exercise caution — and maybe invest in a new appliance — if any part of the microwave itself appears burned or damaged. As a general rule, a damaged appliance is a fire hazard. 

How to Get Burnt Smell Out of a Microwave

As annoying as burnt smells are, they’re also pretty easy to get rid of (assuming, of course, you didn’t wait weeks). More good news: You won’t even need any fancy cleaners to take care of the problem. James Scott, co-founder of Dappir, a residential cleaning service in Tampa, FL, suggests a combination of three ingredients you likely already have on hand: water, vinegar, and baking soda. 

Here’s how to use them to freshen up your stinky microwave:

1. Do a quick inside clean.

Before you nuke your solution, clean up any crumbs and easily removable debris from the inside of the microwave. (Otherwise, you might just end up burning those in the process.) With a sponge or cloth, wipe away any splatters, too. Don’t forget the microwave’s ceiling! 

2. Make your solution.

Now, time to eradicate the burnt-on smell. Scott recommends combining a cup of water with three tablespoons white vinegar in a microwave-safe bowl — the vinegar will cut through the grime in your microwave and make it easier to clean. 

To further neutralize the smell, Ron Shimek, president of Mr. Appliance, a Neighborly company, swears by adding a tablespoon of vanilla extract to the solution.

3. Heat your solution.

Microwave the vinegar-water-vanilla solution for six minutes. You should notice the microwave filling with steam as the solution comes to a boil.

4. Let the bowl stand.

After the six minutes is up, allow the bowl to stand for 15 to 20 minutes so the steam can do its work. By now, the smell should noticeably dissipate. 

5. Remove the bowl.

Carefully take the bowl out of the microwave with an oven mitt or pot holder. 

6. Clean the microwave again.

Dip a fresh cloth inside the remaining solution to wipe down the inside of the microwave, including the top and the door. Wash the plate and the wheels with soap and water if needed. (You can also throw your glass microwave plate in the dishwasher.)

7. Use baking soda to stave off any remaining odor.

If your microwave still smells after you cleaned it, pour a cup or two of baking soda (the whole, open container will also work) into a bowl and put it inside with the door shut overnight. Or, Bedwyr recommends neutralizing any remaining scent with old coffee grounds in a bowl, left overnight or for the day. 

This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy. See it there: How to Get That Burnt Smell Out of Your Microwave