How to Remove Burnt Smell from a Microwave?

Pop CornSep 24, 2013: We had a dramatic event at our household over the weekend. A couple of friends along with their families had dropped by to watch a movie. One of their kids wanted some popcorn. So this little one headed to our kitchen, put the popcorn on, pressed 22 instead of 2 minutes, and rushed out of the kitchen.

Soon the smoke alarm went off, and we rushed to the kitchen. There was smoke coming out of the microwave oven. We immediately unplugged the microwave, turned on our kitchen's exhaust fan, disposed the burnt pop corn and waited patiently for the smoke to clear.

MicrowaveSo far so good, but there were a couple of sticky issues. First, the whole apartment had a burnt smell. Second, the walls of our microwave had turned yellow and there was an awful burnt smell inside it. We could not think of using the microwave since the burnt smell seemed to be sitting inside its vents. In this state, if we warmed any food in the microwave it'd be permeated with the pungent burnt smell. The obvious question was: "How to remove burnt smell from a microwave?"

FragrancesWe used scented candles, incense sticks and bouts of fresh air to drive away the burnt smell of popcorn from our apartment. It has worked, since the smell has waned away considerably.

Coming back to our microwave, we spent some time researching about various ways to remove odors from it. The basic method seems to revolve around mixing various solutes in a solvent like water, heating the mixture in the microwave and allowing it to sit there for some time. After that, the microwave needs to be cleaned thoroughly.

Before we started, we took a few paper towels, soaked them in a mixture of water and fresh lime (squeezed) and cleaned the microwave diligently. Then we wiped it dry. Next we took a microwave safe bowl and filled it water. After that we tried out several things based on feedback and/or suggestion from friends, neighbors and the internet.
  • WaterBoil Water: One of our neighbors is a service technician for various appliances. He suggested that we should boil water in a big bowl for about 10 minutes, without allowing the water to boil dry. This would help the microwave's fan to circulate the burnt smell and eventually drive it out of the vents. This worked to a certain extent but the strong burnt smell was still there.
  • Fresh LimeWater & Lime/Lemon: We put some pieces of freshly cut lemon in a bowl of water, cooked till the water boiled and allowed it to sit in the microwave until the water cooled down. This trick filled our microwave with a subtle smell of lemon but the burnt smell was still overpowering. Perhaps it'd have worked completely if we repeated this step several times. But we chose to try some stronger fragrances.
  • Water & Borax: Next, we boiled water with a tablespoon of borax and some dish soap. The net result was better than that of water & fresh lemon :).
  • Cinnamon, Cloves, VanillaWater, Cinnamon, Cloves & Vanilla Extract: We took one teaspoon each of ground cinnamon, cloves and vanilla extract, and mixed them together in a bowl of water. Then we boiled this mix and allowed it to sit in the microwave for about half an hour. We repeated this step about half a dozen times. After each cycle we left the microwave door open for some time to let the air out. It worked!
Some other solutes (fragrances) that might work when mixed with water are vinegar or coffee. However, we did not experiment with them. Since we kept trying one thing after another, we are not sure which solution would have worked alone. But we have a feeling that each one helped in weaning away the burnt smell by a certain degree.

Our microwave still has a faint burnt smell but we believe that it will go away with time and/or perhaps some more warming cycles of our favorite mix of cinnamon, clove & vanilla with water.

Nail Polish RemoverOur story is not yet over. The walls of the microwave were still yellow and no amount of soap or dish washing detergent could restore its original white color. Another tip from a friend who has gone through this dilemma helped. She suggested that we wet some cotton balls or small pieces of cloth/rag with a nail polish remover and use them to clean the walls. We did as she said. This removed the yellow tinge to a certain extent :).

We are thankful that our microwave has been restored to a usable state. If you know of better ways to drive out odors from a microwave kindly leave a comment with your suggestion(s). Looking forward towards your feedback :).

Image Source(s): iStockPhoto

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