Whether you have an old or new oven, there are certain smells that you can recognize right away. Everyone knows what something burning in the oven smells like, but if you smell burning plastic, it could mean something different.
If your oven is new, a burning plastic smell is pretty normal during the first use. It will need to burn off oils and chemicals used during the manufacturing process. It’s also possible you left a zip tie or plastic film inside the oven. More serious causes could be a wiring problem, or you could have left something inside the oven.
This article will discuss some of the possible causes for the odd smell coming from your oven and what you can do about it. If you’re still unsure, it’s best to call a professional.
Remember, if you suspect an electrical or other fire or believe you smell gas, you should get out of the house and call 911 immediately.
Why Does My Oven Smell So Weird?
If you smell an odor from your oven that’s not freshly baked cookies or something else you’ve cooked, there are several different things that could be causing the smell.
Ovens can produce burning smells, of course, or you may notice a chemical smell. If you smell gas, you should get out and call 911. A burnt plastic smell is actually pretty common, especially with a new oven.
Some people describe it as a chemical smell, others say it smells like burnt rubber. But you’ll know that it smells unusual the first time you fire up the oven.
So, what do you do if you smell burning plastic coming from your oven?
What to Do If it Smells Like Burning Plastic
If your oven smells like burning plastic, the first thing you should do is make sure you’re not dealing with an electrical fire or wiring issue. When wiring problems generate heat, they can melt nearby components, causing a foul odor.
To check for an electrical fire, turn off the oven at the breaker or unplug it. Then, look inside the oven for any signs of burned or melted wires or other parts. If you see smoke coming from behind the oven where you can’t see, call a professional to come and take a look.
If you’re dealing with a new oven, check for zip ties or plastic film left inside the oven. If you find melted plastic residue, you’ll need to let it cool and clean it to get rid of the smell.
If your new oven is producing its “new oven smell,” (yes, that’s a real thing), then you may need to let it go through a heating cycle to burn off oils and get the insulation hot. Check your owner’s manual for instructions for the first use.
Once you’ve removed the source of the smell (if possible), you can clean out the inside of the oven to rid it of the smell for good.
Are Burnt Plastic Fumes Harmful or Toxic?
Even after you’ve cleaned the oven and the smell has subsided, you may still be concerned about breathing in dangerous fumes. That melted plastic smell can be strong, so is it harmful or toxic?
Some burnt plastic fumes can be harmful to your health. However, your oven may not actually be burning or melting plastic. When you inhale real plastic fumes, some types of plastics are more dangerous than others.
If you have any pet birds, you should know that they may be extremely sensitive to fumes, especially those from self-cleaning ovens. Keep your feathered friends far away from your oven and ensure they have good ventilation.
PVC and polyurethane both release dangerous toxins when they burn or melt, so you’ll want to avoid inhaling those fumes if possible.
However, if you’re actually smelling the oils burning off from inside your new oven, you don’t need to worry about inhaling dangerous fumes. The smell alone isn’t harmful to your health. The same is true for when your new oven gets hot for the first time, and the insulation inside heats up. The odor you smell during that process also isn’t harmful or dangerous.
Possible Reasons Your Oven Smells Like Burning Plastic (for new and old ovens)
If your oven smells like burning plastic, there are a few different things that could be causing it. Of course, it will depend on whether you’re using a brand new oven for the first time or if it’s a new smell coming from your existing oven.
By using the process of elimination, you should be able to find the source of the smell. Then you can take steps to clean your oven and get rid of any unwanted odors. If you don’t think any of these are causing the smell, you may need to call a professional to help resolve the issue.
Burning zip ties?
A melting zip tie is one of the possible causes for the burning plastic smell coming from your oven if you just recently installed a new one. New ovens normally have zip ties (or twist ties) in place to hold the grilles or shelves in place and keep everything tight when the oven is packaged, shipped, and delivered.
If you or your installer missed one of these zip ties, you might start smelling it once you heat up your oven for the first time. If you don’t find and remove the zip tie, you’ll probably continue to smell a weird burnt plastic odor each time you run your oven.
The best way to ensure you don’t miss any zip ties, inserts, or protective films is to consult your owner’s manual or set-up instructions. The manufacturer will explain exactly where all these items are and what you need to remove before you fire up your new oven.
If you already ran your oven and now have melted zip ties on your inserts or racks, you’ll need to remove them from the oven and let them cool. Then, you can scrape off the melted plastic and clean the parts with warm soapy water. Let them dry completely, then put them back into the oven.
Of course, you may still smell some of the lingering odor until it dissipates. You can help remove the smell from inside your oven using an odor-absorbing product like baking soda, white vinegar, or activated charcoal.
If you do a thorough inspection and don’t find any melted zip ties, it could just be the normal odor coming from a new oven. Let’s discuss that in a little more detail next.
New oven smell and what causes it
Everyone knows what a new car smell is, but what about a new oven smell? No matter which brand or model oven you have, chances are you’ll have some unusual smells coming from the unit the first time you use it.
You may notice a burning plastic or chemical smell, and you may see some light smoke coming off the surfaces inside the oven. This is a normal process that causes that signature new oven smell.
The odor may be due to various oils and chemicals on the oven’s surfaces burning off, or it could be due to insulation responding to high temperatures for the first time. In either case, the smell is temporary and will go away after a few uses.
Check your owner’s manual for instructions on properly using your oven for the first time and what you should expect.
For example, Samsung’s troubleshooting guide notes that your new oven may have a “faint, gas-like odor when it’s first used out of the box due to its plastic packaging and protective oil coating.” They recommend you run your new oven for one hour at 400 degrees Farenheit to burn off the oils and rid your oven of the odors.
In some cases, a burning plastic smell could be due to a problem with the wiring, especially if you just installed your oven. If it’s not a new oven, the issue could still be electrical in nature if you had a short circuit or overloaded components.
With a wiring issue, you could experience some burning that causes the wire’s insulation to melt. You’ll smell a strong burning plastic or burning rubber smell, and if you know what electical heat smells like, you may recognize the odor.
To check for this, unplug your oven and look for signs of burnt wiring or melted insulation. If you see any signs, call a professional to come and make the necessary repairs safely. Unless you’re familiar with working with electricity, this issue is best left to the pros.
Plastic container is burning?
Sometimes, the explanation to the burning plastic smell is even simpler than you may realize. It could be actual plastic burning and melting inside your oven. If you put a dish in your oven with a plastic lid or set a container in there and forgot about it, you could be dealing with a burning plastic container.
Always be sure you use oven-safe dishes and cookware inside your oven. That includes handles and covers, too. If you accidentally burn or melt a plastic dish, you’ll have to remove it and clean your oven to get rid of the smell. This could involve some serious scraping and scrubbing, depending on how bad the mess is.
You’ll have to let the oven and racks cool down and scrape or peel off any plastic residue. Then, use hot, soapy water to clean all the surfaces. You can use baking soda or white vinegar to help remove the burnt plastic smell from the oven, or it will dissipate naturally over time.
Wrong utensils in the oven?
A similar problem may be caused by using the wrong kinds of utensils in your oven. Depending on how hot the oven is, a plastic spoon or other utensil can start melting or burning really fast.
I remember once I put a pan of lasagna into the oven to reheat it and forgot the plastic spatula was laying in the dish, too. A short time later I was greeted with the pungent smell of melting plastic and a ruined lasagna.
It’s best to only use oven-safe dishes and utensils while cooking at high temperatures, so always check the packaging or look for markings on your items to be sure.
Best Way to Get Rid of Smells from Your Oven Organically
There’s a reason so many cleaning products have lemony-fresh scents. Lemon is a great odor neutralizer whether you’re getting rid of a new oven smell or a strong odor from something you cooked recently. The citric acid can also help loosen up grease and buildup before you scrub your oven. You can also use lemons to get rid of smells in other areas of your home, too.
To get rid of a bad oven smell using lemons, follow these steps:
- Preheat your oven to 300 degrees Farenheit
- Fill an oven-safe dish or bowl with about 2 cups of water
- Cut 2-3 lemons and squeeze ½ cup of lemon juice into the water
- Mix in 2 tablespoons of regular baking soda
- Drop the lemon halves into the water
- Place the dish into the oven and let it steam for about an hour – just make sure the water doesn’t dry out completely. You can always add more if needed.
Lemons have a distinguished clean scent and the citrus smell can overpower even the most foul odors. However, if you want to add a little sweetness to your oven-freshening concoction, you can also add a teaspoon of vanilla to the water.
Other citrus fruits like limes, oranges, and grapefruits can also work to remove odors and leave a clean, citrus-fresh scent behind.
Like lemon, vinegar is another staple in household cleaning projects. White vinegar is a great neutralizer and deodorizer, and most people have some already in their pantry for cleaning or cooking.
White vinegar contains acetic acid which reacts chemically with different odor-causing molecules, helping to neutralize and remove them. Vinegar steam helps dissolve oils and buildup from inside your oven, which also harbor odors and bacteria.
Here’s how to use it in your oven:
- Preheat your oven to 300 degrees Fareneheit
- Fill an oven-safe pot or dutch oven with waer and add ½ cup of white vinegar
- Place the pot into your oven and let it steam for about 30 minutes
- Clean the inside of your oven with a mixture of 1 part water, 1 part vinegar
Baking soda is a tried and true household agent, and you can use it for all kinds of projects around your home. Just like baking soda in the fridge, it can absorb odors when you use it in the oven as well.
To use baking soda, you can add it to a mix of lemon juice and water and place it inside the oven to steam away odors.
For less severe smells, you may be able to use baking soda on its own without having to heat your oven. To do that, just pour some onto a cookie sheet or plate and place it inside your oven. Leave the dish in place overnight and check the next morning whether the smell is better.
Can You Use Chemicals to Clean Your Oven?
There are plenty of chemical options available for cleaning your oven if you want to go with something a little stronger than lemon juice, vinegar, or baking soda. However, you should also keep in mind that some chemicals can leave behind a residue that you’ll continue to smell next time you heat up your oven.
So, in some cases you may end up replacing one odor for another nad then you’ll have to use natural methods to get rid of the chemical smells.
How Long Does it Take for the Smell to Go Away?
The new oven smell can last for quite a while if you don’t use your oven much. You’ll continue to smell the odor until all the residue has burned off from inside the oven or the insulation has been thoroughly exposed to high temperatures.
The exact time it will take to go through this process depends on your specific make and model. It could take several runs, but you can shorten it by wiping the oven out between cycles. It’s a good idea to consult your owner’s manual for recommendations on their burn-off process. Running the oven at high temperatures or using the self-clean feature should help the smell go away faster.
Can You Cook in a Brand New Oven Right Away?
It’s always best to consult your owner’s manual to get the exact manufacturer’s recommendations on breaking in your new oven. However, as a general rule, you should go through a “burn-in” process before you cook food in the oven. Otherwise, the odors can stick to your food and impact the taste.
Here are some general instructions, though your manufacturer’s directions may vary:
- Clean the inside of the oven using a washcloth and warm soapy water
- Turn on the fan or vent hood and open any nearby windows
- Turn on the oven and set it to high heat, at least 400 degrees Farenheit
- Let it run for at least 30 minutes
- Set to “high broil” and let it run for another 30 minutes
- Turn off the oven and let it cool completely
- Wipe out the inside with warm soapy water
- Repeat if needed
Proper Oven Maintenance
Taking care of your oven over time will help prevent any future issues and foul odors during use. Over time, you’re bound to have spills and debris buildup inside your oven. Cooked on food and grease gets harder to clean the longer it’s stuck-on, so keeping up with periodic cleaning is key.
Here are some tips for keeping your oven in great shape for years to come:
- Use the self-cleaning feature (sparingly): If your oven has this feature, se it periodically but not frequently. Be sure to read the instructions in your owner’s manual first, and never leave home while your oven is cleaning. The temperatures get very high, and it could cause a fire hazard.
- Clean your oven twice per year (at least): A thorough cleaning with warm, soapy water a couple times per year will reduce grease build-up and remove burnt food debris from inside your oven. This will keep your oven smelling fresh and your food won’t pick up any strange tastes.
- Wipe up spills: The easiest way to keep your oven clean and fresh is to clean up spills when they happen. It’s tempting to just leave it for later, but messes become much harder to clean once they’ve been baked in a few times.
- Don’t remove knobs: Removing the knobs can lead to chemicals or moisture getting to the wiring and other components, which can damage your oven.
- Check your hood filter: If you have a range hood, check the filter and clean it at least once per year. This is another way to keep odors at bay.
Speak to Your Manufacturer or Check Out Their FAQ Page
If you’ve gone through all the steps here and you’re still dealing with an oven that smells like burning plastic, it may be time to reach out to your oven’s manufacturer for help. The good news is that the new oven smell is such a common issue that most manufacturers include information about it on their FAQ or support pages.
To find more information about first-time use, smoke and odor, or the burn-in process for your oven, click on your manufacturer below to see their support response or instructions:
Call a Professional for Any Issues
Of course, if all else fails, you may need to call a professional service technician to come have a look at your oven. In some cases, the issue could be a defect or other malfunction that needs repair. This especially likely if you’re dealing with an older oven that suddenly starts acting differently.
If you believe you’re smelling gas (from an electric oven) or electrical burning, you should shut off the breaker and call a professional right away.
Getting a new oven is exciting and most people can’t wait to use it for the first time. However, you should know you’ll need to do a little maintenance and prep before you bake your first batch of cookies.
A strange, burning plastic smell is normal from a brand new oven, and you’ll have to burn the smell away and do a little cleaning to rid it from your home. However, those kinds of smells from an older oven may indicate a problem that needs professional attention if cleaning isn’t the cure.
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