(This post may contain affiliate links (*). That means that I make a small commission from sales that result through these links, at no additional cost to you. You can read my full disclosure here.)
How Bad Can it Get?
Bad. It can get sooo bad!
A few years ago, I was faced with the dreaded burnt microwave smell after my son decided that he needed to reheat a slice of pizza. Of course, there is a big difference between 20 seconds and 2 hours. A lesson that he had to learn the hard way.
In my situation, the pizza was placed in the microwave and then left to do its thing. Except, somewhere between the transition from Minecraft to FortNight, the need for that pizza mysteriously vanished. Sound familiar?
Yes, he forgot that he was heating his pizza. In addition, he didn’t realize that he had set it to cook for 2 hours instead of 20 seconds. And of course, 20 seconds is just way too long to stand there and wait when there are interesting things going on in the FortNight saga.
So, sitting in bed watching TV, I casually ask my hubs, “Do you smell something burning?” But of course, he didn’t because somehow the sense of smell is suspended in my husband once a sporting event begins. We did get up to make the normal inspections, though.
The smell grew stronger as soon as we opened the bedroom door, and we quickly followed it to the kitchen. The kitchen was filled with smoke so thick that I was sure we had a true fire. The smoke was rolling out and through the rest of the house. And the smell. Oh, the smell!
I pulled open the microwave and grabbed the lump of black, smoking, something(?) with a towel and ran to the back door. We then started raising windows and opening doors, pulling batteries from smoke detectors and fanning towels, all in an attempt to stop the madness.
I screamed for my son. He came out of the media room with a confused look on his face and that ever irritating response. “What?” (insert boring teenage voice).
I can honestly say that I have never seen pizza as chard as this one slice. I couldn’t even tell what it was. I had to ask my son what he had been cooking.
But the worst thing was the odor. I thought I would never get rid of it. I tried all of the things that I could find online. Nothing seemed to work. Then, I decided to try a method that I used several years before on a car’s interior.
My husband had inherited the car as his work vehicle from a previous co-worker. The cigarette smell was like a beast. Seriously. A straight from hell, nicotine covered, smelly demon that can’t be exorcised.
I worked on it for two full weeks, cleaning and deodorizing. Scrubbing all surfaces. Nothing was beginning to touch that smoke smell. Until…
How to Remove Microwave Burnt Odor When All Seems Lost
Before I tell you what I did (in both situations), let me preface it by saying that cases this severe take time. No matter what you read on the web, none of those quick solutions will work with severe smoke odors. I so wish they did, but no. Sometimes it takes a bit more effort.
What They Say To Do…
If you have been around my blog for any length of time, you may have noticed that I am a collector of cleaning tricks. I love solving common household problems that no one else has found a solution for – like those horrible water drips on your stainless steel appliance, or my all-time biggest pet peeve, washing machines that don’t give you enough water. So, this was a challenge I was determined to win.
I did all the things that is obvious and recommended. I cleaned the interior of the microwave. I used vinegar. I used lemons. I used regular household cleaning products geared towards disinfecting and odors. I even used some of my own homemade deodorizers. Nadda. Nothing. Zip! The odor still permeated the kitchen.
Why These Can Fail…
Unfortunately, once something is burnt this severely, the smell is not just confined to the interior of your microwave. It has moved in all of the locations where the smoke was allowed to travel.
Normally, we can let that smoke escape the interior of our home before it has any lasting, lingering effects. But, there are spaces where the smoke isn’t allowed to escape from and those areas are the culprit.
The most obvious areas are inside the microwave’s filters and other unseen components. All those areas that we can’t get to with a wash cloth. This is why the smell intenifies when you try to run your microwave again.
Secondly, if your microwave is built into a cabinet or mounted under a cabinet, guess what? All that smoke roled up into those areas, too. And unless you thought to open the cabinets when you were airing out the smoke, it was trapped long enough to permiate those wood fibers.
So what to do?
First Step to Remove Microwave Burnt Odor
Once I realized the problem, I opened up the base cabinets surrounding my microwave and sure enough. I was met with a powerful whiff of the burnt smell. So, I removed all the items and left the door open.
Then I mixed up a bottle of super concentrated Odo Ban.* See that product name. Don’t ever forget it. I swear by this product for removing smoke odors. It is what I used on that car way back when. So, I thought I would give it a try here.
I crawled into those cabinets and sprayed and scrubbed every exposed surface including the underside of my granite. I knew I was onto something because the smell was so strong when my head was stuck inside those base cabinets.
I left them open all day and then did the same thing the next day. Washed, air out, repeat. If the smoke has gotten into the pores it takes more than one attempt to kill the smell.
I also washed down the other cabinets’ doors and exterior surfaces in the rest of the kitchen. But, that was probably overkill. They didn’t seem to have much lasting odor and would have probably been fine on their own.
Since I could not clean the interior gadgets of the microwave with the OdoBan, I decided to purge the system clean. My thought was that the smoke got in there from the appliance running. So, I could use that same method to clean it.
I took those often recommended suggestions and put them on supercharge. I started with the lemons. I would place some lemon slices in a bowl of water and microwave it for 15-minute pops. I was afraid to run the solution for too long without checking it. So, 15 minutes seemed a safe amount of time.
I did this 1 hour every morning. Then, I would repeat the process with water and vinegar. A bowl of water to a small amount of vinegar, microwaved for 15-minute increments.
Each time the microwave ran, the smell would intensify. At first, I wasn’t sure that it was doing any good because it seemed to make things worse. But, my microwave is built-in and would cost around $1200 to replace. So, I was going to either purge it or kill it trying to do so.
Eventually, the odor grew less and less intense. The filter finally gave up the ghost and released all of that stinky smoke smell. Each day, the odor was less and less noticeable, until finally, it was gone.
It took me about a week to completely purge the microwave and for everything to finish airing out. But, as I said, these things really do take time. However, if you are thinking that you’ve destroyed your microwave and it can’t be repaired, just keep that in mind. Burnt microwave odor is not easy to remove. But it can be done!