Why Does My Microwave Smell Burnt? (Explained)

Categorized as Microwave Repair and Troubleshooting
my microwave smells burnt

No one likes a finicky appliance. You know the type – it starts making strange noises, or doesn’t seem to be working as efficiently as it used to. When this happens, most people’s first instinct is to ignore the problem and hope it will go away on its own.

However, this is not always the best course of action, especially when it comes to your microwave. Ignoring a malfunctioning microwave can be a serious mistake, as it may be indicative of a larger problem.

One of the most common problems with microwaves is a burnt smell and in this article, I’ll discuss why microwaves can start to smell burnt when you should be worried about this issue and how you can get the burnt smell out of your microwave.

the accumulation of grease or food particles in the oven cavity

Three Common Reasons Your Microwave May Smell Burnt

There are several reasons why your microwave may start to smell burnt. The most common is that you have accidentally burned food inside the microwave oven, either by leaving it in for too long or by setting the timer too high. For example, if you pop popcorn in the microwave and leave it in too long, it can quickly burn and start emitting a smoky, burnt smell throughout your home.

The second most common cause of a burnt smell in microwaves is the accumulation of grease or food particles in the oven cavity. Grease can accumulate over time and start to smell burnt when it is heated. This can be a particular problem for microwaves that are not cleaned regularly.

The third and more serious cause of a burnt smell in microwaves is that the internal components of the appliance are malfunctioning. For example, the wiring or one of the components inside may be faulty and generate excessive heat, which can cause a burning smell.

If your microwave has been emitting a burnt smell for a while, then it could be indicative of an underlying issue with the internal components.

When Should You Be Worried?

In most cases, a burnt smell in your microwave is nothing to worry about. If the smell only occurs occasionally after cooking certain types of food, then it is likely just the result of food burning inside the oven cavity. In this case, you can simply open the microwave door and air it out, or use a vinegar and water solution to help remove the smell.

However, if the burnt smell occurs on a regular basis or is particularly strong and pungent, then it is likely indicative of an underlying problem with the microwave. In this case, you should switch off the appliance and contact a qualified technician to investigate the issue.

How to Get the Burnt Smell Out of My Microwave

There are three methods you can use to try and get the burnt smell out of your microwave. The first is to use a cup of water and soap. The second is to use vinegar and water solution. The third is to use baking soda. Here are each of these methods in more detail:

Method 1: Use a Cup of Water and Soap

This is the most straightforward method to rid your microwave of a burnt smell.

Step 1: Heating 1 Cup of Water for 3-4 Minutes

The first step to getting the burnt smell out of your microwave is to heat one cup of water in the appliance for between three and four minutes. This will help to loosen any lingering odors and provide a more pleasant smell inside the microwave.

Be sure to use plain water, as adding any type of scent or flavor could make things worse. Once you have heated the cup of water, remove it from the microwave.

Step 2: Wipe the Interior with a Soft Cloth Dipped in Soapy Water

Grab a soft cloth and prepare a solution with water and a few drops of dish soap.

Dip your cleaning tool into this soapy mixture and then use it to wipe down all surfaces within the microwave, being sure to pay special attention to the ceiling and corners where the odor may still be residing.

Make sure that all messes are wiped up thoroughly before you move on to rinsing them away.

Step 3: Rinse and Dry

Once you have wiped away all grime and dirt, rinse off your cleaning tool with some clean water before using it again inside your microwave. Rinse off every surface that was previously wiped down with soapy water until they are free from any residue or bubbles.

Now dry everything off with a clean microfiber cloth or paper towel, making sure that all moisture is soaked up. Finally, let your appliance air out for 2 to 3 hours before using it again.

Method 2: Use Vinegar and Water Solution

This method is best for getting rid of any lingering odors in your microwave.

Step 1: Make a Vinegar Solution

The first step is to make a vinegar solution. This can be accomplished by adding 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to 1 cup of water in a microwave-safe bowl or cup.

Once you have mixed these two ingredients, place the bowl or cup in the microwave and heat for 2-5 minutes until steam starts to rise from the surface. Leaving that in the microwave will help to rid it of any burnt smell lingering around from previous cooking sessions.

Step 2: Make a Vinegar Solution

After the vinegar solution has cooled down, carefully remove it from the microwave and use either a sponge or paper towel to clean up the inside of the microwave. Make sure to wipe off all surfaces, including the walls and ceiling of the appliance and any other hard-to-reach areas as well.

The vinegar solution should loosen up any caked-on food particles, making them easier to remove entirely. Pay extra attention when wiping down those hard-to-reach places as they tend to accumulate more food residue over time if not properly cleaned.

Method 3: Deodorize with Baking Soda

If the burnt smell persists after using one of the cleaning methods above, using a baking soda solution may help.

Step 1: Place Baking Soda in the Microwave

You will need to start by placing an open box of baking soda inside your microwave. You can also use activated charcoal or dried coffee grounds if you prefer.

Step 2: Let the Baking Soda Sit

Once the baking soda is in place, leave it inside your microwave overnight and let it work its magic. This will help to absorb any odors that may still be lingering in the appliance, such as burnt food or smoke. Don’t forget to warn others in the household not to use the microwave during this time.

Step 3: Remove and Wipe

In the morning, carefully remove the baking soda or other deodorizing material from your microwave. Then, use a damp cloth to wipe down the interior walls of your microwave.


Keeping your microwave clean and free of odors is essential for a pleasant cooking experience. Thankfully, with the right materials and techniques, it’s possible to eliminate any burnt smell that may be coming from your appliance. Give one of these methods a try and see how effective it is in getting rid of the smell. Good luck!

By Rosie Elliott

I’m Rosie. I’m a professional chef with experience in Western, Mediterranean, and Italian cuisine. I’ve been cooking for over 15 years, and I have two daughters that keep me busy!