One of the worst smells on this earth
February 22, 2010 6:06 AM   Subscribe

My microwave is stinky -- burnt popcorn smell. How do I remove it?

Can you help me save my microwave? The smell won't go away.
posted by bunny hugger to Grab Bag (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I've tried cleaning it really well, but the smell seems to be inside the mechanism, so whenever I cook something else, that popcorn smell comes through.
posted by bunny hugger at 6:14 AM on February 22, 2010

try nuking a cup of white vinegar? it will smell even grosser initially, but it should help eliminate some of the popcorn smell.
posted by mlo at 6:27 AM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Put a cup of water and a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice in a bowl in the oven and run it on high for 3-5 minutes. Repeat if necessary with more water and juice. I've gotten all kinds of smells, including burnt chocolate, out of my oven this way.
posted by maudlin at 6:28 AM on February 22, 2010

Seconding white vinegar. Use about 1/2 c., close the door, and microwave until it's just steaming. Let it sit for 10 min. or so, then open it up and wipe down the microwave again. Your microwave will smell like vinegar, but this will fade over the next day or so, along with some of the popcorn odor. Repeat as necessary.

You could do something similar with half a cup of water and 2 T. coffee grounds. Just heat it up more (you need to get it really hot).
posted by Knicke at 6:29 AM on February 22, 2010

This is not a sure thing, but it's easy: try microwaving a slice of lemon or some lemon juice in it for as long as you have patience for. I do that after housemates have microwaved fish, and it helps (and the lemon smell dissipates quickly enough.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 6:29 AM on February 22, 2010

As said before... SOP is boiling white vinegar in a pyrex glass.
posted by LakesideOrion at 6:37 AM on February 22, 2010

SOP for people who want the kitchen to smell nice is lemon juice and water. :-)

But yes, as mentioned above, leaving the hot liquid in the closed oven for several minutes after heating to a boil helps steam build up and really tackle the smell.
posted by maudlin at 6:41 AM on February 22, 2010

Nthing the lemon juice, but use a real lemon and include the squeezed halves/slices on a plate under the bowl; more aromatic that way. Also, do a complete surface clean both before you start this procedure and after.

We got a nasty charge at a hotel cancelled by doing this. Note that you may have to run the 'heat and leave closed' cycle several times.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 6:47 AM on February 22, 2010

Seconding lemon juice... before throwing it out, often chop up an old lemon that's been juiced and nuke it in the microwave to freshen it up
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 6:50 AM on February 22, 2010

have you tried putting 1 or 2 fabric softener sheets in the microwave?
posted by chalbe at 6:51 AM on February 22, 2010

Looks like we've got a consensus: nuke a mild acid for a few minutes. If you want it to smell nice, use a lemon. Otherwise, use vinegar (acetic acid).
posted by valkyryn at 7:31 AM on February 22, 2010

We had an office fridge that smelled like death because someone forgot to throw away their chicken. We aired it out, we cleaned it--nothing worked. And then we read somewhere if you mix a tablespoon of vanilla extract with a quarter cup of baking soda and leave it in there it would absorb all the odors. It took a couple of days, but it totally worked. (I wouldn't nuke it though.)
posted by Kimberly at 7:49 AM on February 22, 2010

After our son cooked some pasta in it without adding any water, our microwave oven smelled horribly smoky in spite of any lemon juice, vinegar, or vanilla treatment we tried. We couldn't use it at all without smelling up the kitchen badly.

The only thing that worked was taking the outside shell of the microwave off so we could wash off the brown smoke residue from all of the inner surfaces that were exposed by doing so. It was clear from looking at the brown coating on all of the white surfaces in there that nothing else could possibly have worked. It would have been overkill for minor odors, but it was essential after three full minutes of smoky cooking.
posted by Ery at 8:07 AM on February 22, 2010

Nuke Baking Powder in water too.
posted by xammerboy at 10:10 AM on February 22, 2010

Had the same problem. In my microwave there is a front grill that comes off after you remove two screws. Inside is the blower fan and a mesh sponge thing. The sponge thing comes out and it held almost all the smell. Wash it clean and deodorize it. If you can reach the blower fan, try cleaning and deodorizing it too. Of course, if your microwave doesn't have that front grill then this won't work.
The microwave still had the smell but it left very quickly.
posted by luvmywife at 5:29 PM on February 22, 2010

luvmywife has the clue here. The choice of cleaning agent is not as important as where you apply it.

From your point of view, the cooking chamber of the microwave *is* the microwave. From the POV of smelly, condensed, once-gaseous or smoke-born droplets, every part of the microwave that is air-accessible from the cooking chamber is also home-sweet-microwave.

Unplug the microwave (obviously!), unscrew the housing (simple!), and swab surfaces with an oil-removing cleaner - soapy water, or stronger solvents. Towel-dry, then turn the microwave this way & that to make sure water isn't trapped anywhere. Allow to thoroughly dry overnight. Put cover back on.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:49 PM on February 28, 2010

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