Baseboard heater melted a piece of plastic and now everything stinks
January 6, 2017 2:05 PM   Subscribe

Somehow, a small bit of plastic fell into our baseboard heater and melted, dripping through the baseboard fins. The house now smells like hot glue guns and it's worse every time the heater kicks on, which is a lot because it's cold. How can I fix this?

My two main problems are:

1. The lingering smell
There was no actual smoke, as far as I could tell. Nothing burned exactly, just melted.

Ordinarily, I would simply air out the house by opening some windows, but it's currently 20°F outside - a high for this week - and we are already struggling to keep it above 64° in here, so opening the doors and welcoming the winter inside does not sound appealing.

It's much better today than it was yesterday, but the plasticky-gluey smell is still there. What's the best way to combat it?

2. How to clean the baseboard fins
Is this even possible? I scraped at them with a piece of cardboard today and got a little more gunk off of them, but I can't figure out how to get rid of all the residual plastic. Will it eventually burn off? Will the ensuing fumes kill all my brain cells in the meantime?

Any help you can provide would be great - my brain cells and I thank you.
posted by meggan to Home & Garden (4 answers total)
Possible solutions:

1. Time. I anticipate that, eventually, the smell would cease (I can not attest to impact on brain cells).
2. Remove (tin snips?) the fins with plastic on them.
3. Remove that whole run of heater and replace it (Heating/AC guy could do this).
4. Turn off that section (if there is a valve, if there is another heater in that room/area.
5. Call a Heating/AC company, they certainly have run into this before.
posted by HuronBob at 4:00 PM on January 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Freeze the area fast with compressed air and smack it to shatter the remaining plastic?
posted by Freedomboy at 4:10 PM on January 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

If there are any parts of the baseboard you can remove to get better access, do that. (My baseboard heaters always had fronts that fell off when you knocked them the wrong way.) I imagine the fins are close together? You might try scraping at the plastic with a razor blade or better yet an exacto knife. You could also try to scrub at it some with a toothbrush.

I looked for advice on getting melted plastic off of metal but most of the solutions seem like a bad idea for the tight spaces in a heater that you wouldn't be able to clean with soap and water. One idea was good though: try rubbing an ice cube on the plastic to make it brittle so it's easier to chip off.
posted by purple_bird at 4:12 PM on January 6, 2017


The smell has indeed dissipated, as HuronBob suggested! It took about another day or two before it wasn't noticeable. A couple of tiny drips of plastic came out of the heater over the next day or so as well, so between that and my haphazard cardboard scrubbing, I think the majority of the plastic is now gone.

I also appreciated the reminder that the front of the baseboard heater can come off, as I had forgotten that was the case!
posted by meggan at 11:37 AM on January 13, 2017

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