how to get burnt plastic smell out of dishwasher

Want to know how to get burnt plastic smell out of dishwasher? Ever opened the dishwasher only to be punched in the face by the foul odor of torched plastic?

Don’t worry, that’s not your dishwasher burning. But there’s probably a piece of plastic that got tossed onto the heating element during the cycle.

No need to make a service call to your technician; that would only cost more money and time.

You can easily fix this at home!

In this DIY guide, we’ll go over some of the basic methods of getting the smell that’s been draining your appetite out for good.

What Causes Dishwashers to Emit a Burnt Plastic Smell?

dishwasher smell like burnt plastic

The burnt plastic smell doesn’t typically mean that the dishwasher is broken.

The true culprit is probably a small spoon or lid that slipped off during the cycle and landed on the heating element.

You don’t have to worry about large dishes and bowls that have been stacked properly.

This only happens with small or slim objects during turbulence in the washing cycles because there aren’t any holders made especially for them. 

And while the plastic items are safe for dishwasher temperatures, they might not handle the heat from the coil. 

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Can a Dishwasher Melt Plastic?

can dishwasher melt plastic

The average melting point of most plastics is 338 ℉ (or 170 ℃). Modern-day dishwashers warm the water to anywhere between 130 and 170 ℉, so plastic should be unaffected by the dishwasher’s regular functions.

Some plastics, however, might have heat limits that can damage the integrity of the product.

So, it would be best to check with your manufacturer if they are dishwasher-safe or oven-friendly.

While plastics can stand the heat of the wash, they cannot resist the high temperatures of the heating coil.

If a piece of plastic comes into contact with the coil for a prolonged period, it can fully or partially melt. 

Is the Smell of Burnt Plastic Toxic?

Plastics are made up of large molecules that break down when you melt them, releasing fumes.

These fumes contain several volatile organic compounds that won’t kill you immediately, but you may experience minor irritation in your eyes and nose.

However, inhaling plastic fumes over some time can aggravate a litany of diseases such as heart disease, asthma, nervous system damage, lung cancer, and more. 

If you’re smelling melted plastic, stand back and open up the doors and windows for ventilation. 

Turning on the ceiling fan or an exhaust fan will help disperse the fumes faster if you have one. 

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My New Dishwasher Smells Like Plastic

new dishwasher

It’s perfectly normal for a brand new dishwasher to give off a plastic smell.

This isn’t the same smell as melted plastic, and it’s more of a chemical smell like shoe-shine.

It means your dishwasher’s brand new. The smell should subside after the first two washes.

How to Get Burnt Plastic Smell Out of Dishwasher?

Should plastic fall onto the heating coil mid-wash, you won’t know until the wash is over, and by then, it might be too late.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to save the plastic spoon or spatula, but there are many different ways to deal with the smell and make sure this doesn’t happen again.

Preliminary Steps

Before you clean your dishwasher, you need to deal with the burnt plastic on the interior. Leaving it there can clog your dishwasher and stain the interior.

Not to mention, it’s the source of the bad smell. You have to clean it up first.

  1. Turn off the dishwasher after it has completed its cycle.
  2. Wear a pair of gloves to pick out all the pieces of plastic you can get by hand. If they’re stuck, don’t try to pry them off, as you could end up damaging the interior.
  3. Try icing the melted bits of plastic by leaving it on for a few minutes. This should harden some more of the plastic so you can smoothly take it off.
  4. Acetone, which is found in nail polisher removers, is also great for dealing with plastic.
  5. Leave acetone on the plastic residue for a few minutes. You can then use a scrubber to remove the remaining plastic.
  6. Use dish soap and a sponge to clean the plastic stuck on the heating element. Otherwise, it will just melt again the next time you switch on your dishwasher.
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Various Cleaning Methods

various methods

Getting the melted plastic off was the uphill part. However, that only deals with plastic.

The odor that still lingers will only go from cleaning, which brings us to the next part.

Here are the various home solutions for removing the burnt plastic smell from your dishwasher.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is an excellent deodorizer and can help fight off several smells. 

If the dishwasher has just been used, first let it drain fully. Open the compartment where you usually add soap and fill it with baking soda instead.

Then set the dishwasher to a regular wash, and it will hopefully get most, if not all, of the odor.

If the odor persists, repeat the process or fill a small bowl with baking soda and leave it in the dishwasher overnight.

The baking soda will slowly absorb the remaining plastic odor. 

White Distilled Vinegar

Vinegar is another helpful cleaning agent that you can find right in your pantry.

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It can be used for laundry, getting mold out of dishes, and deodorizing virtually Everything. 

There are two ways to use it.

  • You can fill up a spray bottle with vinegar and spray the inside walls of your dishwasher. Let it sit for a while.
  • Then wipe it off or just let it dry on its own. The vinegar naturally dissipates, so your dishwasher won’t reek for long.
  • Alternatively, if the parts of your dishwasher are removable, take them out and put them in the washing machine.
  • Fill the detergent tray with a cup of vinegar and some detergent, and set it to a quick wash. 

Professional Cleaner

If all fails, then boy is that one powerful odor! Luckily, you’re still not out of options.

Several industrial cleaners are available at your local supermarket that is optimized for such tasks.

All you need to do is find one suitable for your dishwasher’s make. 

Some brands make cleaners specifically for the insides of kitchen appliances such as microwaves, ovens, refrigerators, and dishwashers. 

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Getting Burnt Plastic Smell Off Your Dishes

getting the burnt plastic smell burnt off

Has the smell of burnt set on your dishes too?

If they’re made from glass or ceramic, they may have absorbed some of the odor from the burned plastic. It is a strong odor; after all, not much escapes it.

Even if it’s mild, the odor can ruin the taste of the food you serve in it. Fortunately, baking soda can come to the rescue in this situation. Put your dishes in a sink or tub filled with hot water.

Add about a cup of baking soda and let the dishes soak overnight. By tomorrow, they should be odor-free. 

I Tried Everything, but The Smell Won’t Go

If you’ve tried everything mentioned in this guide and it still hasn’t taken care of the smell, don’t worry. The smell might be clingy, but it’s not permanent.

Even the most difficult odors fade eventually, usually within a month or so.

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There’s not much you can do at this point besides wait and keep cleaning your dishwasher regularly.

How to Avoid Burning Plastic in the Future

avoid burnt plastic smell

Burned plastic creates a mess, a foul odor in the room, and extra work for you, so it’s only natural you’d want to know how you can avoid this from happening in the first place.

The best and simplest solution is to wash all plastic items by hand instead of placing them in the dishwasher.

But if you’re pressed for time, consider investing in a dishwashing basket. It will prevent small parts from moving around during the wash cycle.


If you’re experiencing a strong burnt plastic smell, but you can’t see any melted plastic, this might be an indication of some serious mechanical problems with your dishwasher. 

If this happens, do not use the dishwasher again. Call for a technician or licensed plumber to repair the appliance at once.

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The Takeaway

The average price for replacing the heating element in a dishwasher is USD 300.

It’s an expensive piece of equipment, so if you end up burning plastic on it, you need to take care of it immediately.

Otherwise, that plastic will keep burning more with every use, and you’ll have more plastic fumes. 

As for how to get burnt plastic smell out of the dishwasher, you have to make sure you clean your dishwasher regularly and thoroughly.

Odors don’t typically set into dishwashers in a day, which happens over time. Especially if you don’t clean/deodorize the insides regularly.