Removing Burned Popcorn Smell from a Microwave

Burnt popcorn – the bane of microwaves everywhere, not only leaves a horrendous smell, it also stains the inside of your microwave. Whether in the break room at work, or your own kitchen, there is hope for removing the odor and restoring the inside.

What You Will Need:

  • 100% Pure acetone (nail polish remover)
  • Coffee
  • Vinegar
  • Coffee mug or small bowl
  • Dish detergent
  • Bowl or small bucket
  • Water
  • Soft cloths or paper towels
  • Rubber Gloves (optional)

Removing the Stains

  1. Begin by mixing a few drops of dish detergent with hot water in a bowl or bucket.
  2. Dip the cloth in the water and wring it out thoroughly.
  3. Wipe the inside and outside of the microwave down. This will remove any surface dirt and grime.
  4. Using a clean cloth or paper towels, apply acetone to the walls and scrub away the yellowish stains left behind from the burning popcorn.
  5. Wipe away any residue from the walls with the soapy water and rinse.
  6. You may need to repeat a couple of times depending on the severity of the discoloration.
  7. This method should remove most, if not all, of the discoloration of the inside walls.

Removing the Odor

  1. If the lingering odor is still a problem, there are two methods you can try: coffee and vinegar. We’ll start with the coffee method.
  2. Coffee is known to absorb odors, so fill the coffee mug or small bowl with about 2 tablespoons of ground coffee and ½ cup of water.
  3. Set the cup in a small bowl (to catch any overflow as it boils) and place it in the microwave.
  4. Microwave the coffee on high for about 2 minutes. Be careful when you go to remove it as it will be HOT.
  5. Repeat as necessary.
  6. Another odor remover is vinegar. Fill the small bowl about half full of vinegar and place it in the microwave.
  7. Turn the microwave on and let it heat until it steams.
  8. Once it has developed a good amount of steam, turn off the microwave and let it set for about 10 minutes.
  9. Wipe out the microwave with water and a soft cloth.
  10. There may be a vinegar smell in the microwave, but this will dissipate within a day or two.

Additional Tips and Ideas

  • Sometimes the odor gets into the vents of the microwave. If neither of the above remedies work, it may just take some time to air it out.
  • Let your microwave air out as long as possible. If you can take it outside that will help.
  • If the odor lingers in your kitchen, try some of the remedies in our article about Removing Smoke Smells.


  1. Bill says:

    Some microwave ovens have a filter. If yours has one, replace it. If you do nothing, the odor will probably go away in about six months.

  2. Laura says:

    A similar method of placing a coffee cup 2/3 full of plain tap water in the center of the microwave and heat on high for four minutes (be careful when removing as both the cup and the water will be extremely hot!) will loosen any stuck-on food and liquid debris from the interior of the microwave. You no longer need to dread having to scrub and scrape to clean out your microwave. You need only wipe it out with a clean cloth using this method.

  3. MT says:

    I rinse my kitchen sponge with soapy water, put it into a plastic (Tupperware) bowl and place it into the microwave on a piece of paper towel. Set it for a minute – it will foam – be careful taking it out – set it aside. Take the paper towel, which is now wet and most often soapy, and wipe out the inside. Food particles which may have been stuck on, now just wipe away.

  4. RP says:

    For a scorched smell: wipe inside of the microwave with a heavy dose of white vinegar. Let it set for a couple of minutes. Rinse with water. Then, bring two cups white vinegar to a boil in the microwave. Boil for about 3-5 minutes. (Do not let the vinegar boil dry.) Repeat a second time if needed. When finished, rinse inside of microwave with water.

  5. Mom adventure says:

    I use a cup or bowl half full of water, then add a fresh squeezed lemon – whole lemon skin and all. Boil in the microwave or burnt pan, but don’t boil it dry. 2-5 minutes, then let stand. It wipes up easily and has a fresh lemon scent!

  6. Susan says:

    To eliminate the odor in a microwave or fridge, put in a small dish with vanilla extract and leave it overnight.

  7. Steva says:

    I like to use an orange oil like TKO when cleaning my microwave. Just mix a little in a microwave safe bowl and place it in the microwave for a couple of minutes. When you open up the microwave, you should be greeted by a pleasant orange scent and then you can just wipe away softened messes from the interior. You can probably use real lemons this way too.

  8. Carolynlee says:

    For burnt popcorn, I cut a lemon in half, add a little water in a bowl and microwave for 2 minutes. It really helps the smell in the microwave. For the kitchen smell, I boil a pot of water with cinnamon sticks and orange peels. Smells better than the burnt popcorn!

    ***NOTE: Throw the bag away out of the house to keep smell out.

  9. Snowy9900 says:

    My nana burnt an entire bag of popcorn in my microwave. My house smelled for days.

    I put baking soda in a bowl of water and ran it through the microwave until boiling for about 3-4 minutes. Used the same water to wash the insides and NO more smell, and a clean microwave too!

    Thank you, to my aunt!

  10. Mason says:

    Small frying pan on a stove.
    Set to lowest heat.
    Add some vanilla.
    Add some sugar.
    Took about 15 minutes, but the burnt popcorn smell throughout the apartment was gone.

  11. Dave says:

    I have burned popcorn all too frequently in the microwave. My local Ace Hwd. has a product called Smells BeGone and it works like a charm. Google it and they have a web page and you can buy it online. It works on many different odors.

  12. Eve says:

    Thank you for all the advice, especially to Carolynlee, as it didn’t occur to me to throw the bag out…..

  13. Worked great says:


    His suggestion of heating vanilla and sugar in a frying pan for 15 minutes worked wonders in my apartment, and don’t forget to throw the bag away or tie it up in plastic bags! :)

  14. Bert says:

    DANGER! When boiling liquids in a microwave, it is quite natural to use a glass measuring cup. That is fine, but be aware that it is very easy to heat the liquid beyond it’s boiling point without it beginning to boil (superheating). When this happens, the liquid can suddenly boil, almost explosively while (or even after) taking it out, burning the person holding the cup and or bystanders.

    To prevent that from happening, you can insert a microwave-safe stick, such as a wood Popsicle stick into the cup along with the liquid. That will promote boiling, thus preventing superheating.

  15. Jeff says:

    Putting acetone in a microwave sounds risky to me. A small spark during evaporation can lead to a major explosion.

  16. Emma says:

    I had never burnt anything in microwave, but have now burned popcorn and the smell is bad. I will try the suggestion above.
    Thanks to all, Emma

  17. Mom of autistic adult says:

    The coffee method worked wonders! My son tried to heat up a cup of noodles without the water! Yes, when it was still in the styrofoam container! It looked like a small, black, compacted bunch of noodles, which smelled the house up like burnt popcorn. My suggestion-use the coffee method!

  18. Diane B says:

    After you’ve cleaned the microwave, try popping another bag of popcorn – but this time watch carefully and stop it before it’s all the way finished popping. That way, the smell of good, fresh popcorn will replace the burned popcorn smell.

  19. Mary says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! Came home to find my husband had burned popcorn in the microwave. Followed your suggestions (used the coffee) and that disgusting smell is gone!

  20. Alba says:

    Lemon juice always works for me. Will try other ideas, thanks.

  21. Rachel says:

    Tried baking soda first; was going to follow with vanilla, but didn’t need to – worked really great. I wish I had thought to Google it sooner! Thanks for all the ideas! Much appreciation!

  22. Denise says:

    Glad I’m not the only parent who’s child put noodles in the microwave with no water. Happened twice now to me. Last time I trashed the microwave since the noodles were on fire. This time I’ll try all but the acetone; not my thing.

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