Why Does Your Self-Cleaning Oven Smell?

May 6, 2024
Oven Repair

Self-cleaning ovens sometimes smell; that’s just how it goes. However, you only have to put up with the unpleasant odor while it’s running a self-cleaning cycle. As long as you follow best practices, the bad odor shouldn’t linger very long afterward. Considering how much time and effort the self-cleaning feature can save you compared to manual cleaning, you might be happy to live with the temporary smell to gain these benefits. 

If you’ve recently acquired a self-cleaning oven, you might be a bit alarmed or shocked by the unpleasant fragrance and may be wondering if you’re doing something wrong. This article will explain what causes the smell, what types of smells are normal and which are abnormal, and what you can do to reduce the odor and stay safe.

Why do self-cleaning ovens smell?

In order to remove stuck-on grease and food from its interior, a self-cleaning oven uses extremely high temperatures, typically between 800-1000º F, to incinerate this grime and turn it to ash. Unlike manual cleaning, this process produces smoke and fumes, hence why you’ll notice a strong burning or smoky smell emitting from the oven. 

While it may be pungent, it’s important to know that this smell is normal and isn’t dangerous to humans. That being said, it’s essential to ensure you’re using a self-cleaning oven properly to avoid any potentially dangerous scenarios or abnormal smells.

How to use a self-cleaning oven safely and reduce odors

Using a self-cleaning oven properly will help to keep your household safe, and will also reduce bad odors. Follow these five steps to make sure  you’re using your self-cleaning oven safely and correctly.

1. Make sure your kitchen is well-ventilated

Sometimes people skip this step, especially during the cooler winter months, but it’s absolutely key that it’s followed. Improving airflow by opening all nearby doors and windows and turning on the range hood if you have one is the most important step you can take.

Having a well-ventilated kitchen will ensure bad odors dissipate as quickly as possible and do not linger in the kitchen. It creates both a safer and less smelly kitchen environment. It’s a good idea to keep the windows open for a couple of hours after a self-cleaning cycle is complete; however, you can turn off the range hood.

2. Remove all items from the oven

Before running a self-cleaning cycle, you’ll want to remove all pots, pans, trays, and racks from the oven. These items are not designed to withstand the incredibly high temperatures of a self-cleaning cycle. Anything you leave inside the oven could begin to warp, melt, or burn, releasing potentially toxic fumes and rendering them unusable.

Some self-cleaning ovens come with specially designed trays or racks that can withstand self-cleaning, but you should confirm that by reading your user manual before taking a chance on it. Leaving any cooking accessories in the oven during self-cleaning could result in a chemical or burning plastic-like smell, which could be toxic and may linger for longer. 

3. Avoid using chemical cleaners in the oven

The whole point of the self-cleaning feature is that it largely removes the need for heavy-duty manual cleaning. Sure, it’s good to regularly give the interior a wipe-down with a damp cloth, a white vinegar solution, or a baking soda paste, but you should avoid using any chemical cleaning products in the oven.

Chemical cleaners can leave behind a residue that will be burned off during a self-cleaning cycle, causing an abnormal, potentially toxic, chemical odor. These cleaners may also degrade the special protective coating inside your self-cleaning. 

4. Clear out large debris before a cycle

Large chunks of food or grime left inside the oven during a self-cleaning cycle will result in an even stronger smell, as these remnants will smolder and char, producing more smoke and fumes than usual.

You can prevent this by quickly removing any large debris from the oven  with a gloved hand, damp cloth, or a plastic scraper. You don’t need to go overboard with this; just get all the largest particles out. You don’t need to completely clean the oven interior—the self-cleaning cycle will take care of that.

5. Evacuate children and pets

While this step won’t reduce the odor coming from your oven, it is critical for safety. Even though the fumes from self-cleaning ovens are not considered dangerous to humans, they can be harmful to some types of pets such as tropical birds, and small children may be sensitive to changes in air quality. 

Also, due to the extreme temperatures self-cleaning ovens can reach, and the potential for there to be hot surfaces, it’s a good idea to keep children and pets out of the kitchen during the self-cleaning cycle.

Other factors to consider

There are a few other things worth considering that may contribute to your self-cleaning oven’s smell, including:

How new your oven is

Brand new ovens can still have traces of manufacturing oils and lubricants left on them. It’s normal for new ovens to smell stronger during the first few self-cleaning cycles as these substances burn off. This odor should subside gradually.  

How frequently you use the oven

Getting into the habit of running a self-cleaning cycle once every three months, or more often, ensures that food and grime don’t build up too much, helping to keep odors down and your oven nice and clean.

Whether you use air fresheners

While this doesn’t reduce or eliminate the smell, it does help to cover it up. Once the self-cleaning cycle is complete and you’ve let the kitchen air out, consider using an air freshener, a scented candle, or a steam diffuser to help cover up any lingering unpleasant odors as they gradually diminish.


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