Cooking is an art that engages several senses up until the moment you accidentally leave the pot on too high heat or forget to flip the food in your pan. What happens next is the assault of burnt smells in your kitchen and possibly other rooms in your house as well.
If this has happened to you, no need to worry. You can get rid of a burnt smell quickly by following a few simple steps such as neutralizing the source, opening the windows, turning your fans on, and wipe off all surfaces. You can also use vinegar and/or baking soda to get rid of the stench, and if all else fails, the professionals are there to help.
The quickest way to get rid of burnt smell
When you smell something burning—whether food or cigarettes or anything else—it can overwhelm your senses and even linger in your rooms and fabrics for days and weeks. In order to have your house smelling fresh and clean again, you’ll want to get rid of the burnt smell—and get rid of it fast. Here are some steps on how to do that:
Step 1 – Neutralize the source
Different burnt items require different means to get rid of them.
If the item is food, make sure that it has cooled down first before touching it, or remove it with a pair of tongs and gloves. Don’t touch the item directly, as you could burn your fingers. If it is a burned pizza in an oven, use gloves to remove the pan from the oven and tongs or a spatula to scrape the pizza from the pan once it is cooled. If the burnt item is popcorn that stayed too long in a microwave, remove it using gloves or tongs before placing it in a plastic bag and sealing it so that the smells don’t become worse.
The same goes for food that has been burned in a skillet, pot, or pan. You need to make sure that the item is cool before placing it in the plastic and sealing it. You must also remember to clean whatever came in contact with the burnt items (pots, pans, spatulas, spoons, tongs, etc.) as you clean up. Life Savvy suggests soaking the pot or pan as soon as possible to help lessen the burnt smell right away.
Sometimes, it isn’t enough to toss the burnt items into a plastic bag and seal it. In some cases where the burnt smell is really bad, SFGate’s Home Guides suggests taking the whole trash out too so that it doesn’t cause the burnt smell to linger.
Step 2 – Open windows for fresh air
You’ll want fresh air circulating around your home once again, and one of the ways to do that is by opening a couple of windows and create a draft throughout your home.
If there is no fresh air the burnt smell has nowhere to go and will linger on inside your home. Opening the windows allows the fresh air to come in and push out the burnt smell. In some cases where the smell is particularly bad, you might need to open some doors too.
If you live in an apartment building where the windows don’t open, you can turn up the air conditioning. National Heating and Cooling advises starting the air conditioner in ventilation mode on one of the higher fan speeds. This will serve as an exhaust for smells to exit the building.
Step 3 – Turn your fans on
If you have range fans or portable electric fans, plug them near a window and turn them on so that the fresh air is pulled into your home from the outside. Doing this multiplies the freshening effect, as it gets rid of the burnt smell and brings in the fresh air faster.
Home Made Simple has an alternate suggestion to fans—aside from turning on all the fans (even exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens), you can also try placing box fans in your windows facing outwards to create a cross-ventilation. This will help recirculate the air in your home and replace the burnt odor with a fresher breeze.
Step 4 – Boil lemons for a fresh smell (optional)
There’s no doubt that burnt smell is one of the most unpleasant odors that can cross your nostrils. On the other hand, fresher scents, such as that of lemons or lemongrass, can be quite refreshing. Hunker suggests that one of the steps to getting a burnt smell out of your home is by using the freshness of the scent of lemons or lemongrass to chase the bad smell away.
You can do this by boiling a pot containing 1 and ½ cups of water and several fresh lemons. You can even include some of your favorite spices. Let the lemon and spices steep in the water for about 30 minutes so that their scent permeates the air and chases the burnt smell away.
Step 5 – Check your HVAC system and keep it clean
Most houses have an HVAC system. If you want to get rid of burnt odors quickly, you must make sure that the filters are always clean. Have all heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning units regularly and professionally cleaned, especially after an incident where you accidentally burnt something inside your house. That way, any excess soot, ash, and smoke can be cleaned off and your HVAC can work properly again.
One important thing to note is that you need to change your HVAC filters regularly, if you want to increase the lifespan of your HVAC system. If you’re unsure when it’s time to change your HVAC filters, consult the manual or check this video for general advice:
Step 6 – Wash your curtains and/or draperies
Sometimes, curtains and draperies can retain the burnt smell long after the incident has come and gone. If you find that your curtains or draperies still have the lingering scent of something burning, you can spray it with deodorizing products that are available in most stores and supermarkets.
If, however, the smell is particularly bad, you might want to take down your curtains and draperies to give them a good wash. Soak them in cold water with 2 cups of white vinegar and laundry detergent. Hang them outside so they can dry out in the fresh breeze. In case you have a special kind of curtain, you can opt to have them professionally cleaned instead.
Step 7 – Clean all surfaces
If you find that the burnt smell still lingers in some rooms (especially some days and weeks after), you’ll need to wash come surfaces, such as kitchen countertops, exposed kitchen appliances, and more. If the smell is particularly bad, you might want to wash the walls, ceilings, and floors too. Sometimes, you’ll find that you need to wash the inside of cupboards, drawers, and closets as well.
Washing and cleaning surfaces with water and mild soap or detergent is often a lot more effective than spraying it with an air freshener. That’s because burnt odors tend to get trapped in walls and fibers that the air conditioner cannot reach them. Giving them a thorough wash is more effective. You can also combine equal parts water and vinegar and sponge down the walls with this mixture.
How to use white vinegar against burnt odors
If you’re looking for a quick solution to clean burnt odors, you’ll be surprised what wonders your kitchen cabinet can hold.
Here’s a quick solution by SFGate Home Guides:
- Heat up 2 cups of vinegar and one gallon of water and bring the mixture to a boil.
- After simmering for fifteen minutes, carefully dip white bread slices into the mixture.
- If you don’t have bread, you can distribute the vinegar in smaller bowls around your home.
- Leave it in the pot or pour out into a bowl and leave it in the site where the odors are particularly offensive.
- Leave the bowl/s for a few hours so they absorb and neutralize the burnt odors.
You might be wondering why vinegar is one of the most popular ingredients for household solutions, especially for burnt odors. That’s because vinegar acts as a natural deodorizer and it is also almost always readily available in any household. It’s also easy to make if you are in a hurry and need something to get rid of burnt smells really fast.
However, there can be some cause for concern if you are going to use vinegar. First of all, vinegar, while being a natural deodorizer, is also naturally acidic. Second, getting too much vinegar on your hands especially if you have sensitive skin, can be hazardous instead of helpful. If you have pets, they might accidentally lap up the vinegar-water mix or knock it off, and kids might accidentally drink it or touch the bowls while they’re still hot.
If you do plan on making and using this mixture, be sure to keep it away from children and pets and to wear gloves or other appropriate clothing when handling the mixture. Also refrain from touching the pot or bowls when they are still too hot.
How to use baking soda against burnt odors
If you’re looking for an alternative to the vinegar and water solution, you might want to try using baking soda instead. Like vinegar, it has natural deodorizing abilities and works to remove the remaining stench of burnt food.
Here’s what to do, according to SFGate Home Guides:
- Set small bowls half-filled with baking soda in a few areas around your home (e.g. near a garbage bin, on top of a stove, etc.).
- Leave for a few hours to absorb and neutralize the burnt smells.
As with vinegar, you need to also be careful with the bowls of baking soda, especially if you have children and/or pets in the house. Make sure that it is out of their reach so they do not accidentally tip it over or ingest it.
If you live in an area that is windy and your doors and windows are all open to get rid of the burnt smell, the wind might blow the baking soda away and create a bigger mess that you now have to clean up.
Consider hiring professionals if burnt odors persist
Sometimes, no matter what you do, no matter how many times you’ve washed your walls with vinegar and left bowls of baking soda around your house, the burnt odors just won’t go away. When that happens, it might be best to call in a cleaning crew to assess the offensive odors.
Getting professionals to take care of the situation might be the best solution for you because of the numerous things they can do that might be too overwhelming if you were to do it yourself. Here are some of the professionals can do to remove stubborn, persisting burnt odors, according to Networx:
- Assessing the situation to address it promptly
- Removing furniture and carpet or flooring
- Dismantling parts of the wall
- Getting up to the ceiling
- Cleaning the area thoroughly
- Using the most effective kinds of sprays or odor-removal mixtures
- Contacting contractors who can remove and replace the most damaged parts of the home