Burning Smell in Your House: Reasons & Elimination Tips

Burning Smell in Your House

Have you ever encountered a scenario where you suddenly sniff a burning smell, mainly a dusty burning odor?

After searching the entire house, you couldn’t find evidence of fire, smoke, or flames anywhere. That’ll surely make you wonder, what is this burning smell and where is it coming from?

A burning smell in the house is annoying, and you’d definitely want to get rid of it quickly.

You can use perfumed aerosols, scented candles, and ventilation to remove and mask this odor. But these are temporary measures.

However, to eliminate it permanently, you must find the problem’s source.

Burning Smells in Your House and Where They Come From

Curious to know what causes this smell?

Space Heater Smells Like Burning

Have you used your space heater in a while? If not, this might cause the smell. How? Space heaters come in various designs, and most of them produce a weird smell, because of the following reasons:

  • Burning Dust Smell: Sometimes, dirt and dust can gather in the air filter or heating filament when not in use. So, when you turn on the heater, the accumulated dirt and dust burns off immediately, thus, emitting a burning smell.
  • Burning Plastic/Rubber Smell: At times, the smell indicates burning rubber or plastic. That may happen when you place a toy, plastic, fabric, or other flammable materials in front of your working heating vents or unit.

Furnace Smells Like Burning Hair or Dust

The dusty burning smell inside the furnace is the most common odor you will come across. It usually happens when you switch it on when the summer is over.

After turning the furnace on, the dust on it burns and gives off a burning odor that spreads the entire house through a vent. But, there’s more. The clogged up air filter causes the blower motor to work harder. As a result, it overheats and emits a burning smell.

Air Conditioner Smells Like Burning Plastic

Clean air is all you want when you switch on your AC. However, sometimes your air conditioner gives off a plastic burning smell that can be confusing and frustrating.

Your HVAC system might be producing a burning plastic smell because of the following reasons:

  • The malfunctioning of motor bearings causes overheating; thus, releasing a burning smell.
  • A motor requires a capacitor to function. When it wears out, the motor overheats and releases a burning odor.
  • Overheating of a worn-out fan belt releases a burning rubber or plastic odor.

READ ALSO: Can You Safely Run the Air Conditioner in Cold Weather?

Burnt Smoke Odor from Household Appliances

There are a variety of reasons these heating elements produce smoke and the burning smell:

  • Electrical cooking appliances usually come with a factory coating, i.e., oil that protects them during storage. When used for the first time, the coating burns off and produces a burnt smoky smell.
  • A refrigerator produces a smoky smell when its electrical wirings are overheated.
  • A dryer releases odd smells when used for the first time because its components contain coating or oil. What’s more, a dryer’s thermostat failure, malfunctioning belt, and blockage in the ventilation hose can produce a strong smoky odor.
  • A dishwasher can emit a smoke odor if a wooden or plastic utensil comes in contact with the machine’s heating component.

The Smell of Burnt Food

An electric oven has two heating components, i.e., the bake element at the oven’s bottom and the broiler/preheat element at the oven’s top.

Dripping of food on the oven’s bottom is more common than grease splatters! These chunks or large spills can ignite and give off a burnt food smell.

Moreover, if you are broiling food, it can easily scorch since the top part is too hot; thereby, causing smoke.

If cooked on the stove’s high flame or in a hot oven, high-fat foods will produce a burnt food smell. Plus, spilling grease in the oven or burner will release smoke and may cause a fire.

MUST READ: Best Air Purifiers for Kitchen Smells That Actually Work

Electrical Issues

Various electrical problems can lead to burning smells, such as:

  • Exposed wires
  • Wires; not correctly installed
  • Damaged electrical wiring
  • Overloading circuits
  • An obstruction in the electrical box
  • Ballast overheating in a fluorescent light bulb

A failure in the electrical components and melted wires can cause an electric fire. Moreover, if your electric heater smells like burning circuit/wiring, it indicates an electrical problem.

Furthermore, like an electrical smell, the gunpowder-like scent signifies the overheating of the furnace or heater’s circuit board and fan motor. Therefore, in these situations, switch it off immediately, and contact the HVAC specialist.

Burning Plastic Smell Outside

Does it smell like burnt plastic outdoors? What can it be?

According to Fox 17, people in East Nashville reported a burning plastic odor. Public health officials traced the smell and found that it was due to a mulch plant.

Mulch, when decomposed, generates heat, and intense smokey smell. However, it’s odor is not toxic.

Another problem people encounter is a skunk scent. It produces a musky odor and smells like burning plastic or rubber. Also, shrubbery and blossoming trees emit chemical-like odors.

Are Burnt Smells Harmful?

The smoke has serious health consequences as it contains nitrogen dioxide, formaldehyde, hydrochloric acid, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and various toxic pollutants.

These pollutants can worsen cardiovascular and respiratory problems, leading to cancer, lung disease, and asthma.

Healthline highlights that burning plastic is dangerous for our respiratory system and lungs. The release of toxic carcinogens threatens the quality of life and health.

According to Health.NY.gov, people exposed to strong smells may experience lung, throat, eye, or nose irritation.

Furthermore, several people feel burning sensations that lead to breathing problems, wheezing, or coughing. Plus, many individuals suffer from dizziness, nausea, or headaches.

In short, besides burning dust, all other burnt odors are potentially hazardous to your health!

How to Get Rid of a Burnt Plastic Smell?

The melted plastic produces furans and dioxins – highly toxic chemicals that can cause death. The inhalation of dioxin can damage the immune system, interferes with the hormonal system, and causes severe developmental and reproductive problems.

Therefore, it is crucial to remove plastic fumes and odor. Some helpful tips are as follows:

Proper Ventilation

Ventilate your house correctly by opening the windows and doors. You can use extractor or ceiling fans to speed up the process of making the air safe again.

Use White Vinegar

White vinegar absorbs odors, even the ones that have stubborn burnt smells like popcorn. To permanently remove the burning smell:

  • Fill the bowl with the vinegar
  • Place it in an area with the strongest burnt plastic smell

CNET highlights that combining equal parts of warm water and white vinegar creates a smell-removing cleaner. Change the solution each day for maximum absorption.

Mask Unpleasant Smell

Use incense, candles, air fresheners, or deodorizers to mask the unpleasant smell. However, they do not eliminate the burning scent.

Baking Soda and Lemon Peel

Place baking soda overnight to absorb the unpleasant odor. Then, vacuum it the following day. You can also clear the smell out by boiling lemon peels and lemon juice.

READ MORE: How Can I Clear My Home of Smoke?


No one wants to invite bad odor, especially a burning smell in their house. Different types of smells (and smoke) can cause critical health issues.

Therefore, always be prepared to nip in the bud as soon as you encounter a burning smell of any kind. With the above tips and tricks up your sleeve, you can easily address the burning smell in your house.