Short answer: An old electric oven may smell like chemicals due to residue buildup or damaged components. Regular cleaning and maintenance can help prevent and address these odors.

Experiencing a chemical odor emanating from an old electric oven can be both disconcerting and potentially hazardous. The presence of such odors not only affects the taste and quality of your cooked food but may also indicate underlying issues within the appliance. In this discussion, I will explore common reasons behind these odors, methods to identify their source, and practical steps to prevent and address them, ensuring a safe and pleasant cooking experience with your old electric oven.

What Is An Electric Oven?

Using electric oven
Electric oven

An electric oven is a kitchen appliance used for baking, roasting, and cooking food through the use of electricity. It is designed to generate and maintain a consistent temperature within a closed cooking chamber, allowing for precise and controlled cooking. Electric ovens typically consist of heating elements, temperature controls, and various cooking modes such as bake, broil, and convection.

The basic components of an electric oven include:

  1. Heating Elements: These are electrical coils or heating elements, usually made of metal, that generate heat when electricity flows through them. They are located at the top and bottom of the oven, and sometimes in the back as well.
  2. Temperature Controls: Electric ovens are equipped with thermostats and temperature dials or digital controls that allow users to set and maintain the desired cooking temperature.
  3. Cooking Modes: Electric ovens often offer different cooking modes, such as bake (for general baking and roasting), broil (for direct top heating), and convection (which uses a fan to circulate hot air for even cooking).
  4. Timer: Most electric ovens have built-in timers that can be set to turn the oven on or off at specific times, ensuring precise cooking times.

Common Reasons For Chemical Smell In Old Electric Ovens

If you notice a chemical smell in an old electric oven, it’s essential to address it promptly as it could indicate a potential safety concern. Here are some common reasons for a chemical smell in an old electric oven:

  1. Residue Burning Off: Over time, food spills, grease, and other residues can accumulate on the oven’s interior surfaces, such as the heating elements, oven racks, and walls. When you first heat up the oven after a period of disuse, these residues may burn off, producing a chemical odor. This is usually harmless and can be resolved by running a self-cleaning cycle or manually cleaning the oven thoroughly.
  2. Dirty Heating Elements: If the heating elements inside the oven are dirty or covered in food debris, heating them can produce unpleasant odors. Cleaning the heating elements can help eliminate these smells.
Residues in oven
Dirty heating element
  1. Faulty Insulation: In some cases, the insulation around the oven’s heating elements may deteriorate over time. This can lead to the release of chemical smells when the elements heat up. Insulation issues may require professional repair or replacement.
  2. Damaged Wiring: Over the years, the electrical wiring inside an old oven can wear out or become damaged. If there is exposed or frayed wiring, it can emit a burning or chemical odor when the oven is in use. This is a serious safety concern and should be addressed immediately by a qualified appliance technician.
  3. Coating or Paint Issues: The interior surfaces of some ovens are coated with heat-resistant materials or paint. If this coating has deteriorated or been damaged, it can produce odors when exposed to high temperatures. In such cases, you may need to consider re-coating or refinishing the oven interior.
  4. Residue in the Oven Insulation: Over time, food particles and spills can penetrate the insulation around the oven, especially in the door area. When the oven heats up, these residues may release odors. This issue can be challenging to address, and it may require professional cleaning or replacement of the affected insulation.

How To Identify The Source Of Chemical Smell?

Identifying the source of a chemical smell in your electric oven requires a systematic approach to narrow down the possible causes. Here are steps to help you identify the source of the odor:

Step 1: Ventilation: Before you start, ensure that the kitchen is well-ventilated. Open windows and turn on exhaust fans if available to help dissipate any odors and ensure safety.

Step 2: Clean the Oven: Start by cleaning the oven thoroughly. Remove any racks, trays, and loose debris. Wipe down the interior with a mild oven cleaner or a mixture of baking soda and water. Pay attention to areas where spills or residue may have accumulated.

Step 3: Run a Short Heating Cycle: Turn on the oven to a moderate temperature, around 350°F (175°C), and let it run for about 15-20 minutes. This will help activate any potential sources of the smell.

Step 4: Observe and Smell: While the oven is running, carefully observe and smell around the oven. Be cautious of any unusual odors, and try to pinpoint their location. Is the smell coming from the inside of the oven or the exterior?

Step 5: Check Heating Elements: Inspect the heating elements (both top and bottom) for signs of damage, such as discoloration, cracks, or food debris stuck to them. Damaged or dirty elements can emit odors when heated.

Step 6: Examine Oven Interior: Look inside the oven for any visible signs of damage or deterioration, such as peeling coatings, damaged insulation, or loose components. These issues can produce odors when the oven heats up.

Step 7: Inspect Gaskets and Seals: Check the door gaskets and seals for any visible wear or damage. Damaged seals can allow odors to escape from the oven during cooking.

Step 8: Pay Attention to Timing: Note when the odor occurs. Does it happen only when the oven is initially preheating, during cooking, or throughout the entire cooking process? The timing can provide clues about the source.

Step 9: Use Your Senses: Use your sense of smell to characterize the odor. Is it a burning smell, a plastic-like smell, or something else? This can help narrow down potential causes.

Step 10: Seek Professional Help: If you cannot identify the source of the odor or suspect a more serious issue, such as faulty wiring or insulation, it’s advisable to contact a qualified appliance repair technician. They have the expertise and tools to diagnose and address the problem safely.

What To Do If Old Electric Oven Smells Like Chemical?

If your old electric oven emits a chemical smell, it’s crucial to address the issue promptly to ensure safety and eliminate the odor. Here’s what you should do if your old electric oven smells like a chemical:

  1. Turn Off the Oven: Immediately turn off the oven and disconnect it from the power source. This step is essential for safety, especially if the smell is strong or reminiscent of burning plastic or electrical components.
  2. Ventilate the Area: Open windows and doors to allow fresh air to circulate through the kitchen. Use exhaust fans if available to help remove the odor.
  3. Remove Food and Cookware: If there is any food or cookware inside the oven, remove them to prevent further exposure to the odor.
  4. Identify the Source: Carefully follow the steps outlined in the previous response to identify the source of the chemical smell. This may involve inspecting the heating elements, interior surfaces, insulation, and seals.
  5. Clean the Oven: If the smell is caused by residue or debris inside the oven, clean it thoroughly. Remove oven racks and trays, and clean the interior with a mild oven cleaner or a mixture of baking soda and water. Pay close attention to areas where spills or residues may have accumulated.
Oven cleaned throughly
Cleaning electric oven
  1. Check Heating Elements: Inspect the heating elements for damage, such as discoloration, cracks, or food debris. Replace or clean them as needed.
  2. Inspect Interior Components: Examine the oven’s interior for signs of damage, peeling coatings, damaged insulation, or loose components. Address any issues you find.
  3. Check Seals and Gaskets: Inspect the door seals and gaskets for wear or damage. Replace them if necessary to ensure a proper seal and prevent odors from escaping during cooking.
  4. Run a Test Cycle: After cleaning and inspecting, run a short heating cycle at a moderate temperature (around 350°F or 175°C) for about 15-20 minutes to see if the smell persists.
  5. Seek Professional Help: If the chemical smell continues or if you identify a more serious issue such as damaged wiring, insulation, or components, it’s advisable to contact a qualified appliance repair technician. They can diagnose and address the problem safely and effectively.

How To Avoid Chemical Smell From Electric Ovens?

To avoid chemical smells from electric ovens and maintain a pleasant cooking environment, follow these tips and practices:

Regular Cleaning:

Prevent Spills:

  • Use oven-safe containers and cookware to prevent spills and drips onto the oven’s heating elements and interior surfaces.
  • Place a baking sheet or aluminum foil on the rack below dishes that might bubble over to catch any spills.

Proper Food Handling:

  • Cover dishes with lids or aluminum foil to contain odors and prevent them from escaping into the oven.
  • Use oven-safe lids or covers when applicable to help lock in aromas during cooking.

Regular Maintenance:

Avoid Plastic and Non-Oven-Safe Materials:

  • Do not use plastic cookware, utensils, or containers in the oven, as they can release chemical odors and potentially melt.
  • Ensure that all materials used in the oven are oven-safe and suitable for high temperatures.

Proper Ventilation:

Regular Baking Soda Maintenance:

  • Place a shallow dish of baking soda inside the oven when it’s not in use. Baking soda can help absorb and neutralize odors.
  • Replace the baking soda regularly to ensure its effectiveness.

Avoid Burning Food: Be mindful not to overcook or burn food, as this can produce unpleasant odors. Use timers to monitor cooking times.

Use Cooking Modes Wisely: Familiarize yourself with your oven’s various cooking modes, such as bake, broil, and convection. Select the appropriate mode for your recipe to minimize the risk of odors.

Professional Maintenance: Schedule periodic professional maintenance for your oven. This can include inspections, cleaning, and addressing any potential issues that may lead to odors.


Why does my oven smell like gas?

A gas smell in your oven may indicate a gas leak. Immediately turn off the oven, ventilate the area, and contact a gas professional or appliance technician to inspect and address the issue.

Why is my top oven smoking?

Smoking in the oven can be caused by food spills, drips, or residues burning when the oven is hot. Clean the oven thoroughly and remove any burnt food particles to eliminate the smoke.

Is an electric burning smell toxic?

An electric burning smell can be caused by overheating or damaged components. While not inherently toxic, it’s a sign of a potential issue. Turn off the appliance, unplug it, and seek professional assistance to prevent hazards.

Why does my oven smell like a fart when I turned it off?

A fart-like smell may result from food residues or spillages burning off when the oven is hot. Ensure the oven is clean and free of residues to prevent such odors.

Is it normal for an electric oven to smell?

It’s not normal for an electric oven to have a persistent chemical or foul odor. If you experience unusual or persistent smells, investigate and address the cause, which may require cleaning or professional maintenance.


If your old electric oven emits a chemical odor, it is crucial to promptly identify and address the source of the smell. Regular cleaning, proper maintenance, and the use of oven-safe materials can help prevent such odors. However, persistent or unusual chemical smells should be investigated carefully, and any potential safety concerns, such as damaged components or wiring, should be addressed by a qualified appliance technician to ensure safe and odor-free cooking.

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