Can burnt popcorn ruin a microwave?
Yes, but only in the short-term!* The most likely problems you’ll experience are:
- Yellow, buttery stains
- An unpleasant smell
Both of these issues are annoying, but the good news is that both can be fixed with a little bit of elbow-grease.
In this article I’ll explain how to solve both these problems very easily. Read on!
(*I mean, technically if you left your microwave running for hours you could do more permanent damage. That’s true of anything you leave in there for too long though!)
How To Remove A Burnt Popcorn Smell From Your Microwave
Here are three tried and tested methods for removing a burnt popcorn smell from your microwave.
I’ll start with the easiest, then work up towards the more intensive stuff.
(If you fix the problem with one method, of course, there’s no need to continue with the rest!)
Method 1: Vinegar & Water
For the easiest fix, just follow these simple instructions
- Add half a cup of water and a tablespoon of vinegar to a bowl.
- Microwave the bowl on high power for 4 minutes.
- Leave the door shut for another 10-15 minutes
Vinegar’s a bit of a miracle ingredient for cleaning up all kinds of spills and smells in the kitchen.
The idea behind this method is that the vinegar will be absorbed into the steam created by the hot water. This will help remove any stains, as well as the smell.
It’ll be replaced with the smell of vinegar, but this should disappear quite quickly.
Open some windows, grab some wet paper towel, and give the insides of the microwave a thorough wiping down.
Method 2: Sponge, Vinegar & Baking Soda
The second method involves a little more effort on your part, but it’s worth trying if the first method didn’t work for you.
- Grab a new kitchen sponge and soak it with vinegar.
- Sprinkle a little bit of baking soda onto the surface of the sponge.
- Clean the top, bottom and sides of the microwave with the sponge.
- Pay final attention to the microwave door and the glass turntable platter.
Method 3: Lemons & Water
This final method is one you can use to completely clean even the most disgusting microwave!
It involves a little more effort than the other two methods. I think it’s worthwhile though, as you’re not replacing the burnt popcorn smell with a vinegar smell instead.
- Grab a bowl and add two halves of a lemon to it.
- Add 1-2 cups of water to the bowl.
- Microwave the bowl for around four minutes on high power.
- After cooking, leave the bowl in the microwave for as long as possible (at least half an hour, and overnight if the problem’s really bad).
- Remove the bowl and wipe down the insides of the microwave with a damp sponge.
That should not only restore your microwave to mint condition, but also leave a much more pleasant fragrance in the kitchen.
How Do You Clean A Microwave After Burning Popcorn?
Removing yellow popcorn stains from a microwave isn’t too difficult. The trick is to do it quickly – the longer you leave them, the more stubborn they’ll become over time.
To fix this, first of all follow the third method of using lemons and water that I’ve outlined just above.
This should solve the problem, but if it doesn’t you’ll need to go a little more hands-on. Try this instead:
- Grab an old toothbrush.
- Coat it in a little baking soda and water to make a loose paste.
- Gently apply it to the problematic stain.
- Leave the paste to rest there for around 20 minutes.
- Wipe the paste away, then use a fine cloth to wipe the problematic area down.
That should be all you need to remove a burnt popcorn stain from your microwave!
If that still hasn’t solved the problem – but it’s improved – just repeat the process until the stain has disappeared entirely.
Frequently Asked Questions
Before I wrap things up, I wanted to answer some related questions that you might have.
How Long Does A Burnt Popcorn Smell Last?
If you did absolutely nothing to remedy the problem, the smell of burnt popcorn can last from a few days to a few weeks. It really does depend on how badly things have gone!
Much of this is to do with the starch and fiber in popcorn. This stuff can linger for a very long time, but it will go away eventually.
How To Remove A Burnt Popcorn Smell From Your House
If you’ve dealt with the microwave but there’s still a lingering smell in your house, try the following:
Starting with the obvious solution, open up as many windows as you can and leave them open for a few hours.
You can also speed up the process using your kitchen / range fans, as well as any spare portable fans you have lying around the house.
This stuff is great at neutralizing all kinds of bad odors. Place a small bowlful in the affected rooms, and within a few days you should notice a big improvement.
Just make sure you place them out of reach of pets and young children.
These are readily available from most stores. Don’t go for anything scented at first though. If you do, you’ll end up with a sickly-smelling combo.
Stick to neutral brands and place them in any rooms that have retained a lingering burnt popcorn smell.
Can Popcorn Burn Your Microwave?
Unless you leave the popcorn cooking in the microwave for a ridiculously long period of time, there’s no reason to think it will burn your microwave.
Most likely it will leave some kind of yellow stain (at best), or a brown one. Use the methods I’ve outlined earlier on in this article to fix this problem.
It might take a few attempts to get rid of the stains entirely, but they’ll go eventually if you’re persistent.
Unless you’re really negligent, burnt popcorn can’t ruin a microwave permanently!
It’s more likely to create short-term problems of smells and stains, but now you know how to fix both using a few super-simple methods.
Mark’s a lifelong food fanatic and spent ten years working as an entertainment journalist. He now combines his love of food, drink and writing as the founder and editor of Viva Flavor. Read more