Dishwasher Smells Like Burning? – Easy Fix 2023

The moment your dishwasher smells like burning would be one of the most disturbing situations in the kitchen as you would panic and get startled. But before you call a technician or use other precautionary measures, you can follow the steps indicated here to ensure your safety while securing the dishwasher.

First, investigate the cause for the odor and make the required repairs or replacements to prevent it from occurring again. Next, if something has burned inside your dishwasher, you can follow the additional tips indicated here to remove the melted plastic from the coil. Finally, ensure to follow the safety precautions when handling these electrical appliances to avoid any possible health risks and other electrical hazards.

Dishwasher Burning Smell Electrical Safety


Dishwasher Burning Smell Electrical Safety

If you detect a burning smell from your dishwasher, immediately turn off the electricity, regardless of the nature of the odor, either burning plastic or smoke. Unless the dishwasher is portable, it would be connected beneath the cabinet at the electrical panel. You would have to turn off the power at the main circuit breaker in these appliances.

You can disconnect a portable dishwasher from power by unplugging it from the power outlet. Do not remove any plugs from the sockets with wet hands as it might cause electric shocks. After removing the dishwasher from power, try to figure out the possible cause of the burning smell.

Reasons Dishwasher Smells Like Burning

Reasons Dishwasher Smells Like Burning

The emission of a chemical odor in your new dishwasher might not be unusual and would go away after the first few washes. But if it occurs even after the first washes and continues to smell heavily of plastic during operation, you should inspect the reasons behind this before it is too late.

Heating Element

If your dishwasher smells like burning during a drying cycle, it might be due to a problem with the heating element. Sometimes, particular containers or plastic utensils might get caught against the heating element and cause a burning smell. The heating element is similar to an oven and located at the back of the cabinet, a few inches above the floor.

The waterproof top of the heating element connects the electrical system of the washer. After investigating the heating element for any trapped utensils, if that is not the source of the smell, it might be due to the failure of the heating element. You might have to check the function of the heating element with the necessary tests to determine whether it should be replaced.

Motor Failure 

Failure in the motor could also be another reason for the burnt plastic smell in a dishwasher. If this is the case, the dishwasher smells like smoke and would be detected during the heating cycle. But, again, this should be checked by a qualified technician to determine the problem and whether the motor needs replacement.

Plastic Coated Racks

Dishwashers are made with safe plastic that can resist high temperatures of warm water in dishwashing cycles. However, they cannot resist the direct heat of the heating element. If these plastic racks come into contact with the coil, they would melt either completely. So if you see that the plastic-coated racks are damaged, it might be due to a problem with the heating coil. If you observe this as you open the dishwasher, then you would have to contact the manufacturer to fix this issue.

New Dishwasher

Your dishwasher would smell like plastic if your dishwasher is new and you are running the first washing cycle. There might be plastic packing material in the dishwasher that would get heated during the cycle. So make sure to check the sides for stickers or foam and remove these packaging materials entirely before you start the next wash cycle. But if the plastic smell persists, or occurs once in a way, then there might be a fault with the dishwasher. Make sure to contact your manufacturer and get it inspected by a professional. 

Can a Dishwasher Melt Plastic Utensils?

Dishwasher-safe plastic utensils should not melt when washed in dishwashers as they are designed to resist the pressure and temperatures of dishwashers. They can be used under conditions as high as 170 ˚F. But it is always better to check this before you put them in the dishwasher as some plastic containers might have heat limits for ovens or dishwashers. Even if they can withstand the heat, make sure to place them on the top shelf of the dishwasher so that they are well away from the heating coil. 

If your plastic containers are thin and not dishwasher-safe, do not put them in the dishwasher since they risk melting. Washing unsafe plastics in the dishwasher would not only ruin the containers but also damage your appliance. To prevent plastics from getting exposed to unbearably high temperatures, try to avoid dry temperatures and sanitize cycles when washing reusable, dishwasher-safe plastics. If you are not sure about the heat resistivity of your plastic utensils, you can check the brand online for the necessary details. If not, it is recommended that you wash it by hand.

Is The Smell Dangerous?

Dishwasher Smells Like Burning - Is The Smell Dangerous?

Depending on the time of exposure to the fume, it might have negative effects on the health. If the burnt plastic is inhaled only for a short period, it can cause coughing, shortness of breath, and discomfort. You can get rid of these symptoms by opening a few windows and ventilating the kitchen area. You can also disperse the smell by turning on a fan and using air fresheners in the room. Short-term exposure is unlikely to pose any long-term health risks. But if there are family members with asthma or other allergies related to smell sensitiveness, keep them out of the room until the smell has cleared completely.

How to Remove Plastic Smell From Dishwasher ?

How to Remove Plastic Smell From Dishwasher

Since exposure to plastic fumes for a long time would be poisonous, it is necessary to take precautionary actions to get rid of this. Here are the steps through which you can eliminate the plastic smell.


If your dishwasher smells like burning, ventilate the area by opening the windows to eliminate the smell as soon as possible. Then turn off the dishwasher and unplug it from the power outlet. Wait for the dishwasher to cool down and remove the dishes once they are cool enough to be handled.

Find the Cause

If you see some burned or damaged plastic item inside the dishwasher, remove it using a pair of heat-resistant gloves. If it has melted and stuck on the coil, remove it by scraping it off with a wooden spoon. Even if the utensil is only slightly damaged, throw it away since contamination of melted plastic can cause negative health risks. 

Tips to Remove Melted Plastic

If you cannot free the melted plastic as it is stuck on the heating coil, you can use these tips and tricks to remove the melted plastic stuck on the dishwasher’s heating element.

Use a hairdryer to heat and soften the plastic stuck on the coil. This would help you to remove the residue without damaging the heating element. Remove the burnt plastic and brush away the residue particles fallen on the base. Clean the dishwasher thoroughly because the remaining particles would cause the smell to occur again when using the dishwasher. 

Let the melted plastic cool for some time. Fill a plastic zipper bag with ice and place it on the cooled plastic. Leave it for about 30 minutes so that ice will harden the melted plastic. This would make removal easier as you can scrape the hardened plastic from the heating coil. Use a plastic paint scraper or a nonmetallic tool or spoon for this. 

Add Baking Soda

To eliminate the burnt plastic smell in dishwasher, add a cup of baking soda in the detergent compartment and set it for a normal wash. To make sure that the smell is eliminated, repeat this using a second wash. To remove any residual odors, place a cup of baking soda at the bottom of the dishwasher and leave overnight. This would absorb any remaining smells and remove them from your appliance.

If the burnt plastic smell in dishwasher still remains the next morning, repeat the above procedure with white vinegar. Similar to baking soda, this too can sanitize and deodorize your dishwasher without causing any damage to the components. But it is recommended to check the user manual to confirm whether vinegar can be used for your dishwasher. This is because some manufacturers do not recommend using vinegar-based cleaning products for their dishwashers.

How to Remove Plastic Smell From Dishes?

How to Remove Plastic Smell From Dishes?

Even though you could overcome the issues of your dishwasher smells like burning, your plates and glasses might still smell plastic. It is mostly due to the ability of ceramics and glass to absorb odors. This would result in making your dishes smell of burnt fume which would ruin your meals. 

To get rid of this situation, you can soak them in hot water with a cup of baking soda. Leave it for a few hours so that the bad odor of the plates would be absorbed by the soda. Then rinse the utensils and check whether the problem is solved. If your glasses are streaked due to baking soda, use water and white vinegar in a ratio of 4:1 and let the glasses soak in this solution for about an hour. Then you can rinse your glasses and wipe them with a microfiber cloth or let them dry naturally. Do not worry about the vinegar smell, as it goes away when the utensils dry.

Preventing Plastic Smells 

The best precautionary method to avoid burned plastic in your dishwasher is to wash the plastic utensils by hand. This is because there is at least a slight possibility of a small plastic part falling onto the heating element. This would be inevitable, despite how carefully you load your dishwasher. 

If you don’t want to handwash or if you don’t have time to do so, then you can use a dishwasher basket that prevents small plastic parts such as pacifiers, baby bottle parts, and lids from moving around during the washing cycle. 

Although this would hold the plastics in place, researches show that the polycarbonates in plastic can deteriorate with repeated exposure to high temperatures and water pressure. Hence it is highly recommended to wash the plastic utensils by hand or replace them every few years of use. As an alternative, you can replace the plastics with tempered glass or ceramic utensils, which perform better in dishwashers, last longer, and are hygienic for everyday use.

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

How to fix my GE dishwasher smells like burning?

To identify the cause for this, check whether you have removed the packing material on the heating element if your dishwasher was newly installed. Also, check whether there is any plastic material lying next to the heating element. 

Can a dishwasher catch fire?

Dishwashers are considered to be the second most common source of kitchen fires which are caused by non-cooking appliances. There is a high risk of electric fires starting when the dishwasher’s electronics and heating elements are combined with water.

Can a dishwasher overheat?

A dishwasher would not overheat under normal circumstances. However, special situations such as internal motor issues and melted items inside the dishwasher can cause it to overheat.

Why do dishwasher heating elements fail?

Since electrical connections operate all the functional parts of a dishwasher, they can get damaged over time. Similarly, heating elements would also get degraded due to electrical or mechanical causes.


Dishwashers save your time and add comfort by washing the dishes and other utensils automatically on time. To ensure this convenience, you should make sure that nothing goes wrong with the appliance.

This is why you need to minimize washing plastics so that you would not experience situations where your dishwasher smells like burning. But if the problem appears to be complicated than a mere burnt plastic, then you would have to consult the manufacturer or get help from an appliance repair technician. However, do not confuse this plastic odor of your dishwasher with other situations where the furnace exhaust smells like gas.

Sometimes, if your dishwasher smells like eggs, you would have to overcome this as it might be unhygienic and cause negative health effects. You might also need to troubleshoot when your dishwasher door won’t close.

Find how to diagnose the causes why your Frigidaire Dishwasher Won’t Start from here. And here is a quick guide on avoiding the Worst Dishwashers when buying new appliances from the market.

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