Smelly Ovens & Cookers
If your oven or cooker smells bad, here's the causes and the solutions
We will often be asked about bad smells or odours from most appliances but one that's really hard to pin down and tell a customer is when we encounter a smelly oven or cooker.
The thing of it is and, what's really hard to tell people at times, is that asides from the initial burn off of protective coating that's on the elements there's nothing in a cooker to actually produce any sort of malodour. Every manufacturer that makes an oven or cooker will not use any materials that produce any sort of odour through use.
When you think about it this is very, very sensible as the last thing that any cooker manufacturer would want is a product that could be producing some sort of stench in the kitchen. For a start it would cost them money dealing with the complaints or doing whatever remedial work was required to resolve the smell. But aside from that it would do their reputation no end of damage.
Inside An Oven
Inside an oven or the oven section of a cooker there is nothing, not a single item that can produce any sort of bad smell or malodour. It's just not there.
Around about that oven cavity there will be some form of insulation, usually a fibreglass based insulation sort of like the insulation that you will have in your loft. This insulation is designed to keep the heat in and not to come into direct contact with any of the oven elements or anything that is being cooked in the oven. It has been seen to discolour, even "burn" slightly but it's never been known to cause any sort of odour.
Other than that, there's really nothing to cause a smell.
Of course there can be occasions where wiring burns out or perhaps an oven selector switch, but if that happens you'd have an actual fault with the oven or cooker and you would be well aware that there was a problem as things wouldn't work.
What Does Cause Oven Odour
This is the part that service engineers often struggle to tell people.
It's something that you've put in the oven that's causing the smell or, it's something that you've used to clean the oven that's causing the odour.
We know that all the components are inert in so far as odours go so, that being the case, it can only be something that you, the customer, has put in or used in the oven. There's really not a lot of other options.
Smelly Smoke From The Oven
If you don't clean the oven regularly, especially the hard to get at parts, then over time a grease residue will build up and every time the oven heats up that will start to emit an odour. Exactly the same thing will happen if you use cleaning products inside the oven and they are not properly wiped down afterwards.
What you will often see as a symptom of this is a light smoking and it can smell pretty bad.
The clue however is in the symptom, if this bad smell is being emitted when the oven is on and running hot then it's something in the oven that, when heat is applied is emitting the odour and that's the point, it's something that's in the oven and not the oven itself that's producing the smell.
The number one cause of this without any doubt is grease residue.
When you cook in an oven (just about anything) there is fat and grease in the food that cooks off as a part of the natural cooking process. This "vaporises" and gets carried about the oven with the steam produced while food cooks and deposits itself on just about any surface. This is why you see grease deposits very often on the glass doors in ovens.
When you grill food, the grease and fat "spatters" and will often hit the roof of the oven cavity and this is highly noticeable. Left untreated and not cleaned off and it can become a fire hazard and, in fact, virtually every single oven or cooker fire ever reported has been caused by this or by food being left unattended while cooking and igniting so do take care on these fronts.
Do bear in mind though that this type of grease deposit builds up over time, layer after layer so the longer you leave cleaning the oven, the harder it gets to get it clean.
When we see grease deposits a few millimetres thick, we know the oven not being looked after and cleaned properly.
Oven Cleaning Products
The other common issue is that people use some cleaning products and don't wipe down the inside of the oven correctly and miss a bit. There is also a fair few service calls we've seen where a totally unsuitable product has been used to clean an oven, such as raw bleach or suchlike.
The problem with some of these cleaners is that they can seep into gaps, get into the insulation and that can cause a smell. There's not a lot that you can do about it after that happens and, even if the oven or cooker is under warranty, it is highly unlikely that this would be covered as it would be considered to be customer misuse. Basically, it's not he fault of the machine.
Often though you will see white streaks or marks inside an oven where a cleaner has been used and not cleaned off completely, this can mark the inner oven cavity but it can also smell as it heats up, often quite badly.
The trick is twofold, use good quality oven cleaning products, we sell a number of specialist oven cleaners in the store, and also remember to follow the instructions and clean off any residues after use.
Other Reasons For Bad Smells
Out on the road repairing appliances you see a lot and, a lot of it you really didn't want to or sign up for and some things you see in cookers and ovens can be, well, pretty bad.
It's not uncommon to see the bottom of an oven coated in a patina of grease, as this heats up it can smoke and absolutely stink. It's so baked onto the cavity that the only way to even make a dent in it is to use a paint scraper or a specialist degreaser to get it off, something incredibly caustic that cannot be sold over the counter.
There is also the problem of food spillage. Gravy or suchlike seeps in behind elements and until it burns off it just stinks. Or the bits of burnt food soaked in grease laying at the bottom of the oven, round the door and in the vents. All these things can cause bad smells.
But the one that really frightens the life out of ever service engineer is dead things. Yes, it's not at all uncommon to visit a range cooker, especially in rural areas, and find the odd deceased mouse that thought the inside of the cooker's insulation was a nice place to be and, sometimes, they even chew on the wiring and end their existence that way.
As a general rule, there's nothing in the oven or cooker or it's manufacture that can cause any sort of malodour or bad smell.
If you have a service engineer visit and he can't find a cause, it's because that mechanically any reason for one does not exist.
The chances are that it is an almost foregone conclusion that it is something that has been put in the oven or a cleaning issue that is causing the bad smell, not the machine.