How to get rid of burnt food smells – cleaning experts share their 5 top tips

Banish burnt odors with five quick tricks to erase the evidence of clumsy cooking

A light blue kitchen with a double stacked oven and broiler drawer
(Image credit: Searle & Taylor)

No matter how good a home cook you are, we all have the occasional kitchen mishap that results in a lingering burning smell throughout our kitchens and sometimes even the rest of our homes.

Much to our frustration, burning smells often cling more easily to your furnishings than the fresh, welcoming scents of our candles and essential oils. Luckily, there are several cleaning tips you can try to help freshen up the space and eliminate musty odors. 

This is how to get rid of burnt food smells quickly before they spread to the rest of your space.

How to get rid of burnt food smells

While not burning your food is, of course, the best way to banish bad kitchen smells, these singed scents are often easy to dispel, especially when treated quickly and before they have the chance to settle. 

1. Deodorize with vinegar

vinegar for cleaning

(Image credit: Getty images / Ivan Bajic)

From deodorizing your fridge with vanilla vinegar to freshening up trash cans, cleaning with vinegar is the best way to eliminate odors anywhere in your home. When dealing with a tough odor, however, spritzing it around the room might not be enough. For this, Alex Cortez, cleaning expert and manager of Denton Maids, recommends boiling vinegar on your stove instead.

‘Yes, it smells weird, but white vinegar is great because it evaporates quickly,’ he explains. 'Just boil a big pot of white vinegar for five to 10 minutes, then open up all the windows to remove the smell.'

If you can't attend to a pot of boiling vinegar, Alex assures us that leaving a bowl of vinegar next to your stove can have a similar effect but will take longer – ‘it will need more time, probably at least 48 hours. But it can help if you’re leaving for work, for example,’ he assures. 

Cleaning Vinegar | $4.99 at Target

Cleaning Vinegar | $4.99 at Target
Having a container of cleaning vinegar in your cleaning cabinet is essential for all sorts of household chores. 

2. Use a simmer pot

A cooking pot filled with cider and orange slices

(Image credit: Alamy)

If boiling vinegar is not for you, and you would rather replace the burnt odor with something more delightful, James King, operations manager at Deluxe Maids recommends trying out simmer pot recipes. This is perfect if the burnt smell has already permeated other parts of your home, as it will make your home smell nice quickly. 

‘Get dried flowers, herbs, and spices like lavender, rose petals, cinnamon sticks, and cloves and mix them up in a large clean pot with plenty of water,’ he suggests. You can then simmer this mixture on low heat for a few hours (so long as you regularly top up the liquid), allowing the fresh scent to flow through your space. 

3. Flush it out with fresh air

Gauze and brass rod window treatment in kitchen

(Image credit: Sara Story Design)

The easiest way to help dispel a bad burning smell is to open up your windows, reminds Rocky Vuong, professional cleaner and director of Calibre Cleaning. This is particularly effective if done as soon as you notice the burning to prevent the odor from clinging to kitchen surfaces. Turning on the exhaust fans as you cook can also help with this. 

‘This isn't just about getting rid of the smell; it's about diluting the odor particles in the air. Fresh air is incredibly effective and free,’ they explain. 

4. Air out fabrics

Clothes hanging on a washing line drying

(Image credit: Getty Images)

'If you have kitchen curtains, towels, or even aprons and oven gloves, fabrics that have absorbed a burned odor are best washed to help get rid of odor residues and freshen up your space,' says James King, operations manager and cleaning expert.

Sometimes, you can get away with hanging them up outside in fresh air and sunlight if washing or even steaming them isn't an option.

5. Clean the burnt pot or tray

Stack of pans

(Image credit: Getty Images)

As with any bad odor in your home, removing the cause is one of the best ways to cut the scent off. In the kitchen, this likely means throwing the burnt food in the trash and thoroughly cleaning the pot or baking tray. 

Gabriella Dyson, Solved section editor at Homes & Gardens, recommends cleaning burnt kitchenware with a baking soda paste made of baking soda and water. This light abrasive will not damage the surface but will help flake away burnt remnants while simultaneously deodorizing the surface. For particularly tough deposits, she suggests covering the surface with baking soda before spraying it with white vinegar and letting the fizzing reaction do most of the work. 

Gabriella Dyson
Gabriella Dyson

Gabriella Dyson is Head of Solved at Homes & Gardens, editing and writing practical advice for homeowners in the process of cleaning, decluttering, or attempting home improvements and DIY projects. Gabriella previously worked on Homebuilding.com, writing features about issues surrounding historic and listed building projects.

FAQs

What is the best odor eliminator?  

White vinegar and baking soda are the best odor eliminators for your home and your laundry. These two pantry staples help to break down the particles in the air that cause bad odors, absorbing them so they no longer circulate or cling onto fibers.

Does boiling vinegar clean the air? 

Boiling vinegar helps to deodorize a space, breaking down bad odors and replacing them, but they do not clean the air or kill germs or pathogens. You will need to air out your home with fresh air and disinfect and clean surfaces with an anti-bacterial spray instead.  


It also helps to clean your stove and clean your oven regularly to keep burnt food smells at bay and prevent food and grease from burning onto the shell of your appliances. If you find that food is regularly burning, no matter how you cook it, you might need to replace your pots and pans – especially in the case of non-stick pans where the coating may have worn away. 

Chiana Dickson
Writer

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for a year, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.