How to Get Burned Popcorn Smell Out the House – A Chef’s Top 6 Ways

Amy Hand
Amy Hand

Amy Hand

Amy worked as the head pastry chef and the head chef at multiple restaurants in South Africa. She now shares her professional insights about cooking and kitchen tools here at The Skillful Cook.

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how to get burnt popcorn smell out of house

There’s nothing like digging into a big warm bowl of popcorn while you cuddle up on the couch to binge a show. But there is no way to ruin this vibe faster than burning the popcorn! Now you’ve lost your snack, and your whole house stinks of burned popcorn.

Now how do you get burned popcorn smell out of the house?

Luckily there are some easy ways to do it using household staples like vinegar and citrus.

This article covers:

  • 6 ways to get burned popcorn smell out of the house.
  • How to get the smell out of your microwave.
  • Why burned popcorn smells so bad?

6 Ways to Get Burned Popcorn Smell Out the House

The smell of burned popcorn is so potent that it can hang around in your house for days if you don’t do something about it. Here are my top 6 ways for getting rid of it.

1. Ventilate 

The first step you need to take is to ventilate. It’s the quickest way to get the smoke to dissipate, and it will make the air breathable as quickly as possible.

Open up all the doors and windows to get air circulating through the space. If you have any ceiling or freestanding fans, you can also turn them on to get the air moving. An air purifier will also help remove the smell and airborne burnt particles, so place one in the kitchen or in areas of high airflow.

Ventilating the space quickly is important to make sure the burnt smell doesn’t have time to stick to your surfaces, upholstery, or curtains. In the worst-case scenario, you may need to wash your curtains or use the baking soda trick below to truly rid it of the smell.

2. Clean Surfaces with Vinegar

I like to start by wiping down all the surfaces in the kitchen or other rooms where the smell might have permeated, as smelly burnt particles can stick to them. Getting surfaces cleaned first is crucial to stop the lingering smell.

Vinegar naturally neutralizes odors, so it’s a great tool for eliminating popcorn smell.

There are a few ways you can use  vinegar:

  • Spray: Combine the vinegar with lemon juice, baking soda, and a little water. Place in a spray bottle and use it to clean down the surfaces in the affected area. This will prevent the scent from clinging to the counters, while the lemon and vinegar smell neutralizes the burnt smell in the air.
  • On the countertop: Place a small bowl of vinegar on the countertop near where the popcorn burnt. The smell of the vinegar will permeate the space and neutralize the burnt odor. Leave it out for as long as necessary.
  • Boiling: I suggest boiling the vinegar on the stove if the smell is particularly pungent. Place two cups of vinegar and some water in a pot and bring it to a boil on the stovetop. Let it boil for at least 15 minutes to fill the room with a vinegary scent.
Clean Surfaces with Vinegar

3. Boil Citrus Peel and Leave out Lemons

I love using citrus to get rid of unpleasant smells because it not only neutralizes the burnt odor but also perfumes the air with a beautiful fruity scent.

To use citrus, peel lemons, oranges, or grapefruit. Then place the peels in a pot of water, and bring them to a boil. You can also place the chopped-up flesh of the fruit in a bowl near the affected area. This combination will have your kitchen smelling fresh and clean in no time.

4. Coffee Grounds or Baking Soda

Coffee grounds and baking soda may seem very different, but they actually have one thing in common; their ability to absorb smells.

I like to pour some coffee grounds or baking soda into an open container and leave it in the affected area overnight to absorb the scent. If the burned smell is very intense, you may need to take more drastic measures by sprinkling baking soda over the affected surfaces. Sprinkle a thin layer over countertops and any upholstery that may have been affected. You can even sprinkle baking soda onto your carpets. Leave it overnight before dusting or vacuuming it away.

5. Essential Oils

Essential oils have such an intense scent it takes just a few drops to rescue your kitchen from the smell of burnt popcorn. I recommend lemon, lavender, and eucalyptus for this task because they are very strong and can mask unpleasant smells well.

Place a few drops of essential oil into a diffuser and place it in the kitchen or any other room that smells strongly of your burned snack. Then sit back and let it work its magic. You can also add a drop or two of essential oil to the vinegar spray I described above to make it extra effective.

Recommended Diffuser:
Smart WiFi Wireless Essential Oil Aromatherapy Ultrasonic Diffuser & Humidifier
  • Wifi compatible
  • Alexa and Google Home compatible
  • With different control settings using the app (Timer, Mist intensity, LED color)

These essential oils may not neutralize the scent, but I find them very useful when used in conjunction with a neutralizing technique like vinegar. Burning them will prevent your whole space from smelling like vinegar once you’ve gotten rid of the burnt smell.

If you don’t have essential oils and a diffuser on hand, then you can light a scented candle (or a few scented candles), but please keep an eye on them and don’t let them burn unattended.

6. Clean Out the Pot

If you are making stovetop popcorn, don’t neglect the source of the smell. Wash the pot! Fill the pot with hot soapy water – or water and vinegar – and leave it to soak overnight before scrubbing well. Any stubborn stains can be removed using a baking soda paste.

How To Remove Burned Popcorn Smell from a Microwave

With the steps I’ve shown you above, you should be able to rid your house of that pesky popcorn smell– but don’t neglect the source of the issue: the microwave.

I am a huge fan of stovetop popcorn; I love the flavor and the ability to customize my seasoning. I also prefer it because I feel like I have more control over it, which lowers the possibility of burning it. But I know that microwave popcorn is super popular because of its convenience. 

The issue with microwave popcorn is that it can be really easy to walk away and not realize that your popcorn is burning even though you followed the instructions. Then you’re stuck with not only getting the burnt smell out of your house but also getting the concentrated smell from inside the microwave.

Youtuber Tiffany Grant has a few great tips on how to fix this problem fast.

Here is how to get burned popcorn smell out of a microwave:

  1. Place a cup of vinegar, water, and lemon juice in the microwave.
  2. Microwave for 2 minutes; repeat if necessary
  3. Once it’s finished, wipe down the inside of the microwave with a cloth to remove the residue.
  4. Leave the microwave open for a few hours to ventilate.

Why Does Burned Popcorn Smell So Bad?

Now we’ve all burned things in the kitchen; we’re all human, and it happens. But have you noticed that most of these burning smells tend to dissipate faster than the smell of burnt popcorn? Why is that?

Kansas-based popcorn company, Topsy’s Popcorn, explains popcorn’s potent burn smell comes down to its chemical makeup. Popcorn contains a chemical compound called 2-acetyl-1-pyrroline, which is released when the popcorn is heated. This is what creates that delicious toasty smell that popcorn is known for, but it is also what makes the smell so strong and long-lasting when burnt. This is the same chemical that is responsible for the mouthwatering smell of baked bread or the aroma of cooked basmati or jasmine rice.


Burning popcorn is hugely frustrating, not only because you’ve ruined your snack but because the smell stays in your house forever! But now that you’ve read this, you’ll never have to stress about that again! Simply pick one or two of these natural methods, and your house will smell fresh in no time.

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Amy Hand
About The Author
After finding the chef life a little too high-paced, Amy decided to take her cooking skills and use them to teach others through food writing. She uses her knowledge as a pastry chef and experience as a head chef to write articles that are engaging and helpful while being as entertaining as possible.

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