What is That Plastic Burning Smell in the House?

image of burnt plastic smell in house

Did you wake up to the smell of plastic burning? There is nothing worse than this. 

Everyone knows that burning plastic is toxic and dangerous. 

Also, the burning plastic smell sticks to clothes and other objects in your house, making it last much longer than you would think.

Where to start to find the problem?

The first thing to do would be to check the electrical panel, since the burning plastic smell might be coming from there.

You may be wondering:

From where does this smell come?

How can I make the smell go away?

How can I make sure this doesn’t happen again?

Whether you’re new to being a renter or have done it before, I’m here to help with some tips I’ve found useful.  Also stay tuned for how to remove that awful smell of burning plastic.


Why is Burning Plastic Dangerous to Your Health?

Plastic vapors may be created when plastic crystals, granules, and particles are heated during a fire, releasing:

  • Poisonous carcinogens into the environment

  • Toxic chemicals for you to breathe in and irritate your lungs

  • Severe irritation to the eyes, and nose

  • Nausea and headaches

Eyes, nose, and lung irritation are potential immediate effects. In some cases, the effects may be long-lasting , especially when the exposure lasts for a long time.

Smoke is quite harmful. Two of the most frequent byproducts of smoke are carbon and tar, although they can also contain pollutants and poisons. These can have negative health effects if inhaled over an extended period of time.

In a smoke-damaged home, breathing can be challenging. Lungs and sinuses may be directly impacted.

Remember that smoke damage to your property can result from even a tiny appliance fire that is swiftly put out and contained in just one room of your house. This is still possible even in places where you cannot see the smoke.

Unburned carbon monoxide can also prevent oxygen from reaching important organs like the heart and brain.


First, Check Anything Electrical

You might think it’s normal for your house to have a faint smell of burning plastic when you’re using many machines at once. 

This can be a dangerous mistake that can cause you and your family to breathe in hazardous toxins.

Start by looking at everything that runs on electricity. 

Electricity makes heat, which can become smoke or, even worse, fires. But how can we make our search more specific?

Here are some essential things you should watch out for:

image of smell of burning plastic

Is the heater working too hard?

Most of the time, especially in the winter, that burning plastic smell comes from the house heater. 

Both heaters and HVAC systems are made up of many electrical parts, and many of them can be used too much. 

When parts and wiring aren’t handled, they wear out or break. 

I suggest that you check your HVAC system regularly for wiring problems. 

When these wires don’t work right, they can start fires that burn the plastic parts and covers. This could be the cause of the bad smell.

Your HVAC system’s motor can also fail and start to get too hot. This heat could also melt the plastic that covers the device. 

In the worst case, it can even explode. Yikes!

So, if your heater has been making a burning plastic smell for a long time, you should turn it off as soon as possible.


The wiring in my house is OLD

Wire insulation is very important because it keeps the wires from touching other things that carry electricity. This keeps you safe when you handle the wires.

Over time, electrical lines can get old, and their parts may break down on their own. 

This could cause an electrical fire just because the wires are old and deteriorated.


Your appliances get used too much.

Using a lot of old tools with old wiring and sockets is a bad idea. 

Over time, this overuse of equipment can cause the wires to become frayed.

Not only does this stress the wires that carry the power, but it also stresses the circuit breaker itself. 

This isn’t likely to happen in new homes, but as a general rule, you should only plug in a few things at a time. 


Your Water Heater Doesn’t Work Properly

Like HVAC systems, water heaters have parts that can catch fire if they get too hot. 

In addition to the plastic insulation around the wires, the plastic around the electrical parts of the device and the buttons can also get too hot.


Lights that Don’t Work

Sparking is a very common problem with broken light sources. 

If they aren’t put in correctly, these things can heat up and start fires.

This is more likely to happen when they are near fabric or plastic. 

Always make sure your lights are in the right way. Also, ensure they have the right number of watts for your lights.

image of plastic burning smell

How Do We Get Rid of the Smell? 

I always quickly turn off the circuit breaker or the items I think are causing the problem.

All the people in the house could get sick if they breathed in the fumes.


How to Solve the Problem of the Burning Plastic Smell

First, you should look around and use your nose.

If you smell burning plastic in a certain direction, go in that direction and turn off the device or system right away. 

You have to wear gloves for this part because if there are any uncovered wires. 

If the device is hot on the outside, you could get burned.



If the heater is to blame, it has a burnt plastic smell when the heater is on.

If the burning smell is coming from the heater or furnace, it’s likely because of one of these two things:

Since you haven’t been using it, the dust has been building up on it and you can smell burning dust.

The lines have gotten worse over time.

If it’s the first one, you need to do the following:

Turn off your heater, furnace, or radiator, and wait until it’s cool enough to touch.

Use a rag to try to clean the heating system. 

If heaters and HVAC system aren’t used often, they can get dirty and full of dust. This results in a burning dust smell.


Electrical Wiring

The burning plastic smell comes from a problem with an electrical wire.

If the burning plastic smell seems to come from inside the walls, a nearby plug, or a switch, your home’s wiring has likely deteriorated.

This is often the case in older homes.

In these situations, I would turn off the switch and call an electrician to see how bad the damage is. 


Light Fixtures

When electrical wires break, lighting devices may have plastic parts inside or around them that can catch fire when they get too hot.


First, make sure the light is off.

Check the light sockets and the electrical plug where the light is put in. 

If there are black spots around the socket, it has been overloaded.

If it still works, a small problem with the wires inside the fixture is to blame. Seek an electrician for advice.



Some appliances that have been used too much might have a burning plastic smell after being used for long periods.

From what I’ve seen, this usually happens in the kitchen, where there are a lot of things going on at once.

If the device is too hot, turn it off, let it cool down, and then clean the inside with a clean cloth. 

If you last used your toaster or coffee maker a while ago, dust may have built up in them. Cleaning them would solve the problem.

But if the plastic still starts to burn, the electric wires inside might be melted. 


Power Outlets

If the wiring is getting old, outlets can start to get hot. 

If this happens, the outlet might stop working, a socket might trip, or even a whole wall of outlets might stop working.


Water Heater

The water heater is broken if it has a burning plastic smell in the house.

It’s possible that water got inside and messed up the electronics. 

These parts are now getting too hot, which is burning the plastic covers and buttons around them.

The best thing to do is turn it off from the breaker, After it has cooled down a bit, try to open it with a screwdriver to inspect whether the wires are shot.


How to Get Rid of the Burning Plastic Smell in the House? 

When you’ve inspected your appliances and wirings, the burning plastic smell may have latched on to your furniture and curtains. 

The simplest way to get rid of the lasting burning smell is to light scented candles to fill the area with a pleasant aroma. 

You can also try applying disinfectant cleaning spray to your curtains and furniture to counter the burning smell. Fabreeze is also a good option to try on the fabric of curtains and sofas.


General Maintenance

You prevent overheating by regularly inspecting your HVAC system, appliances, and light fixtures even when they’re not in use. 

Always clean these devices, as they are prone to dust build-up, which is a fire hazard.

Lastly, perform a routine check-up of the electrical wiring in your house. 

You might want to call an electrician if you live in an old house, so they can be fitted properly with newer, safer electrical components.


The HVAC System has a Burning Plastic Smell?

Burning dust and debris may be the source of the burning plastic smell problem; this may go away after a few minutes. 

If it doesn’t, then it’s likely that the wires of your system have eroded.

What if I’ve been inhaling toxic burnt plastic fumes for a long period of time?

Burnt plastic may release toxic chemicals and gases that can potentially harm your respiratory system.

If you think you have been exposed to these fumes for a long time, check for symptoms and see a doctor as soon as possible.

Final Thoughts

When the house smells like burning plastic, it can arise from different electronic appliances, fixtures, and HVAC systems that haven’t been well maintained. 

With a little investigating and a bit of elbow grease, you can definitely make your home a safer place to live in!


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