Welcome back to Air Fryer Bro, the place for all your air fryer needs 🙂 As an air fryer owner of some years, I have seen quite a number of new air fryer owners complaining about a plastic smell or chemical odor coming from their new appliance. As well as not wanting these smells around their house or home, they are often concerned about this smell contaminating the food they cook inside their air fryer. Therefore, I wanted to write a quick article to address air fryer smells and what to do with them, as well as helping you understand what type of smells should be coming out of your new air fryer 🙂
Why does my air fryer smell like plastic?
Any kitchen appliance can have a plastic or chemical odor if they have components that are made out of plastic. Plastic is essentially a man-made product that comes from chemicals, so some of the residue smell from the chemicals can be left over in the early uses of the appliance. This is exactly why your air fryer might smell of plastic at the start 🙂 They are often mostly made of plastic apart from maybe the air fryer basket!
To put this into more technical terms, the plastic on your new appliance will probably still have volatile organic compounds or VOC’s on them. These compounds evaporate around room temperature, hence causing this plastic smell.
This VOC problem is made worse by the packaging used by most manufacturers. They will often wrap their products in shrink wrap plastic, which only makes the VOC situation more intense! Also, in the modern world, most products are manufactured halfway across the world from you. The longer travel time also intensifies the VOCs on the appliance.
Should I worry about this plastic smell and the VOC’s that come with it?
No one likes bad smells lingering around their household, but the simple answer is no. Most VOC’s are not harmful with such limited exposure, and as your new kitchen appliance gets older off gasing will occur. This is the technical term used to describe how these chemicals will evaporate off of the appliance over time, after which the plastic smell should then go away.
Typically, with an air fryer, if you experience a ‘plastic smell’ it should be gone naturally with 5-7 uses of your new appliance.
What can I do to get rid of this plastic smell?
If you don’t like this chemical plastic smell, and don’t want to wait for it to go away by itself, there are other things you can do.
Cover up the smell!
A lot of my peers seem to be suggesting that you can clean such a chemical smell with vinegar. The thing they don’t seem to realize is that vinegar can only get rid of a smell when bacteria is involved. The vinegar will kill the bacteria, and then the smell is no more.
As your air fryer has just come out of a factory, it is (mostly) clean and the smell is being caused by VOC’s and not bacteria. With a vinegar method, you are simply covering one bad smell with another (unless you like the smell of vinegar!). If you are simply masking smells, I would go with something that at least smells nice, like lemon or vanilla extract 🙂
Wash with your soap of choice
Therefore, if you don’t just want to cover up the smell, I would start with a simple wash with soap and water. For most appliances, this should be enough to get rid of the plastic smell faster.
If you want to step it up from plain dish soap, you can use a non-caustic alkaline cleaner called PBW (brought to us by the brewing community). Click the image below to go view it on Amazon.
Air it out!
It may help to air your new air fryer out. To take the cooking compartment out of the unit and leave it out in the open. This will encourage the off-gassing process to happen faster.
Do a couple of ‘Dry Runs’
Finally, it could help to run your air fryer through a couple of cooking cycles with no food inside. In fact, I would air it first, then run it through one empty cooking cycle. Air it again for a time and do another empty cycle. You should be in much better shape with plastic smells after this 🙂
Buy a better quality product!
This is more the Air Fryer Bro’s opinion, rather than scientific fact. I believe that the high quality brands will manufacture their products in a way to reduce the plastic smell that comes from new kitchen appliances. Some of these companies have been around a long time and have made many kitchen appliances. They know it puts consumers off, so will do whatever it takes to improve this. Using higher quality plastics and more refined chemical compounds should help with this. A new or cost cutting manufacturer will be less likely to look at such details.
As you can see from my article about finding an American-made air fryer, a lot of users in the comments are blaming these types of plastic and chemical related smells on the fact that most of these appliances are currently made in low-cost factories in China. I am not sure I would make such a blanket statement, but I see their point.
Are there any other times when my air fryer might smell bad?
When your air fryer is working as intended, you won’t notice a lot of smells coming out of it. When cooking some particularly fatty foods (I find its bacon and chicken weirdly), you might get the dreaded white smoke problem which does also come along with a slight smell. If you are having this problem, we have a whole other article with tips about this. If you hate those fatty smells, you could also adjust your air fryer recipes to cook less fatty food.
Another thing to think about if you are often noticing white smoke is the type of oil you are using and the way you are using it. You should only need a light mist of oil on certain foods to make crispy (read THIS article to get all the details), if you are putting more than this it could be causing the smoke.
When thinking about the type of oil, I use olive oil with no issues, but if you want to take this further, you could use oils with a higher smoke point to be a hundred percent sure they are not the root of the white smoke problem. Again, I have a whole article discussing which oil is best when air frying (yes; I have a lot of articles on air fryers!! ha ha!).
Other than this, only good cooking related air fried smells should come from your machine. If you compare air frying with the deep fat frying it replaces, you will have much fewer odors to worry about. I can remember that deep-fat fryer oil smell from my childhood, and it’s not exactly a nice homely smell!! Air frying is a much cleaner process, and you are getting healthier meals to boot!!
Other than this, strong odors coming from your air fryer probably means it has a fault.
Black or blue smoke!
If you see black or blue smoke coming out of your air fryer, accompanied by a strong burning plastic or chemical smell, it means your air fryer has a serious fault. Simply turn it off and hope that your warranty allows you to return it for a new one. Either this, or you have accidentally used a plastic accessory that is not oven safe!
Food stuck to the heating element!
In most air fryer designs, the heating element is left somewhat exposed. Food can sometimes get stuck to it (or around it) during cooking. If this is allowed to build up, it can start to burn and cause an unpleasant burnt smell and even smoke. Therefore, make sure to clean the heating element of your air fryer regularly. Philips have this great video to explain how to do this with their air fryers.
Do air fryers smell?
Apart from a slight plastic or chemical smell when new, most air fryers shouldn’t make much smell, and certainly nothing unpleasant. If your air fryer is smelling out your house, it is probably a fault with the appliance or the way you are cooking fatty foods 🙂
As stated above, I would take air fried food smells over deep fried ones all day long…. when comparing cooking methods and smell, air frying comes out smelling of roses when sat alongside deep frying 🙂 And yes, you could argue a conventional oven or toaster oven has less smell, but for me they don’t have the intense heat and ability to make food as crispy as an air fryer. I’ve had french fries and fried chicken from both, and the air fried version wins every time 🙂
If you have your own experiences with plastic or chemical smells from air fryers, we would love to hear all about it in the comments section below!