Why Does My Oven Smell Like Fish?


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When cooking a delicious salmon recipe, it is normal for the smell to linger in your kitchen for a few days. However, if you haven’t cooked fish recently, your oven shouldn’t smell like it. If it does, it could indicate a more serious issue.

Your oven may smell like fish because one of its electrical components is overheating. Indeed, faulty electrical components exposed to high temperatures will produce an unpleasant fishy odor. If the problem is not taken care of quickly by a professional, it could lead to an electrical fire.

This article will provide key information on this problem, including why overheated electrical components cause fishy odor, how to handle the situation in the safest way possible, and how to get rid of the smell.

Why Do Overheated Electrical Components Cause a Fishy Odor?

Now, you’re probably wondering how the electrical components of an oven can be related to…a fishy smell.

The answer lies in one word: plastic.

Indeed, plastic is one of the materials used to coat certain electrical parts of an oven, such as outlets and wires. When overheated, the plastic releases a chemical called amine. This chemical is responsible for the stubborn fishy smell coming from your oven.

Let’s take a look at the science behind this mechanism. Don’t worry, and I won’t bore you with complicated explanations of how it works. But the more you know about the reasons for this fishy smell, the better you’ll be to react to this potentially dangerous situation.

Basic Science Behind the Smell of Overheated Plastic

As I mentioned above, plastic is made up of different organic compounds. One of these compounds is called amine, and when heated, it smells like rotten dead fish. This is due to the breakdown of amino acids. I’ll spare you from the complicated scientific explanations behind this process, but if you want to know more about amine and its characteristic fishy odor, you can find out more here.

There are different types of amines, but for the sake of this article, I’ll only mention the ones that produce the fishy smell: methylamine, putrescine, and cadaverine. These molecules are used on an industrial scale to be transformed into plastics.

The plastic is then used to insulate parts of the electrical equipment used in the manufacture of the ovens, among others. Plastic is thus found in sockets, shields, wires, and any other insulating material.

How To Handle the Situation Safely?

Now that you know why your oven smells like fish, you need to know how to prevent it from happening again in the future. 

However, it is important to mention that you should not try to fix the problem yourself. Calling a professional quickly will help you locate the source of the problem more safely. That said, it is not a waste of time to learn about potentially problematic areas that, when overheated, produce a fishy smell.

Let’s find out which electrical components of your oven could overheat.

The 6 Most Problematic Electrical Components To Watch Out For

Let’s take a look at the six most common electrical components that are susceptible to overheating.

  1. Outlets: Outlets are the device on the wall where you plug the power cord. It can overheat if there is a malfunction in your home’s electrical system.
  1. Wires: Frayed wires can present a risk of shorting. If they have insufficient insulation, they may contact each other, which will cause the furnace to stop working. If you notice that there’s any damaged wires, you should replace them as soon as possible with new ones.
  1. Circuit Breakers: Defective circuit breakers can cause a burning or fishy smell. If you observe that there’s any signs of damage near the circuit breaker, you should first turn off the main circuit breaker. You will need to replace it if you notice any sign of burning on it.
  1. Control Panel: Electronic control panels regulate the heating elements of an electric oven. If it’s damaged, there is no point in trying to repair it yourself. It must indeed be replaced by a new one.
  1. Thermostat: If your oven thermostat is damaged, it will not be possible to adjust the temperature inside the oven. This could cause the oven to overheat. Only a qualified technician will be able to recalibrate the thermostat knob.
  1. Heating Elements: If the heating element is not functioning properly, your oven could overheat. It is, therefore, important to check whether this component shows any damage.

Other Reasons Why Your Electrical Components Could Overheat

There are other reasons why electrical components can overheat. In general, the most frequent are:

  • Poor Cable Insulation: Remember the plastic I talked about in part 1 of this article? Because plastic is part of the component used to insulate wires and cables, any damage could cause the cables to overheat. So pay attention to the smell, as a fishy odor could indicate overheating.
  • Frequent Electrical Surge: If you experience frequent electrical surges in your home, it will affect your electrical components. The key to your safety here is to make sure and quickly identify any signs of a strange smell in your kitchen (or anywhere else in your home).

Remember, while the fishy smell is undoubtedly unpleasant, its sudden onset could potentially save your life.

How To Finally Get Rid of the Odor

If you’ve done with your homework and called an electrician to overhaul all of the electrical components in your oven, you’ve made a smart move. 

However, even if the professional could find the source of the problem and fix it, the fishy smell could still contaminate the air in your kitchen. To get rid of it quickly, follow these five simple steps:

  1. Clean your oven thoroughly. Remove any greasy stuff that might have gotten stuck after cooking and make it look brand new. If you need professional tips, watch this quick tutorial on how to clean an oven like a pro.
  1. Burn some candles. Aromatic candles are designed to compete with the foul smells that are left by cooked food. Choose options such as lavender, cinnamon, or vanilla. You’ll be able to quickly mask the fishy smell by lighting your favorite candle.
  1. Make vinegar your new best friend. This old grandma tip has transcended the years for a good reason. Use its amazing cleaning properties by mixing it with water and let it boil for a few minutes.
  1. Use the power of vanilla essence. If the smell persists, it’s time to use another classic. Put a few drops of vanilla essence in a cup of water and place it in the oven. Heat it slowly for a few minutes – your entire kitchen will soon smell like freshly baked birthday cake.
  1. Bake cookies. Last but not the least, just bake yummy cookies. You and your family will be able to enjoy the delicious scent that is released all over your house!

Bottom Line

Now that you know the scientific explanation for the fishy smell coming from your oven, what to do about it, and how to get rid of it, the most IMPORTANT thing to remember about this article is this:

You could spend time researching the reasons for the suspicious smell, but since it can be a potential emergency, don’t waste time. Only a professional can recognize whether or not the odor is due to an electrical component and will have the means to take control of the situation.

Chris Hewitt

Chris is a Texas-based freelance writer who loves the outdoors and working in his garage. When he's not enjoying the Texas sun, he can be found tinkering with all sorts of things in his workshop.

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