The Smell of Failure

Until this afternoon, the worst odor I had ever smelled was that of decomposing rat. Did you know that there is a product called RatZorb that is made specifically to absorb that smell? This is one of the many unfortunate facts about rats that I learned at my previous residence.

Back to the present: I have a new “most disgusting” odor. It is burnt microwave popcorn. I’m not talking about “oops! I scorched it a little!” I’m talking about my six-year-old saying, “Mo-o-om! I know how to do it! I just type in one-three-oh!,” and then Mom saying, “Okay,” and retiring to the living room while Little Miss types in an extra O to make it 13:00.

And then wanders off.

Just wait...

One time during my working days my truly lovely editor typed in an extra minute or so on her microwave popcorn and wandered off. When smoke filled the hallway, the fire alarms went off, and four floors of office workers evacuated the building until the fire department arrived. Fortunately, the rest of the kitchen didn’t catch fire, but the microwave had to be tossed.

We gave her unmitigated hell about that burnt popcorn. I even wrote a haiku about it. I think everyone found a way to work it into poetry, much of which got posted around the office. It was so funny.

Yeah. Not so funny from this end.

So after I opened every window in the house and turned on every fan, I carefully opened the microwave door to the noxious, nose-hair-burning, revolting, chemical smell that has made me wonder whether I should be concerned about carcinogens and other nasties appearing in my popcorn. Honestly, oven cleaner smells less harmful than this stuff.

I carefully pinched the charred remains and hurried them outside, trying not to breathe through my nose. And then I surveyed the damage to my machine. The walls and and bottom of the microwave had attained the approximate color of the contents of a newborn’s diaper. A formula-fed newborn.

I got out my baking soda and scrubbed the entire inside down for roughly 45 minutes. By then the color had subsided to what was known in the ’70s as “Harvest Gold”, but the smell wasn’t any better.

This was the point where I had a decision to make. A new microwave is not in the budget at this time. I could either: 1) find a way to clean and purify the one I have or 2) I could move to stovetop and oven cooking for all parts of all meals.

So I went to Google. ‘Cause I’m not giving up my microwaved veggies and breakfast sandwiches and, yes, popcorn.

Google gave all kinds of solutions. Boil water with baking soda in it. Boil water with lemon juice in it. Boil water with vanilla in it. Boil water with coffee in it. This last one actually sounded promising.

But first I had to address the yellow walls. The universally approved opinion? Acetone. Nail polish remover. I shrugged and retrieved some and a bunch of cotton balls.

I’ll tell you two interesting things about cleaning out a burnt-popcorn microwave with acetone: 1) it really does clean up all of that yellow, and 2) it makes the microwave smell exactly, and I mean precisely, like an airplane lavatory.

Once I finished with the acetone, I glanced at the bottle and noticed the warning saying “Do Not Expose to Heat.” Huh. Well, a little too late for that.

I decided to try the coffee trick next. You stick a couple of tablespoons of coffee grounds into a coffee cup and fill the cup halfway with water. Then you put the cup into a microwave-safe bowl to catch overflow (and there will be overflow) and stick it in the microwave. Zap it two minutes, then carefully remove items and wipe the microwave out.

So now my microwave smells like coffee with an airplane lavatory undertone. Which is an improvement over burnt popcorn. A significant improvement.

I put a bowl of baking soda in there to stay overnight. We’ll see if that helps. Wish me luck.

Moral of the story: Supervise your six-year-old when she uses the microwave. Sometimes I’m a slow learner.

Categories: The Kids

Tags: ,

2 replies

  1. DARN!!! Good luck!

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