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Community and Q&A

Noxious Odors from Dishwasher and Range

Carole Wiles | Posted in Green Products and Materials on

moved into a house with new appliances last november.. the maytag range emits noxious fumes when over 400 degrees…have to open all the windows and exhaust fan on….is there some sort of formaldehyde or high vocs they use for insulation of the range walls, or a finish material…headaches and nausea even after all this time…should we just get an older model used range? did they manufacture those using toxic products as well?

also, the new lg dishwasher….we don’t use it a lot, as it also emits noxious fumes, and i can smell those fumes on the “clean”? dishes….i know the racks are all plastic, and plastic is poison when heated so….why don’t other dishwashers smell like this, and just because they don’t, does it make them any safer to use?
help mr/ms wizard!!!

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Replies

  1. User avatar GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #1

    Carole,
    I have never heard of a new dishwasher or a new range causing health problems for occupants.

    People have a wide range of sensitivity to odors. It is possible that you are more sensitive to odors than most people. I doubt that the odors are truly toxic; however, if the odors irritate you, they are certainly undesirable.

    It's possible that your oven will stop smelling after it is used for a few days or weeks. There may be residual substances that are being volatilized (evaporated) by the heat. These may eventually bake off, reducing or eliminating the odor.

    In any case, use your range hood fan when operating these appliances. (I hope that your kitchen has a range hood fan that is ducted to the outdoors.) This will reduce the chance that odors enter your house.

    Public health studies show that the majority of the world's population does suffer negative health effects in the kitchen during cooking. However, the culprit is not offgassing of industrial chemicals from Maytag ranges. The culprit is wood smoke. If you eliminate wood smoke from your kitchen, as almost all Americans have, you have eliminated the number one health problem associated with cooking.

  2. Carole Wiles | | #2

    No wood smoke here Martin, thank you for your time....i am quite curious why you would doubt that the smells are "truly toxic". we know they use formaldehyde on so many building materials, and we know that plastic is toxic, when heated, and so many dishwasher parts are plastic. you are correct, i have a very sensitive nose....but it is usually only sensitive to toxic elements.....bug repellents in perfumes, febreeze, glade, the toxics in laundry detergents and dryer sheets....etc...so i guess a more specific question is, what does maytag use to insulate the range, and what finish materials are used? and are these materials more or less toxic that what was used say a decade ago? as we have lived in the house for a year now, and used the range a number of times, it isn't going away, and this stuff is nasty. if it is giving my husband and i headaches and nausea, it's probably toxic, would be my guess...if it wasn't toxic, we would not be getting ill would we? i highly doubt if most of the world's population has a new gas range....i don't want to minimize the toxins by comparing them to something that might be worse...i want to know how to get a stove and appliances that are not manufactured using materials that are toxic to humans.....i may be a canary in a coal mine....but, just because it's normal, and other people take it for granted, doesn't mean it isn't hurting us....

  3. Charlie Sullivan | | #3

    "If it is giving [us] headaches and nausea, it's probably toxic."

    I agree. And I also doubt that the manufacturers really know what is being emitted or how toxic it is. So even if we can't give you useful advice, there's no basis to dismiss your concerns as unfounded.

    I was going to suggest baking at the highest temperature for several hours, with the exhaust fan on, and perhaps while you are out of range of the vapors (but within earshot of the smoke alarm), in the hopes that everything that was going to come out would come out then, and that you'd then be able to bake at lower temperatures without anything coming out, but perhaps you feel like you have already given it that chance.

    Although there are many disadvantages to the way houses are built, with every material choice being made on a building-by-building basis, that does have the advantage that you can find out what is being used and specify less toxic products. Appliances are a very different scenario, so it's much harder to find out what is in them. And there's also the problem that there are lots of people that contribute here who know a lot about building science and building practice. But there aren't many appliance engineers here.

    I'm pretty sensitive to smells too, and haven't had any problems with my ~10 year old Kenmore range/oven for whatever that is worth.

    It's possible that the cabinets are part of the problem, if the parts of them near the range get hot.

    Is the dishwasher a problem even if you don't use heated drying? Heated drying in a dishwasher is an energy hog anyway so it's good to avoid.

    I wish I had more suggestions for you, but I don't know what else to suggest. Maybe a store or brand with a good satisfaction guarantee, and simply try some different models. Or look for 5-10 year old models that might have different materials.

  4. User avatar GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #4

    Carole,
    "Toxic" has a medical definition, and I have no idea whether the smells emitted by your appliances are toxic. Whether or not they are toxic, these fumes are clearly irritating to you and your husband.

    Charlie's advice is good, and it parallels mine. I wrote, "There may be residual substances that are being volatilized (evaporated) by the heat. These may eventually bake off, reducing or eliminating the odor. In any case, use your range hood fan when operating these appliances." In other words, there are two things that may help: (a) time, and (b) ventilation.

    If these appliances irritate you so much that you don't want to follow this advice, of course you can remove the appliances and try to sell them or donate them to a charity. If you replace them with used appliances, there is a better chance that volatile substances have already evaporated.

  5. Charlie Sullivan | | #5

    You are not the only one with this problem. There's discussion on other web sites. One commenter says:

    "My research into this reveals that fiberglass manufacturers (the insulation surrounding the oven exterior) migrated from a formaldehyde binding agent to an acrylic which is not as heat tolerant and outgasses."

    That's from:
    http://www.debralynndadd.com/q-a/new-general-electric-stove-is-toxic/

    The fact that someone on the internet said it doesn't make it true, but that story is consistent with other things we've heard about unintended consequences of eliminating formaldehyde from fiberglass insulation in other applications.

    I haven't tried to follow any of the links or leads on that page, but you might want to.

  6. Brian P | | #6

    I remember our new range had the instructions, wrapping, cleaning bottle, and other accessories placed in the oven. It also had some type of stretchy plastic wrap protecting some exterior surfaces.

    Have you checked to make sure no "foreign" objects or material have been left in it? Has all protective tape or surface wrap been removed?

  7. Carole Wiles | | #7

    thanks so much you guys!
    from Martin's response to my first question "In other words, there are two things that may help: (a) time, and (b) ventilation.
    If these appliances irritate you so much that you don't want to follow this advice." oh Martin, actually, i have exactly followed that advice....i worded my situation thusly: "moved into a house with new appliances last november.. the maytag range emits noxious fumes when over 400 degrees...have to open all the windows and exhaust fan on". in the hopes of letting folks know it had been close to a year in time, and not only the exhaust fan but also windows, and even the backdoor open in cold cold january and february. as well as the rest of this last year...no luck yet...
    from what Charlie says about his old kenmore, that is what i was trying to get to the heart of.i had a magic chef from it's inception in 1995 till a couple of years ago...i hated that stove, but it didn't stink or scare me...and thanks also Brian, no foreign objects or material, and it's not the cabinets next to the stove....so yes, i hate to pass on the problem to someone else, but if i let them know what's up....and go for an older model, i just don't know if those are worse or better, but like you say Charlie, the vocs have likely been eliminated by now....also, thanks for the links to the other forums. AS far as the dishwasher goes, i don't use the heated drying option....it just happens from the hot water i guess....again...i could probably run it with the heated dryer over and over and get out of the house, turning on fans and opening windows etc....and maybe just trigger the bake off of whatever gnarly stuff(i'd rather use a different word,but fairly new to blogs like this and don't want to swear) they use now.
    and yes, i was hoping there might be appliance people with your advisory staff.
    in ending, hate to be too skeptical, but i think the manufacturers know exactly what's being emitted and the effects that are distinct health hazards.
    thank you all again....i will be looking for that old kenmore that has our name on it...and probably an old dishwasher as well.....anybody you know want these gorgeous fake stainless steel monsters?

  8. J S | | #8

    Carole I hear exactly what you are going through! Due to moving a lot we never had to buy new appliances until very recently and it did not occur to me that my chemical sensitivities would be so overwhelmed with new kitchen appliances. But it has been a heck of a 6 month road! Regarding dishwashers... I first got a beautiful and expensive stainless steel Bosch. AWFUL smell, headaches, sore throat, etc every time we used it for first couple of weeks with all windows always open. After sniffing inside of every dishwasher on the sales floor, I exchanged it for a lovely and just as pricey LG. AWFUL smell and same experience, so I started doing more research. As it turns out, ALL dishwashers that have a stainless steel interior (which I thought would be better!) are coated on the outside with a soundproofing material called bitumen. Also known as black tar-- like what they coat our roads with! Also known as a possible human carcinogen that emits fumes when heated, often for months, or years! And what is a dishwasher doing? Heating it every single time. Yes the fumes will lessen with time but with what effect on our health??? And worse, everyone seems so concerned with having the quietest dishwasher on the planet so you cannot find a single dishwasher in America with a stainless interior that does not have a bitumen/tar coating on the outside! I even tried looking at used ones and unless you buy a really old one, I personally still noticed a tar-ish smell when I would sniff the black stuff up close. Consequently, I decided to try out the dreaded plastic interior dishwasher thinking it would be the lesser of two evils. (I chose the whirlpool gold in case you were wondering). Well I am so happy to report that although it definitely had a "new materials smell" the first 3-4 uses, it now has pretty much zero odor and I have had zero reactions to it. So for me, plastic has actually won out over stainless. Hopefully someday enough complaints will encourage the bigger companies to start offering true "green" alternatives.

  9. Carole Wiles | | #9

    Wow thanks JS! sounds like you have done the "road" work...what a thing to discover! and yes, we know plastic is toxic when heated, but trying to approach the plastics industry is like the tobacco industry used to be....but bitumen! i took note, whirlpool gold.....how did you do with a range?
    best to you!

  10. SoarAsEagle | | #10

    I bought a new Bosch dishwasher. It releases odor when I turn on it. I called Bosch and an engineer came. He told me it's the coating (bitumen) and will fade after 6 weeks. After 6 weeks, the odor lowered but still unbearable in kitchen with all doors, windows, fans open. I emailed Bosch. Someone of Bosch called me and assured me that there is no bitumen in the coating and the odor will fade after 8 weeks or more. It's been 2 months. Bosch didn't let me return it but sent me a stainless steel deodorant to be used inside the dishwasher. Doctor said women with high-density breast has high risk of breast cancer. I don't know what to do yet. Thank you for your post, which is precious to me after 2 months searching and worrying.

  11. Charlie Sullivan | | #11

    Sorry to hear that this is still a problem. Kind of annoying that they say it's not bitumen, but won't tell you what it is.

  12. CRRC | | #12

    A few years ago we returned a Kenmore dishwasher made by Bosch because of off-gasing issue. We worried the bad smell may cause cancer in the long run. The smell gave us a burning sensation in the throat.

    We finally bought a Miele G6625 last week. No tar odor so far.

    I went to a Miele experience center in the nearest city to get more details and do a "smell test" myself before the purchase. People at the center was surprised about the tar smell. Each Miele dishwasher, regardless of model numbers, also has a layer of bitumen outside the stainless steel tub for soundproofing purpose, but we only sensed some new plastic smell during the first use and not pungent tar odor. After a couple uses, the new plastic smell went away. No tar smell like the Kenmore/Bosch from day one.

    Miele dishwashers are expensive, but if we add the potential health care cost and suffering down the road, they are still cheaper than other brands that release toxic gas.

  13. CRRC | | #13

    After a month use of the Miele G6625, disappointedly we started to have some tar odor :-( , though it's not as bad as a Bosch. Now we have to look into adding an exhaust fan to draw out the tar smell.

    1. John Clark | | #14

      I really wonder if there's a wiring issue which is putting off the smell. Electrical is very acrid.

      Are you sure it's bitumen and not buytl w/aluminum? I'd be surprised if a german manufacturer used bitumen insulation.

      1. CRRC | | #15

        If you google search these words "stainless steel dishwasher bitumen", you'll see almost every brand use bitumen for sound proofing. Someone looked into seven brands recently - https://www.debralynndadd.com/q-a/finding-non-toxic-dishwashers/

        1. John Clark | | #16

          Alleged. It could just be a handful of people going around to various sites crowing about the same thing to make it appear as if it's "a problem".

          Some things to look at.

          #1 Do these units have CA Prop 65 warnings?
          #2 Can one locate the sound deadening as a replacement part to confirm composition and location?
          #3 Multiple calls to the manufacturer result in consistent answers (yes or no)?

          1. CRRC | | #18

            https://www.google.com/search?q=bitumen+cancer

            As mentioned on my July 30, 2019 post, the odor from a Kenmore dishwasher made by Bosch gave us a burning sensation in the throat. Whether it caused cancer or not, or has CA Prop 65 warning label or not, we did not want this bad smell inside our house whenever we used it.

          2. John Clark | | #21

            @CRRC

            IIRC the presence of Bitumen insulation would most certainly require a Prop 65 warning but of course so would the power cord. *shrug*

  14. Tom May | | #17

    I install a lot of stoves and dw's. I always tell the home owners to run the stove for at least half an hour or more to burn off whatever protective coating that has been applied to the inner surface walls. But when doing so, you have to open the door incrementally in order to allow the noxious fumes to escape, otherwise the fumes will penetrate the insulation and linger over the lifetime of the stove. You can easily tell the difference in smell as it burns off. Same goes for dw's.

    1. paminmi | | #23

      Hi Tom, my oven stopped smelling within about a half hour, so no complaints there. My dishwasher is still horrible though, you can see my more in depth explanation below.

      1. Tom May | | #30

        Check the temperature of your hot water heater. DW heat water based on a timed cycle assuming 120 degree hot water input. If you water temp is higher the water temp in the dw is getting to high. The dw may also have a setting for higher temperature if not running it in normal wash mode, thus over heating the already to hot incoming water. Try running it in normal wash mode. If the smell persist, check your incoming hot water temp.
        A side note....or easy test.... if you can't keep your hand under a flow of hot water from a faucet its to hot.

      2. atins | | #32

        Hi Pam, could you tell me what model/brand your oven is? We're having an awful time trying to find an oven that will "burn off" quickly!

        1. Expert Member
          Zephyr7 | | #33

          I never noticed any smell with my Kitchenaid double oven.

          I suspect excessive initial smell might be due to some of the protective tape not getting removed before firing up the oven the first time. Burning plastic smells terrible, and once it's burned on, it's a lot harder to remove.

          Bill

  15. Expert Member
    Zephyr7 | | #19

    I would suspect a burning electrical or plastic part before worrying about the soundproofing insulation. Bitumen is actually a natural product (although a rather sticky, natural product), and i wouldn’t expect much of a smell from it unless you heat it a LOT. I’d suspect some missed packaging like some styrofoam or part of a plastic bag getting into something like the heating element that does the drying. Burning plastic like that most certainly will make noxious fumes that you’re going to notice.

    Bill

  16. User avatar
    Walter Ahlgrim | | #20

    If the problems are all related to the insulation on the outside of the stainless consider the low end models with plastic tanks and very little if any insulation.

    Walta

  17. paminmi | | #22

    I'm going to have to disagree with those of you denying the bitumen problem. I am living with it firsthand from my Samsung dishwasher since it was installed in June 2019. It has a faint tar odor for the first two hours of running but for the rest of the cycle (1 hour 19 minutes), the petroleum smell is so horrible it fills the room and migrates to my adjacent living room. It is emitting from the opening between my countertop and the top of the dishwasher as it is running.

    I dealt with it during summer by opening all my kitchen/living room windows and blowing a fan but now we are on the edge of winter and I'm running my heat, it's a problem. I have chemical sensitivities and my throat begins hurting, if I didn't open my windows I'm sure if be needing my inhaler! I just had the appliance repair guy over and we're hoping to work something out with Samsung but at this point I have no idea what to do other than not use it. And that's a shame because it cost me $500!!

    1. Expert Member
      Zephyr7 | | #25

      I don’t think a normal operating dishwasher would get hot enough to cause this much of a problem. Something must not be right.

      I’d first suspect parts that make heat. Check if you’re running the heated dry cycle, or the “sani-rinse” (or whatever Samsung calls it) cycle that heats up the wash water extra hot. If you have either setting active, try disabling it and see if the problem goes away.

      If any heating element is touching a plastic part you’re going to get a nasty, nose-burning smell of burning plastic. I bet that’s what you’re actually smelling, and it’s probably indicative of a problem with your dishwasher. It might even be a safety issue, and I’d try pushing that angle if you end up speaking with anyone at Samsung. They are likely to be more concerned with the thought of your dishwasher starting s fire than they will be about a smell.

      Bill

      1. paminmi | | #26

        I'll try running without the sani rinse Bill, because I turn that on every time. But in my case, it is not a plastic smell, it is definitely a tar or petroleum smell. Have you ever driven by when they were putting in new blacktop? Sat in your car when your oil is getting changed? Definitely similar to both of those.

        1. Expert Member
          Zephyr7 | | #27

          You might also check if anything has fallen down in the bottom of the dishwasher and gotten wedges against the heating element down there. I’ve had that happen a few times, and some stuff does make for pretty noxious smell.

          I know what you mean about a hot asphalt smell. I suppose it’s possible your particular unit has some kind of manufacturing defect, but it’s easy to check parts that make heat first. I’ve seen things shift in transit lots of times that result in all kinds of problems. I had a big (half megawatt) UPS (battery backup) system at a project at work that had a transformer shift internally, and it sent fireballs out the lower vent when we first energized it. When we fixed the problem, we found one of the power conductors had touched the steel frame and blown a hole through it.

          Bill

  18. Steve Knapp CZ 3A Georgia | | #24

    I wonder if the dishwasher is heating something inside the cabinet or wall and causing the odor. Every unit I've ever owned has had some type of plastic covered fiberglass batt for insulation. I don't recall seeing any kind of bitumen/cork material used for insulation, but I guess anything is possible.

  19. Matt V | | #28

    One time I used some solvent based adhesive in my house, and later that day and the next day I noticed a weird problem. When I ran the dryer or the oven, both of them had a strong burning kerosene kind of smell. I guess the VOCs from the adhesive settled in the appliances or on the heating elements, and then the heat converted it from something I couldn't smell to something smelly. It was really surprising, because the amount of VOCs that got into the appliances must have been tiny, and there was no noticeable smell in the house after the adhesive dried for a few hours.

    So maybe there are other sources of VOCs in the house that are burning off in the oven and dishwasher?

    Run the self-clean cycle on the oven with all the windows open. That will burn off everything volatile, and it gets far hotter than during normal use.

    Even a tiny amount of stuff can smell for a long time. In one apartment I accidentally got a tiny amount of melted plastic in the oven. I wasn't able to clean it all out, and it smelled like burning plastic every time I used it after that until I moved out.

    1. Expert Member
      Zephyr7 | | #29

      VOCs don’t “settle out” on things. The “V” part is for “volatile”, which in this case means they want to evaporate and be a gas, basically. They don’t condense out on things in normal conditions. What can happen, however, is that you get unexpected chemical reactions with other things. Formula 409 can permanently alter some vinyls and make them sticky, forever, as one example.

      It’s always important when using any solvents to make sure they won’t react with whatever you’re working on. Don’t ever use ammonia-containing cleaners on plastics, for example, since they tend to make the plastic hazy.

      Bill

      1. User avatar
        vap0rtranz | | #31

        to Matt's point, the same has happened to me.

        We immediately noticed a scarey smell after using the range again after installing a new linoleum floor. We had done nothing -- no cleaning or anything -- to the range top but did move the stove around to do the flooring underneath. In my case, the solvent was mineral oil to remove excess glue that had popped up between tiles of a linoleum floor that we had just installed. I had used the mineral oil on the toughest glue just in the small edge spaces between tiles. When we went to go cook and the smell was scarey -- I really cannot describe it better than Matt: a kind of kerosene smell! The linoleum floor was suppose to be more green/natural than others, so I hoped to rule the new floor out from causing the smell, and so I stopped using the mineral oil.

        After I stopped removing the excess glue with mineral oil, we could cook again and there would be no scarey smell. So I tested this theory and went back with the mineral oil to clean a few more cracks that had excess glue, and again the kerosene smell came back when we cooked with the gas range. It took several days for the smell to go completely away during these homegrown tests. So I convinced myself that there was a residual reaction going on. Our range was gas in that house, no mineral oil got anywhere near the range, so something residual was in the kitchen air that combusted with the natural gas??

        I'm sure the IAQ nerds would go bonkers to read our stories :)

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