How Long Does the Electrical Burning Smell Last?

How long does an electrical burning smell last?

You might wonder how much time you have before an electrical burning smell becomes a more serious issue.

This article tells you what signs to look for, how to recognize the smell, and how to deal with it.

How long an electrical burning smell will last depends on the severity of the problem. The next section addresses this question directly to tell you how short or long it can take if the problem is still being dealt with. If the source of the problem is resolved, there are ways to shorten the time. We will show you how.

How Long Does an Electrical Burning Smell Last?

The smell can be short if the problem is major, and/or there is not a lot of insulation or other material to burn through. If there is any flammable material in the path, the burning smell will be short-lived, and the situation could turn quickly into a fire. It can last longer if the problem is minor, and/or there is a lot of insulation or other material to burn through.

In this situation, the earlier you recognize an electrical burning smell, the better, because it will give you a little more time to take the right action.

Signs that There is an Electrical Problem

An electrical burning smell almost always indicates a serious problem.

You should not ignore it, otherwise, it could lead to an electrical fire. The problem could be in the wiring, or at an outlet, circuit breaker, or main box. It could be due to any one of several possible causes, such as:

  • A loose wire (especially if something attached to it is flickering or turning on/off intermittently)
  • An overloaded circuit (especially if you have too many plugs in the same socket or extension lead)
  • Discoloration
  • A buzzing sound
  • Overheating
  • Frayed cords
  • Wire insulation breakdown
  • Constant tripping of the circuit breaker or fuse
  • Wrong connection (especially if you have recently worked on your electrical wiring)
  • Outdated wiring

If you can locate the smell, for instance, to a particular wire or outlet, that is most likely the cause of the problem.

What is Electrical Burning Smell Like?

It is important to know what an electrical burning smell smells like so that you know what is happening, and you can do something in time before the situation gets more critical and out of control.

People often describe the electrical burning smell as burning plastic or metal, or an acrid or fishy odor. The plastic smell could be the insulation burning.

Is an Electrical Burning Smell Toxic?

When PVC burns, which usually happens when you get the electric burning smell, carbon monoxide is released, which could be dangerous Cabon Dioxide, Hydrogen Chloride, Dioxins, and Chlorinated Furans. A lot of these are toxic. When discussing parts per million (units of smell exposure) – Exposure to an electrical burning smell in the range of 100 parts per million for 30 minutes can be life-threatening, and 300 parts per million can be fatal.

How to Deal with an Electrical Burning Smell?

If you suspect an electrical burning smell, the first thing you should do is turn off all potential ignition sources at and near the site of the smell.

This includes turning off all sockets and appliances. Then, open your doors and windows to improve the airflow. If the smell persists, you should immediately evacuate the house and call fire emergency services.

If the electrical burning smell persists, you will need to do more to get rid of it. We give some advice below.

Persistent Electrical Burning Smell

If you are sure you have dealt with the cause of the electrical burning smell, and it is less prevalent than before but the smell persists, there are a number of things you can do.

This aftermath smell may last for a few minutes to several hours or days, depending on how severe the problem was and what materials and chemicals were consumed. You may need to do a more thorough cleaning to get rid of the smell sooner.

One thing you can do to get rid of an electrical burning smell is to pour white vinegar into a shallow bowl and place it at the site where the smell is strongest. If the smell has spread a lot, then you can place several bowls around that area in your home. You can also sprinkle baking soda to neutralize the odor.

a bowl of vinegar

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About Sam Orlovsky

b1d87d2ee85af3e51479df87928bdc88?s=90&d=mm&r=gCertifications: B.E.E.
Education: University Of Denver - Electric Engineering
Lives In: Denver Colorado

Electrical engineering is my passion, and I’ve been in the industry for over 20 years. This gives me a unique ability to give you expert home improvement and DIY recommendations. I’m not only an electrician, but I also like machinery and anything to do with carpentry. One of my career paths started as a general handyman, so I also have a lot of experience with home improvement I love to share.

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