Have any questions? Give us a call at (403) 536-4088 

How to Remove Melted Plastic from Dishwasher Heating Coils

This is a classic scenario. A plastic lid or container has been melted by the dishwasher heating coil, ruining the container or lid, and leaving the plastic residue firmly melted to the dishwasher heating coil. Whether the plastic item was either placed too close to the heating coil, or fell off the top rack landing next to the coil, you’ve now got quite the mess that has formed.

Even worse, the plastic remelts each time you use the dishwasher, producing that terrible (and likely toxic) burnt plastic odour. The dishwasher is ruined and you have to buy a new one, right? Turns out the answer is no. Unless you want a new dishwasher because you don’t like your current one.

The fix is actually pretty easy, but it will take some effort. We can do it too, so feel free to give us a call as well for you Professional house cleaning needs.

Equipment Needed

  • Plastic zipper storage bag
  • Ice cubes
  • Plastic scraper
  • Two clean cloths
  • Nail polish remover, or straight up acetone if you’re an organic chemist
  • Dish soap
  • Splash of elbow grease


1. Disconnect the dishwasher. Easiest way to do this is to flip the breaker and turn off the power supply. Alternatively, you can unplug the dishwasher power cord from the socket. Typically this is found at the back of the cabinet, beneath the sink.

2. Remove all dishes. Empty the dishwasher and leave the door open. This will allow the coils and the plastic to cool down. Do not touch the coils or the plastic while still hot. We’re not licensed to write a post on how to treat burns.

3. Fill the plastic zipper bag with ice. We’re going to be placing the bag onto the heating coils, so make sure that the heating coils have cooled down; otherwise you’re going to be starting this guide from the beginning (d’oh!). Place the ice-filled bag onto the heating coil in the spot where the plastic has melted. Let it sit for 30 minutes or so. The ice will harden the plastic, which will make it easier to get off.

4. Remove the ice-filled bag. Now use the scraper to gently yet firmly remove the hardened plastic. Make sure you collect the bits that come off.

5. Keep scraping. We want to get the easy stuff off, so keep scraping until the the plastic removal becomes exceedingly difficult. Make sure you’re taking care while scraping so as to not damage the heating coil. We haven’t written a guide on how to put out a dishwasher fire yet.

6. While wearing a pair of gloves, soak one of the cloths with the acetone/nail polished remover, and place it on the heating coil over the spot with the melted plastic. Let it sit for five minutes, allowing the acetone to break down the remaining plastic for easier removal.

7. Once five minutes have passed, use the same cloth to rub the heating coils until the remaining plastic has been removed. If there are larger, persistent chunks of plastic, try using the scraper again. After the acetone treatment, they should be easier to remove with some abrasion.

8. Dampen the second cloth, and wipe down the heating coils thoroughly. Make sure all bits of plastic have been removed.

9. Soak the same cloth in soapy water  and wipe the heating coils again to remove any nail polish remover/acetone residue.

10. Rinse the coils with water to remove and soap and residue, and reconnect the power to the dishwasher.

If you’ve taken your time with this, the plastic should have been all removed. If you notice that burning plastic smell the next time you run the dishwasher, repeat the process to make sure you haven’t missed any remaining plastic.

Sounds like many people are finding this guide helpful, which we are happy to hear! While it’s a frustrating situation, it’s easy for us to forget that the coils do get quite hot during normal operation of the dishwasher. Some plastics like silicone are more heat resistant, so a good general rule of thumb is to keep food containers on the top rack, as these tend to be plastics that are less heat resistant. For all further house cleaning needs – feel free to call on WestMaids.