Foods such as pork and sauerkraut come out of a Crock-Pot incredibly tasty, but they may also make the slow cooker incredibly stinky. To get rid of that nasty odor, use the Crock-Pot's slow cooking power to steam clean the device. This helps remove cooked-on gunk, as well as residual odor. After a steam-cleaning session, regular washing is a breeze.
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New Crock-Pot Smell
Even a brand-new Crock-Pot may emit a bit of an odor. Before using the Crock-Pot for the first time, wash the ceramic liner with warm, soapy water and a dishcloth. Wash the lid in the same manner. Rinse both items with cool water, then either dry them with a dish towel or allow them to air dry.
The first time you use the Crock-Pot, you may notice a little smoke or an odor that smells like electrical components heating up or burning. This is normal and will go away after a while. A used Crock-Pot, such as one bought at a yard sale, shouldn't smoke or emit such odors. If it does, it's not safe to use.
Preventing Residual Odors
The best way to prevent stinky Crock-Pot odors is to clean the crock as soon as you're done using it. Once you've removed all the food and the ceramic crock liner is cool to the touch, lift the ceramic crock out of the base and scrape any leftover food remnants into the trash. Rinse the ceramic part out in the sink with warm water. Wash the ceramic with warm, soapy water and a dishcloth. Cleaning the slow cooker right away helps prevent caked-on residues that may emit foul odors.
Be sure to also wipe down the outer housing that holds the ceramic crock. Unplug the unit, then clean the outside of the Crock-Pot with a damp sponge. For soiled areas, use a little dish soap with the water, then follow up with just water. Don't use any abrasive materials like an SOS pad on a Crock-Pot exterior or the ceramic liner, as these may scratch the appliance.
Deep Cleaning the Crock-Pot
The easiest way to get rid of lingering odors or caked-on food residue is to let the Crock-Pot do most of the work. With the Crock-Pot base and unit together, as if ready to cook, pour enough water into the unit to reach the "leftover food" mark. If your slow cooker doesn't have such a line, add about 1 inch of water. Pour in 1/2 cup white vinegar for a small Crock-Pot or 1 cup for a larger device, such as a 6-quart Crock-Pot. Add in an equal amount of baking soda, pouring it in slowly as it will bubble up during this process.
Once the bubbles dissipate, sprinkle in a little more baking soda, then place the lid on the slow cooker. Set the cooker to "low" and let it heat the solution for 1 hour. Afterward, turn off the device, remove the lid and use the liquid inside the cooker to wipe down the inner walls of the crock. Note: the water should be warm, but not too hot to touch. If it feels too hot, wait until it cools down a bit.
Pour the liquid out into the sink. Once the crock reaches room temperature, wash it inside and out with warm, soapy water. Rinse the crock and allow it to air dry.
Kathy Adams is an award-winning writer. She is an avid DIYer that is equally at home repurposing random objects into new, useful creations as she is at supporting community gardening efforts and writing about healthy alternatives to household chemicals. She's written numerous DIY articles for paint and decor companies, as well as for Black + Decker, Hunker, SFGate, Landlordology and others.