I had most of my computer stuff plugged into a (rather new - about 2 months old) surge protector. I noticed a weird metallic smell coming from it for about a month, but I figured it was just because it was new - until today, where it was just too much to bear. I bought a new power strip for my desk and have been using it for a few hours or so, but when I unplug things or smell the power strip I still get that same sharp, metallic odor.

I have tried it with my old power strip as well, one that I've had for quite a while, and the same thing happened. The wall outlet itself doesn't smell, but any plug put in the strip does. I admit that I'm not the most judicious about turning power strips and devices on and off when plugging and unplugging them, so sometimes things spark when I plug them in - I don't know if it's that heat that is creating the smell or something.

This happened at my old house as well so I don't think it's an outlet/wiring issue in my house. Is this just something power strips do? I'm a pretty anxious person so I'm worried I could be freaking out over nothing.

  • Hello, and welcome to Home Improvement. Unfortunately, it's going to be hard and/or impossible for us to figure out this smell remotely. And, you should probably take our tour so you'll know how best to participate here. Commented Aug 25, 2019 at 2:09
  • Can you link the power strip product? Is anything special about it, or is it a cheapie? Do you have any idea how much power your computer stuff draws (e.g. 850 watt power supply, laser printer, under-desk heater, A/C unit, anything like that) Commented Aug 25, 2019 at 2:30
  • One I threw out: amazon.com/Living-Solutions-Outlet-Protector-Chargers/dp/… One I have now: walgreens.com/store/c/living-solutions-6-outlet-surge-protector/… The really old one I can't find a product page for but it's an Intertek product. My PC draws about 500w and I have two monitors plugged into the strip as well.
    – flatline
    Commented Aug 25, 2019 at 2:44

1 Answer 1


Well, the second one has a UL stamp on the front, and usually the Chinese junk makers aren't brazen enough to put that. But the proof of the pudding is in the File number - a 6 or 7 digit code that should be right under the UL mark either on the packaging, instructions or labeling.

The first one is on Amazon, and it isn't being sold so it's impossible to see if it's "Shipped from and sold by Amazon.com" or "Sold by XXXXX and fulfilled by Amazon". The latter is the Amazon Marketplace, which is a cr*pstream of the cheapest junk off Alibaba, barcode stuck on it, and sent to the Amazon warehouse. Needless to say, none of that stuff has a UL listing with file number. Both this and stuff direct shipped from China seem to evade Customs.

Regardless, even a UL-listed item can fail. Exemplars of the item have been fully tested, but that does not mean every production unit is good.

Power strips should not "smell funny". And, proof of the pudding, they should definitely not get warm, certainly not with 500W+50W+50W that you describe as your load.

Needless to say, mains electric is nothing to trifle with. It is a common source of house fires via shabby appliances, hence the need for UL listings*. I am very reluctant to use plastic power strips at all, and I hit garage sales and Goodwill looking for metal ones; even a damaged metal one can often be repaired.

* UL standing for "Underwriter's Laboratories", and "Underwriter" being another name for "insurer" such as the company providing your homeowner's fire insurance.

  • they don't really get warm, just that kind of smell. I purchased both of them at Walgreens, the Amazon listing was just the only one I can find for the first one.
    – flatline
    Commented Aug 25, 2019 at 6:05
  • walgreens.com/store/c/living-solutions-8-outlet-surge-protector/… here is the Walgreens post for the first one. apparently they are made in the USA. I assume regardless of whether or not there's an actual problem it would be good practice to just plug my computer into the wall since it is by far the most power consuming thing on the strip?
    – flatline
    Commented Aug 25, 2019 at 6:14
  • @flatline USA is a good sign qualitywise, but still, surge protectors shouldn't smell. My sweetie has an allergy issue with plastic smells, and my tactic for getting rid of them is to let the new item live in the car for a couple weeks in the summer. The car is a "hothouse" which gets up to 140-160F in the day (here), so that quickly cooks off any volatiles. Regardless, the reason plastic electrical equipment should not smell passively is this could mask a smell caused by a genuine electrical issue. As such any smell should be treated as a fire-safety issue. Commented Aug 25, 2019 at 6:22
  • mrf. that's unfortunate, especially considering that all of them, even my really old one, seem to have the same issue. I should note that this is a "stick my nose near the outlet" intensity of smell, not a "can't even be in the room" smell. I honestly don't know if it's the power strip with itself or the plugs, considering the plugs themselves (specifically the metal prongs) have that odor for a while after they are unplugged.
    – flatline
    Commented Aug 25, 2019 at 6:29
  • also, updated the main post
    – flatline
    Commented Aug 25, 2019 at 6:35

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