How to Clean a Microwave Using Products You Already Have on Hand

To clean a microwave and take it from grimy to shiny in a jiff, try any one of these easy methods (none of which involve toxic chemicals).

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You know it’s time to clean your microwave oven when unpleasant odors fill the kitchen every time you open the appliance door. Knowing how to clean your microwave can be a bit daunting, however, because there are many different products on the market that purport to be the “best” way to clean a microwave.  Fortunately, there are at least a couple of easy ways to get the job done using common household items that may already be in your pantry. Removing microwave odors can be as simple and fast as microwaving a quick snack. Get ready to say goodbye to that burnt popcorn smell you notice every time you open the microwave door!

No matter which method you decide on, the first step in cleaning a microwave is to wipe down all interior surfaces with a soft clean sponge or paper towel. For any stubborn food residue, use a plastic kitchen scraper. Tempting though it may be, steel wool should be avoided; it leaves scratches that ruin the microwave’s finish. Once you’ve given the interior a first pass, try one of these three approaches for a good, thorough cleaning. These tips on how to clean a microwave also are suitable for cleaning many other types of combination appliances, including microwave convection ovens, built-in microwaves, countertop microwaves, and portable or small-sized microwaves.

How to Clean a Microwave with Lemon Juice

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Lemons contain citric acid, which cuts through grease and grime, and leaves behind a pleasant aroma.

Supplies

  1. Cut two whole lemons into wedges, then squeeze the juice of each one into a small, microwave-safe mixing bowl.
  2. Once you have juiced them, throw the lemon rinds into the bowl, along with two or three cups of water.
  3. Place the bowl in the microwave, then set the appliance to run on high for two or three minutes—long enough for the water to start boiling vigorously.
  4. Without opening the microwave door, let the bowl stand for about 10 minutes, during which time its steam can penetrate any baked-on food and grease present in the interior.
  5. Open the microwave door and remove the bowl. If your microwave has a turntable, take it out of the oven (along with the carousel upon which it rotates). Soak these parts in hot, soapy water while you continue.
  6. With a damp cloth or sponge, wipe down the microwave and, if necessary, steam the interior once again.


How to Clean a Microwave with Vinegar and Baking Soda

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Vinegar and baking soda combine to create a powerful cleaning agent. Both are inexpensive, and most people tend to keep a box or bottle of each item on hand. (Also, it’s worth mentioning that vinegar acts as a natural disinfectant.)

Supplies

  1. Add four tablespoons of baking soda to a quart of warm water, being sure to mash and stir so that the powder fully dissolves.
  2. Dip a cloth or sponge into the mixture, repeating as necessary, and wipe down the entire interior.
  3. Pour one-half cup of water and one-half cup of white vinegar into a small, microwave-safe bowl.
  4. Place the bowl in your microwave, running the appliance on high for two or three minutes—long enough for the water to boil vigorously.
  5. Keeping the microwave door closed, let the bowl stand for about 10 minutes while the steam works its magic.
  6. Open the microwave door, take out the bowl, and remove the turntable (if your microwave has one), along with its carousel. Soak these parts in hot, soapy water.
  7. Clean the microwave interior with the vinegar-and-water solution you’ve prepared. Keep at the task until no baking soda residue remains inside the oven.

How to Clean a Microwave with a Commercial Cleanser

Supplies

Various commercial cleaners on the market are geared toward cleaning microwaves and other appliances. Many of these cleaners produce strong and sometimes quite unpleasant fumes, which linger in the microwave and can make your food taste a little off. If you want to try a commercial cleaner, consider purchasing a fume-free product and letting the door stand open for a couple of hours after you finish cleaning. Also, always thoroughly rinse the interior with water after using a commercial cleanser.

Of course, the more often you use the microwave, the more frequently you should clean it. For the average homeowner, cleaning the microwave once every two weeks is an appropriate schedule if you want to keep the appliance looking—and smelling—its delightfully clean best.

Pro Tips for Cleaning Microwaves

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It can be easy to overlook the ubiquitous microwave as part of your kitchen cleaning routine, because nearly all of the food spills and stains are contained inside the unit…and, as the saying goes, “out of sight, out of mind.” But there are very real and compelling reasons not to let that food debris build up inside your microwave: spilled food looks bad, smells bad, can be a breeding ground for bacteria, and over time, can decrease the efficiency of your microwave. The worst result of leaving food spills to fester can be a fire inside the unit—and no one wants that!

Today’s microwaves often combine functions that make it even more important to keep the inside clean: microwave convection ovens, for instance, combine the circulating heat of a convection oven with the rapid heating of a microwave, and the convection function that makes your food browed and crispy can turn spilled food into a blackened, burnt-on mess. Countertop microwaves and portable, small-sized microwaves often operate at higher power than conventional built-in units, which also can crisp and burn spilled food. There are even microwave ovens combined with today’s “must-have” new kitchen appliance, the air fryer.

Regardless of what type of unit you have, regular cleaning is the key to keeping your microwave looking, smelling, and operating its best. Here are some tips for cleaning up the worst messes inside your microwave:

  • Clean greasy microwave doors with a 50-50 mixture of vinegar and water on a soft cloth.
  • For tough, baked-on grease, use some warm water and dish soap; rinse completely and buff with a microfiber cloth.
  • To get rid of mild burnt smells, try airing out the interior by leaving the door open for 30 to 45 minutes.
  • To banish stronger odors, place baking soda in a bowl or on a plate and leave inside the unit overnight or until the next use.
  • For really bad odors, place a microwave-safe bowl of lemons and water, or a mixture of lemon juice and water, in the unit and run on high until the liquid boils. Let the interior cool for 5 to 10 minutes before opening the door, and then wipe down the interior with a clean sponge, microfiber cloth, or paper towels.
  • To remove pesky stuck food in the interior, or baked-on burnt spills, use a plastic scraper to remove most of the debris, then use the lemon- or vinegar-based cleaning techniques outlined above.

How to Keep Your Microwave Clean

The best and easiest way to prevent having to “deep clean” your microwave is to clean as you go. Wipe up any spills or spatters with a clean sponge, microfiber cloth, or paper towels after each use before they get hard and crusty.

Add a lemon juice or vinegar-and-baking soda cleanse to your regular weekly routine to keep your microwave interior bright and shiny. And while you are wiping things down inside the microwave, take a pass over the exterior surfaces as well, paying particular attention to the touch pad, where greasy fingerprints can build up over time.

Of course, one of the best ways to keep your microwave clean is to prevent food spatters and spills in the first place by using microwave covers over the food that you are heating. These handy kitchen accessories are typically constructed of plastic, silicone, or glass and come in various sizes and shapes to help contain messes.

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Final Thoughts

Keeping your microwave oven clean is the best way to ensure efficient, trouble-free operation and garner the maximum usable life expectancy out of your unit…to say nothing of keeping your kitchen clean and odor-free! To keep things simple, establish a regular cleaning routine using these tips on how to clean your microwave.

FAQs About How to Clean the Inside of a Microwave

Q. Can you clean a microwave with Clorox wipes?

You can clean the exterior surfaces of the microwave with disinfecting wipes, but do not use the wipes or bleach inside the microwave as this can leave a chemical residue that can interact with your food.

Q. How do you deodorize a microwave?

The best way to deodorize a microwave is to place a few tablespoons of baking soda and 1 cup of water in a microwave-safe bowl, run on high for 5 to 10 minutes, and then let stand until cool; wipe down the interior with a clean sponge or soft cloth. You also can use baking soda and vinegar, or water and lemons or lemon juice.

Q. Why does my microwave smell weird?

Most weird smells in a microwave are the “ghosts of meals past” in the form of food spills or spatters that are being burnt onto the surfaces; this indicates a deep-clean is in order. A burning smell or smoke, however, indicates that you either have a major build-up of food debris, or your unit has a serious wiring or electrical problem and should be unplugged and serviced immediately.

Q. How do you clean smoke out of a microwave?

Air out the unit by leaving the door open for 30 to 60 minutes; then place a bowl or plate full of baking soda inside the unit with the door closed overnight or until the next use.

Q. How do you clean a stained microwave?

Most microwave messes can be cleaned using the non-toxic materials and methods outlined above, including lemons, lemon juice, baking soda, and vinegar. For really stubborn stains, however, you may need to use the chemical acetone (available on Amazon.) Make sure to wear hand and eye protection and open the windows for ventilation. Wet a clean cloth or sponge with acetone and rub the stains until they are gone. Once you have removed the stains, wash the interior thoroughly with warm water and dish soap and rinse well with clean water until no acetone smell remains.