How To Clean A Microwave

Cut the grease + grime from the carousel to the touchpad.

Ugh, the microwave. Such a blessing and a curse. The price we pay for such convenience is the utter hassle of having to clean it. Has your microwave been overrun by food splatters, curious odors, and a thick coat of grime? Does the inside look like a Jackson Pollock painting of sauces and gravies? Does the touchpad resemble a greasy version of the FBI’s biometrics lab?

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Okay, admit it. It’s time for a microwave deep clean.

There are many ways to go about cleaning your microwave, and the most successful techniques involve some form of steam. Creating steam helps to loosen stubborn bits of food and moisten sticky spots, making them easier to scrub off. Because steam equals heat, you may want to don a pair of kitchen gloves for this task to avoid burning your hands.

Check out our recommendations below of microwave cleaning tips, and feel free to combine multiple methods for especially disgusting splatters and stains. And be sure to clean both the inside and the outside of your microwave. Just because the inside is more visibly dirty than the exterior doesn’t mean that germs aren’t lingering on the handle, touchpad, and filter.

And whatever you do, we don’t recommend using bleach on your microwave — no matter how persistent the stain or how funky the grime. As a general room of thumb: Bleach doesn’t pair well with plastic (like the inside of your microwave).

How to clean the inside of a microwave

  • Make fresh squeezed lemonade (then microwave it!) Fill a measuring cup with a cup of water, cut a lemon in half, squeeze its juice into the measuring cup, then drop the two halves in. Microwave the water and lemon for a few minutes, or until you see the water start to boil. Let that sit in your microwave for a few minutes to cool down so the steam can do its job. Then, remove the measuring cup and use a cloth to wipe down the inside of the microwave. The steam works to loosen food particles so they’re easy to wipe away.
  • Steam clean with wet paper towels. For an even easier trick, get a few paper towels wet and microwave them for a few minutes — start with two and don’t exceed five. Then, let them sit until they’re cool enough to handle. Once they are, use them to wipe down the microwave and throw them away when you’re done.
  • Nuke your sponge. Another steamy option is to get a sponge wet with water then microwave it for a few minutes. Once the sponge cools off a bit, dip it in a solution of warm water and a gentle dish soap (we like Dawn) then use it to scrub away all those stuck-on food bits. Bonus: Microwaving your sponge for about two minutes should actually help kill bacteria hidden in its nooks and crannies.
  • All hail vinegar: the ultimate neutralizer! Spray 1:1 ratio of vinegar and water and let it sit for 15 minutes. Then, wipe down with a sponge.
  • Cast a spell with Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. For a really dirty microwave with caked-on food, it’s time to bust out a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. First, wet the Magic Eraser and squeeze the excess water out. Then, start scrubbing! Let the Magic Eraser do most of the work for you — you shouldn’t need to scrub too hard before food splatter and baked-on messes practically disappear. Once the microwave looks sparkling clean, go ahead and give a quick wipe down with just water so it’s ready to use when you need it.
  • Get scrubby with it (baking soda, that is!) Make an abrasive paste with baking soda, let it sit on spots with hardened food residue for five minutes. Then use a sponge, cloth, or paper towels to scrub it off and watch those spots in your microwave disappear before your eyes.
  • Leave baking soda in/on overnight. If you’re worried about strong odors in your microwave, try putting a small bowl of baking soda in it overnight to soak up the smells.
  • Oil up your stains. As if they weren’t greasy enough. Really persistent stains will sometimes succumb to olive oil. Drizzle some olive oil on a sponge or paper towel and apply some elbow grease. Then, of course, you’ll have to clean the olive oil residue with vinegar or baking soda — but it’s worth twice the work to eradicate the original stain!

How to clean microwave doors + exterior

  • Get creative with alternative cleaning products. A diluted window cleaning solution is gentle enough to clean both inside and outside your microwave. Mix two parts window cleaner with one part water, soak a sponge in the mixture, and use it to wipe down your microwave, removing the carousel and scrubbing it separately. You can soak stubborn stains with the solution for a few minutes before wiping. Then use a clean wet rag or paper towels to wipe down the interior with water to get rid of any residue from the cleaning mixture. Leave the microwave door open to air out any residual cleaner scent and/or wipe down with a dry rag.
  • ‘Round the outside. As previously mentioned, don’t neglect the exterior and doors of your microwave. The touchpad, handle and vents tend to accumulate grease and dirt, too. Mix some dish soap like Dawn and warm water (or the aforementioned baking soda paste to spot treat nasty build up) and apply to the doors and outside of your microwave with a sponge. Then wipe clean with water and dry with a rag.
  • If your microwave is stainless steel, you can use a pinch of rubbing alcohol to wipe away fingerprints.
  • Mr. Clean Magic Eraser works well on microwave doors and exterior, as well.
  • The better to see (inside) you with. Hit greasy microwave door windows with a 50/50 mixture of white or apple cider vinegar and warm water. Rinse with a clean damp rag and wipe dry.
  • Yo microwave is so greasy. If you’ve got major grease build-up, wipe the exterior of your microwave door down with an all-purpose, grease-cutting cleaner like Mr. Clean Clean Freak Mist. Apply the cleaner with a cloth or sponge (instead of spraying directly onto the microwave) to prevent it from getting into the vent holes. Avoid spraying any electronic controls to avoid potential damage.

How to remove burnt smells from microwave

  • Seek professional help. And if it’s a really strong smell (like burnt popcorn) that just won’t seem to go away, step up your smell game by using an odor eliminator product — sometimes they come in gel form - to trap and remove the strongest odors.
  • Changing or cleaning your microwave’s filter can definitely help air out any lingering odors. Be sure to check the owner’s manual before messing with the filter, but most of them are removable and can be hand washed with regular dish soap and warm water. Be sure it’s totally dry before replacing.
  • Sweet, sweet baking soda. Leave a bowl of baking soda inside the microwave to soak up and neutralize smells.
  • Air it out. Try leaving the microwave door open overnight to let the smell dissipate.
  • Vinegar + water. Add 1 tablespoon of vinegar to ½ cup of water and microwave it for two minutes. Leave the microwave door shut afterwards with the hot vinegar mixture inside for about fifteen minutes. Remove the vinegar and wipe out the inside of the microwave with a clean damp rag. The initial smell of the vinegar might seem overwhelming, but it will quickly neutralize and dissipate, taking the original unsavory smell with it.

What you need to clean a microwave properly

(Hint: Most of it can be found in your pantry.)

How often should you clean your microwave?

Depending how often you use your microwave, they ought to be cleaned about once a week. This may seem like a lot of microwave maintenance, but if you keep on top of those little splatters and stains, you won’t have to resort to using an ice pick to chisel off the leftovers from last month’s leftovers. And let’s be real: You know when you’ve got to clean your microwave. Just look at it. It may not be as outwardly embarrassing as a dirty stove top (hey, just shut the door!) but still. If there is any visible grossness inside your microwave, stop what you’re doing, find some vinegar and get in there.

Fine, you can finish that bite. But right after that.

Cleaning the microwave is similar to cleaning the stove, in a sense. It gets used so frequently that it’s just going to get dirty again right away. But don’t be discouraged! Now that you’ve committed all of these microwave cleaning tips to memory, you’ve got the tools and knowledge to steam clean and baking soda scrub all those stubborn splatters, burnt stains, and greasy fingerprints away again (and again, and again!).

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