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How to clean a microwave

How to clean a microwave: Woman cleaning inside of microwave
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Learning how to clean a microwave properly will ensure your hard-working kitchen appliance stays in good shape for longer. We know it isn't the most fun job to do. And sure, unless your bowl of tomato soup erupts and paints the roof of your microwave red, forcing you to don your kitchen gloves, chances are you might not think about cleaning your microwave all that often. We mean seriously, who has the time to wipe it down after every use? 

Besides, while the best over-the-range microwaves are becoming more popular, most of us still keep our microwaves on our countertop, making it harder to see what sort of condition we’ve managed to get them in. It’s only when the above-mentioned volcanic eruption takes place that most of us dare to stick our heads inside to see what other delights might be hanging out in there.

As it turns out, learning how to clean a microwave is rather straightforward. So whether you’re a cleaning pro in search of new tips, or you're a novice who wants to know how to care for your microwave better, we’ve got you covered. In this guide on how to clean a microwave, you’ll find handy advice for getting the inside sparkling clean, for ridding it of unsavory smells, and making that door so bright you’ll be able to see your reflection in it.

How to clean a microwave, starting on the inside

Whether you have a spacious microwave or a space-saving compact microwave, we’re big fans of the natural cleaning approach. While there are plenty of supermarket cleaning products that will cut through grease and grime and remove stains, they’re not always kind to your health or the environment and can be particularly problematic for those with asthma or other respiratory conditions.

For a natural solution that won’t harm you or your microwave, nothing beats this vinegar and citrus blend:

How to clean a microwave: Woman placing bowl of lemon and water inside microwave

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Step 1.
In a microwave-safe bowl, combine a cup of water with the juice of a lemon, lime, or orange, and then chop the fruit into slices and add those to the water too. You can do this the other way around too, but we found it easier squeezing the juice out of a whole piece of fruit rather than from individual slices.

Step 2.

Add in tow tablespoons of white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar. If you don’t have any to hand, don’t worry, the citrus mixture will still work well on its own. The vinegar just makes it more potent.

Step 3.
Place the bowl inside the microwave and turn it on high power for several minutes until you can see the mixture boiling and the window steaming up.

Step 4.
Let the microwave cool down for five minutes before you open the door and remove the bowl. Wipe the inside with a clean sponge and marvel at the magic of citrus fruit. 

If you don’t have citrus or vinegar on hand, try some wet paper towels. Soak the towels, place them inside your microwave and run the microwave on high for five minutes. The steam from the towels will soften any baked-on food and then you can use the wet towels to wipe it right off. Cleaning a microwave from the inside out doesn’t get easier than this.

How to clean a microwave's door

There’s nothing worse than a greasy microwave door, but the good news is there’s a simple solution that will give you crystal clear glass every time. Our favorite way to get rid of light to moderate grease build-up is with some humble baking soda and vinegar. 

Do begin, dampen a sponge with water and dip it into some baking soda. Use this to gently scrub the glass. Rinse and wipe clean before going over the glass again with a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water. 

How to clean a microwave: Woman wearing pink glove wiping microwave door

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If that doesn’t do the trick, or you have some heavy-duty grease hanging out on the glass, it’s time to pull out the big guns. A sudsy warm mix of dish liquid and water or a solution of two parts window cleaner and one part water will banish even the most stubborn grease spots. 

We recommend rewashing the microwave thoroughly with warm water after using chemical cleaners to ensure there’s no leftover residue.

How to remove odors from a microwave

We love salmon as much as the next person, but that stinky fish smell? Yeah, not so much. Strong smelling foods such as fish, eggs and cruciferous vegetables can leave a pungent odor throughout your home, and there’s nothing worse than when it’s still hanging around the next day. 

Thankfully, we have some super tips that’ll let you enjoy those seafood and curry dinners without any of the morning after odor regrets:

  • For light odors (spicy foods are a good example) place a bowl of baking soda inside your microwave, close the door and leave it overnight. Baking soda is an excellent absorber of odors and a potent neutralizer making it a great choice for getting rid of those after-dinner smells.
  • If you don’t want to wait, try filling a bowl with warm water and lots of dish soap and baking soda. Put the bowl into the microwave for one minute until it starts to steam, then turn off and leave the hot water mixture to work its magic. For a natural solution, replace the dish soap with a lemon cut in half and a few sprigs of rosemary. 
  • Coffee is another fantastic option for light odors. Put two tablespoons of ground coffee in a microwave-safe mug with half a cup of water. Heat the mug for 2-10 minutes, making sure the coffee doesn’t boil as this makes it less effective. You can do this in bursts or set your microwave to medium heat. For an even stronger mix, add baking soda and coffee to a bowl and let it sit in the microwave overnight.
  • For heavy-duty odors (burnt foods and salmon) place a natural and non-toxic odor absorbing gel inside and leave it there until you next use your microwave. We like the Fresh Wave Odor Removing Gel, $24.99 at Amazon. Another great alternative is charcoal, which absorbs heavy odors. Add cut pieces of charcoal to a bowl and leave them in your microwave overnight with the door shut.

How to clean a microwave: Fish dish being placed in microwave

(Image credit: Getty Images)

While many of us are guilty of waiting until our microwaves smell bad before we do something about it, the best way to avoid odors and ensure your microwave is always fresh is to give it a light clean once a week. 

Removing stubborn stains from your microwave

While most microwave messes can be easily wiped away, tomato or curry-based sauces can frequently leave stains that can be tricky to remove. However, with a little knowledge and a whole lot of steam, you can quickly restore your microwave to its former glory.

Our favorite stain-busting solution gives you a choice of three common kitchen ingredients, so you can rest assured you’ll always have what you need on hand when you need it. 

Step 1.
Add 1 cup of water to a microwave-safe bowl and add in either ¼ cup of vinegar or two to three tablespoons of baking soda or two halves of a lemon. 

Step 2.
Microwave the bowl on high for five minutes or until you have achieved a rolling boil. 

Step 3.
Turn the microwave off and leave the door closed for ten minutes to allow the water to cool down.

Step 4.
Open the door and removing the rotating tray if there is one and wipe the microwave down. The steam should have attacked the stains making them easy to remove.

If the stains are still visible after you’ve wiped all the surfaces, scrub gently with the warm water solution, and if they still won’t budge, make a paste with the water and a little baking soda. Apply the paste to the stains and let it sit for 30 minutes before wiping clean with a damp cloth.

While it can be tempting to want to attack the stains with bleach, try and resit as the strength of the chemicals in bleach can weaken the microwave and cause damage over the long run.

Tips for keeping your microwave cleaner for longer

We understand how busy life can get and how easy it can be for those annoying cleaning jobs to get put on the backburner so here are some final tips to help you keep your microwave looking clean and smelling fresh for longer:

  • Even if you’re only heating something for a few seconds, always make sure you cover food with a plate or microwave-safe cover. This will prevent foods from splattering or bubbling over.
  • Avoid microwaving any food that has a high grease content, such as bacon, or those that are prone to exploding, like eggs, as these are primary culprits when it comes to creating a mess. 
  • Give your microwave a quick wipe when cleaning your countertop, as little and often is an easier cleaning method than waiting until it becomes a big job.

Is it time to upgrade?

If, after reading all this, you're looking at your microwave and thinking how no amount of cleaning can save it, then it could be time to buy a new one. Here are some of the most poplar models for home delivery... 

Looking for more kitchen content? We have you covered with our guides to the best side-by-side refrigerators, and the best freezers.