How to clean a microwave oven—tips for keeping your appliance in top shape

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

Learning to clean a microwave oven 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, you might not think about cleaning your microwave all that often. Seriously, who has the time to wipe it down after every use? 

Besides, while over-the-range microwaves are becoming more popular, most of us still keep one of the best microwaves on our countertops, 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 occurs that most of us dare to stick our heads inside to see what other delights might be hanging out there.

Learning how to clean a microwave oven is rather straightforward. So whether you’re a cleaning pro searching for new tips or 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 oven, you’ll find handy advice for getting the inside sparkling clean, ridding it of unsavory smells, and making that door so bright you’ll see your reflection in it.

How to clean the inside of a microwave

Whether you have a spacious microwave or a space-saving compact microwave, we’re big fans of the natural cleaning approach. While plenty of supermarket cleaning products will cut through grease and grime and remove stains, they’re not always kind to your health or the environment. They 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:

Step 1

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

Step 2

Add two 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. 

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

How to clean a microwave glass door

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

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 eliminate light to moderate grease build-up is with humble baking soda and vinegar. 

If that doesn’t do the trick, or you have heavy-duty grease 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 no leftover residue.

How to remove odors from a microwave

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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 to eliminate those after-dinner smells.
  • If you don’t want to wait, try filling a bowl with warm water, 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 half lemon 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. Add baking soda and coffee to a bowl for an even stronger mix, 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.

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. 

How to remove stains from a 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 uses three common kitchen ingredients, so you can rest assured that you’ll always have what you need on hand. 

Step 1

Add 1 cup of water to a microwave-safe bowl, and add either ¼ cup of vinegar, 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, remove 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. If they don’t budge, make a paste with water and a little baking soda. Apply the paste to the stains and let it sit for 30 minutes before wiping it clean with a damp cloth.

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

How to keep a microwave clean: our top tips

We understand how busy life can get and how easy it can be for those annoying cleaning jobs to get put on the back burner, 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 briefly, always cover food with a plate or microwave-safe cover. This will prevent foods from splattering or bubbling over.
  • Avoid microwaving any food with a high grease content, such as bacon, or those 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. Little and often is an easier cleaning method than waiting until it becomes a big job.

How long to microwaves last? Knowing when it's 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 popular models for home delivery... 

Kathryn Rosenberg

Kathryn is a freelance health and wellness writer who is passionate about the mind-body connection, the role of food as medicine, and exploring how we can live in more sustainable and humane ways. A lover of the natural world, she’s at her happiest when walking the beach, staring out at the ocean, or when sat amongst lakes and mountains. For Top Ten Reviews, Kathryn covers more of our in-depth health content, ranging from diabetes news to vision care. And it isn’t just human wellness Kathryn is interested in - she also writes about the health of our furry friends over at our sister site PetsRadar.