As with everything, the more you take care of your home appliances the longer they will last you. Like any home gadget, even the best over-the-range microwaves need regular cleaning, care and maintenance to ensure they function properly for as long as possible. After all, a little regular care could spare you from having to buy a new microwave long before you really need to.
The added ventilation system on these types of microwave ovens means there's a few extra steps you'll need to take when cleaning and running routine maintenance. For example, most over-the-range microwaves come with two types of filters, and both need attention in the form of regular cleaning and, at some point, replacement.
How to care for your microwave: Cleaning tips
The grease filter in your over-the-range microwave can and should be cleaned on a regular basis. Follow the manufacturer's recommendations about how often, but once a month is usually a safe bet. Soak the filter in hot water and detergent, avoiding any products with ammonia, and then lightly scrub the filter to remove debris. For specific instructions, read your the owner manual for your microwave.
The most obvious maintenance task is keeping the microwave itself clean. Letting food particles accumulate on the inside walls could cause the unit to operate less efficiently, as well as create some very unpleasant odors.
One way to combat this is to wipe down the inside of the microwave after each use. This can be time consuming and labor intensive, so an easier way to cut down on odors and keep things tidy is to steam clean the appliance regularly.
To do this, place a bowl of water containing some of vinegar into your microwave and heat it. This will create steam and loosen any encrusted food, which you can then easily wipe away with a cloth. You may prefer to use a combination of lemon juice and water instead, as lemon can be especially helpful for dispersing foul odors.
Repeat this process as often as you like, but take care not to use any abrasive cloths to wipe it down as this can damage the inside of your microwave.
How to care for your microwave: What to replace
The charcoal filters on your over-the-range microwave oven work by absorbing pollutants, made possible by countless tiny pores on the charcoal's surface. The pore space is not infinite.
Indeed, most over-the-range microwave manufacturers recommend replacing a charcoal filter every six months or so. You can go a little longer, but to experience peak performance, regular replacement is best. Some replacement filters are quite expensive, depending on the over-the-range model you own.
Replacing the charcoal filter is only important if your microwave hood is re-circulating air. Some configurations vent to the outdoors and, as such, would not need to make use of the charcoal filter in the microwave.
Light bulbs for the cooktop lighting and interior cavity will need to be replaced on a regular basis too. Manufacturers make it fairly easy to perform this task, with detailed instructions that can be found online if you lose the hard copy of your user manual.
With a little regular care, cleaning and attention, your over-the-range microwave oven and hood combination can last for years and still function well, so it's well worth learning how to care for your microwave properly. If you have decided that you do need a new microwave, and aren't sure whether an over-the-range model is right for you going forward, you may prefer one of the best compact microwaves instead.