How to Clean Your Microwave, According to Cleaning Experts

These tips will take your microwave from grimy to gorgeous in no time.

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Keep your microwave sparkling with these cleaning tips

It’s crucial to know how to clean household appliances, including microwaves. A microwave is a great appliance to have, but it leaves little to the imagination. You can clearly see if someone spilled food in it—and those aren’t the kind of leftovers you want to see. Before you know it, those small dots turn into large globs, and it becomes pretty obvious that your microwave is dirty. Don’t be embarrassed, though—the mess can be cleaned up! After talking to some experts, we’ve come up with these steps for how to clean your microwave (and why it’s important). After reading this guide, make sure to read up on how to clean stainless steel and how to clean a dishwasher to help keep your kitchen spotless.

Why should you clean your microwave?

The biggest reason to clean your microwave is pretty straightforward: It gets dirty easily. Food and drinks spill and splatter in the microwave, and before you know it, chunks of last week’s leftovers get stuck on the interior. This not only makes your microwave look bad—it makes it a breeding ground for bacteria and germs. Lots of delicious things come out of the microwave, but bacteria is definitely not one of them. Leaving caked-on food splatters all over the interior is just one of the microwave problems you’ll regret ignoring.

How to clean the inside of your microwave

cleaning the inside of a microwave with a bowl of cleaning solutionTMB Studio

Here are the steps to take to clean the inside of a microwave and make it look brand new. These steps are for cleaning solutions that use household items like vinegar and lemon; if you’re using a commercial cleaner, refer to the instructions on the packaging.

  • Step 1: Take out the turntable if it’s easily removable.
  • Step 2: Wipe the microwave with a damp cloth or wet paper towel to remove leftover crumbs.
  • Step 3: Put the cleaning solution in the microwave, whether you’re spraying it from a bottle or letting it steam in a microwave-safe bowl.
  • Step 4: Let the solution sit for a few minutes; if you’re steaming the solution, put it in the microwave for two minutes and let it steam the inside.
  • Step 5: Wipe your microwave clean.
  • Step 6: Wash the turntable in warm water and put it back in the microwave.

You can clean the inside of your microwave with numerous cleaning aids. Briana Short, president of Caliber Cleaning, Inc., recommends using a microfiber cloth but notes that you can use a soft sponge if you need more scrubbing power.

Andrea Holzer, president of cleaning company The Green Broom, also notes that it’s OK to use a sponge and paper towels to clean your microwave. Once you have your cloth, sponge, or paper towels ready, you can figure out what solution to clean your microwave with.

How to clean a microwave with vinegar

cleaning a microwave with vinegarTMB Studio

Holzer recommends the following steps when cleaning your microwave with vinegar:

  1. Use equal parts cleaning vinegar and water, as well as a tablespoon of baking soda. The vinegar and baking soda combination will help break down stuck-on food, and the vinegar helps kill bacteria.
  2. Put these ingredients in a spray bottle and spray into the microwave.
  3. Let it sit for ten minutes.
  4. Scrub the microwave with a sponge and wipe it with paper towels.

By the way, you can use vinegar for more than cleaning. No wonder it’s a must-have in the house!

How to clean a microwave with lemon

If you don’t have vinegar, don’t worry—you can use lemon to clean your microwave. Short recommends the following steps:

  1. Put 3/4 cup of water in a microwave-safe bowl and squeeze juice from one lemon into the water.
  2. Place the bowl in the microwave for two minutes, then let it sit until cool enough to handle.
  3. Once you can remove the bowl, take a dampened sponge and wipe the ceiling, sides, and bottom of the microwave.
  4. Dry with a microfiber cloth.
  5. Repeat the microwaving of the water if any buildup remains.

Short says this mixture works especially well for microwaves that have a lot of buildup in them. “The water (neutral pH) mixed with the lemon (acidic pH) makes a very effective steam that loosens buildup from the ceiling and walls of the microwave.” It’s one of the best benefits of lemon in terms of cleaning.

You can also use a non-toxic all-purpose cleaner to clean your microwave. Read the instructions and ingredients on the bottle before you spray to make sure it doesn’t contain harmful chemicals. If you aren’t sure if the spray is non-toxic, stay on the safe side and don’t use it in your microwave.

How to get the burnt smell out of your microwave

Who hasn’t burnt a bag of popcorn in the microwave? Accidents like this happen, but that burnt smell can linger in your microwave. Holzer recommends using the vinegar and baking soda spray previously mentioned to clean it out, but also adding a few drops of peppermint into the solution.

If you’re not a fan of peppermint or don’t have baking soda at home, Justin Carpenter, owner of Modern Maids, says washing the inside of your microwave with hot water and a small amount of vinegar can get that burnt smell out of the microwave. Either way, your nostrils will thank you.

How to get stuck-on food out of your microwave

Short recommends cleaning a microwave with a lemon mixture to get stuck-on food out of your microwave. She has one word of caution, though: “Do not use any abrasive scours or scrubbing pads. Appliances are easily scratched, and this includes the interior of your microwave.”

How to clean the outside of your microwave

Your microwave’s exterior can get pretty grimy, too. Here’s how to clean the outside of your microwave effectively:

  • Step 1: Mix a cup of water with a tablespoon of vinegar; if you don’t have vinegar, lemon juice will also work.
  • Step 2: Dip a clean washcloth in the water.
  • Step 3: Gently wash the exterior of your microwave, making sure to get the glass, handle, buttons, and sides.
  • Step 4: Dry with a clean cloth.

How often should you clean your microwave?

Cleaning experts say this depends on how often it’s used. “If you are using your microwave daily, I would suggest wiping it out with a damp cloth once per week,” Short says. “If you use your microwave less than once per day, wiping it out once every two weeks should be sufficient for keeping buildup at bay.”

How to keep your microwave clean

Short recommends using food splatter covers to help keep your microwave clean. “Using a cover every time you use the microwave will keep your microwave very clean and only needing a quick wipe-out occasionally.” She also says if you don’t have a cover, you can place a paper towel over the food you’re microwaving. Another good rule of thumb is to wipe up spills and splatters as they happen—that way, they don’t build up and become hard to clean.

What happens if you don’t clean your microwave?

Not cleaning your microwave causes bacteria from old food particles to build up. “The food gets stale and can start to mold,” Carpenter explains. As if the threat of mold isn’t enough, Carpenter also says leftover splatters in the microwave can attract unwanted critters. “Flies and other bugs flock to the food particles, which creates an even worse scenario in extreme conditions.” No one wants that in their kitchen, so make sure you know the best kitchen cleaning tips to keep the area free of bacteria and germs.

Things you shouldn’t use to clean your microwave

Holzer recommends avoiding bleach when cleaning your microwave. “You can get rid of the bacteria and germs without using this harsh chemical, and you certainly don’t want to heat up your food in this environment,” Holzer says. “Additionally, the smell of bleach is overpowering and can stay for a long time in the microwave.”

Carpenter also says you should never use an old sponge to clean your microwave: “You will be cleaning dirty with dirty!”


Kelly Kuehn
Kelly Kuehn is a former editor for Reader’s Digest who covered entertainment, trivia and history. When she’s not working you can find her watching the latest and greatest movies, listening to a true-crime podcast (or two), blasting ‘90s music and hiking with her dog, Ryker, throughout the Finger Lakes.