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How to Clean
a Microwave

January 1, 2024

The microwave oven has been a time-saving kitchen appliance staple for over 50 years, and you can find one in almost every kitchen. They’re easy to use, fast, and super convenient—but they also get super dirty. If cleaning your microwave is the last thing on your mind, you’re not alone. Many of us use our microwaves daily and don’t notice how dirty they’re getting until it’s too much to ignore.

Like any other kitchen appliance, the longer you put off cleaning your microwave, the harder it will be to clean. If you’re unsure about how to clean a microwave, we get it. It’s too bad microwaves aren’t as easy to clean as they are to use! All those baked-on splatters, stains, and other buildup can look pretty formidable if you don’t have a proven game plan. But when you learn to clean a microwave with field-tested tips from the pros, grease and grime don’t stand a chance.

How Often Should You Clean Your Microwave?

If grease and grime inside your microwave aren’t enough to motivate you, consider the germs. A dirty microwave can be a breeding ground for bacteria because it’s dark, moist, and full of nutrients. Besides the health hazards, a dirty microwave can create lingering odors and even catch fire! How often should you clean your microwave to prevent these dangers?

That depends on how often and how careful you are when you use it. If you open your microwave door and catch a whiff of offensive odors, it’s probably time to clean. A good rule of thumb is to clean your microwave monthly and wipe down the exterior every time you use it. If you need to know how to get a smell out of your microwave between cleanings, lemon juice, vanilla extract, and coffee grounds can help.

How to Deep Clean a Microwave

Most commercial cleaners can tackle just about any microwave mess but can often create unpleasant (and potentially toxic) fumes. Besides being a potential health hazard, the lingering odors can also leave your food tasting bad. It’s easy to learn how to clean a microwave without harsh chemicals using natural ingredients you probably already have in your home.

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Unplug your microwave’s power plug and inspect it for damage. Wipe off the exterior dirt and dust with a damp microfiber cloth. Open the microwave door to see if there are any removable parts like carousel platters, turntables, or fan covers. If so, take them out and wash them in the sink, then browse our list of DIY microwave cleaning hacks. Regardless of which method works best for your microwave, always use microwave-safe containers and oven mitts for protection.

  1. Paper Towels and Water
    Place a wad of soaking wet paper towels inside the microwave and run it on high power for five minutes. The steam from the towels will soften and loosen caked-on grime. Once the towels cool down, you can use them to clean the exterior and interior. You can use a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser or baking soda for stubborn stains and grime.
  2. Dish Soap and Water
    Mix dish soap in a bowl of warm water until you see suds. Use a microfiber cloth to clean the exterior of your microwave, and then clean the inside by removing any crumbs or debris with a damp paper towel. Be careful not to let the suds get into vents or fans. Wipe down all surfaces with damp paper towels to remove the dirt and soap residue.
  3. Baking Soda and Water
    Baking soda is a natural deodorizer, cleaner, and mild abrasive, so it’s one of the best ways to clean microwave stains and buildup. Mix baking soda and water into a thick paste and apply it to baked-on grime and stubborn stains. Let the paste sit for five minutes, then wipe off the paste and crud with a damp, non-abrasive sponge. Finish removing the baking soda residue with damp paper towels. Baking soda also works well on your regular oven and stove.
  4. Lemon Juice and Water
    When you clean a microwave with lemon, you use a safe, natural deodorizer and cleaner that will leave your microwave smelling fresh and sparkling clean. Rub a lemon between your palms to loosen up the juices, cut it in half, and squeeze all the juice into a microwave-safe bowl with one cup of water. Drop in the lemon halves and place the bowl in your microwave.Run the microwave on high for five minutes and let the bowl sit for 10 more minutes. Open the door carefully to avoid steam, and use oven mitts to remove the bowl safely. Use a microfiber cloth dampened with your lemon and water solution to wipe down the exterior and interior of your microwave.
  5. Vinegar and Water
    Mom was right—distilled white vinegar is one of the best natural cleaners and sanitizers that is also safe to use on many surfaces throughout your home. To clean a microwave with vinegar, fill a microwave-safe bowl with two cups of water and two tablespoons of vinegar. To minimize the vinegar odor, you can add two drops of your favorite essential oil.
    Put the bowl in your microwave and run it on high for five minutes. Let the vinegar and water solution sit for 10 more minutes. Open the microwave door carefully and use oven mitts to remove the bowl. Dampen a microfiber cloth with your vinegar and water and wipe down the exterior and interior of your microwave.

No matter which natural and safe microwave cleaner you use, the final cleaning step will be to buff the surface of the glass door and trim with a dry microfiber cloth. Replace the pieces you removed and cleaned, then plug in your microwave. To keep your microwave clean longer, mix up your cleaning solution of choice and keep it handy. You’ll be armed and ready for spills, splatters, and whatever else comes your way.

How to Clean Greasy Microwave Oven Vents and Filters

You’re not alone if you didn’t know your countertop microwave may have vents. Most microwaves have two primary vents: one above the door and the exhaust grill underneath. These vents must be cleaned at least monthly to prevent the buildup of grime and germs. If you’ve never cleaned your microwave’s vents, it’s time to learn how to get them cleaned again.

  • Unplug the microwave.
  • Remove the plastic grill at the top and the vent cover underneath.
  • Let the vents soak in hot, soapy water for a few minutes.
  • Scrub the vent covers with a non-abrasive sponge.
  • Use baking soda for stubborn stains.
  • Reinstall the vents after they dry.

When learning how to clean a microwave installed above a range, you’ll take the additional step of cleaning the exhaust fan filters. These filters help manage smoke and grease from your range top and your microwave. Soak the filter in hot, soapy water for 15 minutes, then scrub, rinse, and let it dry before reinstalling.

Other Microwave Cleaning and Maintenance Hacks

No matter what brand, learning how to clean the inside of a microwave is typically the same. But the best way to clean a microwave exterior will vary. Many stainless-steel microwaves typically only require soap and water for routine cleaning. Always consult the manufacturer’s recommendations for microwave cleaners to be safe. To maintain your stainless steel’s shine, dampen a microfiber cloth with rubbing alcohol and wipe with the grain to remove smudges and fingerprints.

If you want to enjoy a clean microwave oven more often and skip the deep cleanings, use these handy tips. To prevent the spread of germs, clean and disinfect the exterior and keypad daily.

  • Remove your microwave turntable and platter every couple of days and wash them in the sink.
  • Wipe down the exterior of your microwave and the area around it daily.
  • Use lower power settings when you warm up messy foods.
  • Cover food in your microwave with a paper towel or plate to contain splatters.
  • Use a plate under bowls and other dishes to catch food that bubbles over.
  • Wipe up spills immediately.

You can skip this if you don’t use your microwave’s cooking modes as a timer. If you do, stop! When you run a cooking cycle as a timer, the microwave energy has nowhere to go but back into the appliance. This habit could potentially cause damage and ruin your microwave (plus, your microwave probably has a built-in timer feature!

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Even if you clean your microwave often and it still looks a little dingy, you’re good as long as it works right. If your microwave makes strange noises, doesn’t cook properly, or the door won’t seal, it’s probably time for a new one. Microwave ovens are built to last about a decade, and routine cleaning goes a long way toward keeping your microwave in peak condition.

If you want to learn how to clean other kitchen appliances and just about anything else in your home, check out our cleaning blog. You’ll find tips for organizing, cleaning, and disinfecting to help you maintain a cleaner, healthier home. From professional cleaning guides to popular cleaning services, The Maids is on a mission to create cleaner, healthier homes across North America. Find out more about cleaning for health and get your free personalized cleaning quote today.

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