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 every day and don’t really notice how dirty they’re getting until it’s too much to ignore. Just like any other kitchen appliance, the longer you put it off, the harder it will be to clean.

If ugly grease and grime inside your microwave aren’t enough to get you motivated, consider the dangers of letting your microwave get too dirty. A dirty microwave can be a breeding ground for bacteria and other contaminants. Food spills provide nutrients and moisture, and when you shut that dirty microwave door, you’re creating the perfect environment for germs. Besides the health hazards, a dirty microwave can also create lingering odors and even catch fire! The question now is, how often should you clean your microwave to prevent these dangers?

That depends on how often you use it and how careful you are when you’re cooking or warming up food. If you open your microwave door and catch a whiff of offensive odors, it’s probably time to clean. If the inside of your microwave is full of food splatter and baked-on grime, it’s definitely time to clean. If you cringe at the thought of even touching your microwave, then you need to learn how to clean a microwave right now!

How to Clean a Microwave Safely

Safety first. Unplug your microwave’s power plug and inspect it for damage. Wipe off the exterior dirt and dust with a damp microfiber cloth. Then 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. Your next step is to survey the damage. If there are loads of dried food and ugly stains that will take extra work, go ahead and spray those down with an all-purpose cleaner as a pretreatment. But before you reach for that commercial cleaner, consider your options.

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 resorting to the use of harsh chemicals. You can get that microwave and most other appliances sparkling clean using natural and low-toxicity ingredients you probably already have under the sink.

Whether you clean a microwave with vinegar, lemon, or one of our other field-tested ingredients, be careful as you may be working with hot surfaces and liquids. Always use microwave-safe containers and use oven mitts for protection.

Six Easy Ways to Clean a Microwave

The more you use your microwave oven and other kitchen appliances, the more often you’ll have to clean them. To prevent the spread of germs, clean and disinfect the exterior and keypad daily. For most households, adding one of these six easy microwave cleaning tips to a weekly cleaning checklist should get the job done.

1. Paper Towels and Water

Place a wad of soaking wet paper towels inside and run it on high power for up to five minutes. The steam from the towels will soften and loosen caked-on grime. Once the towels cool down, you can use them to wipe the exterior clean, and then the interior. For stubborn stains and grime, you can also use a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser or baking soda on the inside of your microwave.

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 mildly abrasive, so it’s one of the best ways to clean microwave stains and buildup. Mix baking soda and water into a thick cleaning 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 dampened 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’re using 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, then 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 carefully remove the bowl. Use a microfiber cloth dampened with your lemon and water solution to wipe down the exterior and then the 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 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 then the interior of your microwave.

When you’re done cleaning your microwave, wipe down the exterior with a clean damp cloth to remove the remaining dirt, streaks, and cleaning residue. Buff the exterior of the glass door and any shiny trim with a dry microfiber cloth. Replace any parts you removed and plug in your microwave. Now that you know how to clean a microwave, read on to learn how to keep it clean.

How to Enjoy a Clean Microwave Oven More Often

Wouldn’t it be great if you could keep your microwave looking clean and smelling fresh all the time? If you want to enjoy a clean microwave oven more and skip the deep cleanings, use these handy tips to keep messes under control.

  • 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 touchpad 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.
  • Reduce moisture and odors by leaving your microwave door open between uses.

A little preventive cleaning maintenance goes a long way toward keeping buildup and germs at bay. If you want to learn how to clean other small kitchen appliances and just about anything else in your home, check out our cleaning blog. You’ll find tips for organization, cleaning, and disinfecting that will help you maintain a cleaner, healthier home.

Whether it’s through our extensive library of cleaning posts or by using one of our popular residential cleaning services, The Maids is on a mission to create cleaner, healthier homes all across North America. Find out more about cleaning for health and get your free estimate online.

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