How To Clean a Microwave – Different Methods

Cleaning a microwave is an ordeal many people dread. This should be no surprise considering how many of us have microwaves that look like someone exploded a metric ton of spaghetti inside. However, cleaning a microwave is not as difficult or daunting of a task as it might seem to be at first.

To clean a microwave, one can use a combination of water and baking soda and then water and lemon to help break down food stuck on the sides of the microwave. After this, one just needs to scrub away the debris and wash the turntable to have a sparkling clean microwave.

The general steps for how to clean your microwave are pretty simple. But there are times when it can be harder to get your microwave clean than usual. If you want to know the best ratios for your microwave cleaning concoctions and how long to microwave them for maximum effect, you’ll want to keep reading.

How to Clean a Microwave Using Water (for the Lightest of Stains and Grime)

To clean a relatively messy microwave, you will need:

  • Water
  • A small bowl
  • Paper Towel OR Washcloth

This is the simplest way to clean a microwave, but it may not work well if there are stains or caked-on food splotches. All you need to do is place around a cup of water in a small bowl and microwave it till it boils or is quite hot. After that, let the water cool down for a minute or two (or wait longer to let the water break down some of the food particles), then remove the container of water and wipe down the microwave thoroughly with a paper towel or washcloth.

This method is a good way to keep your microwave relatively clean in between those times that you give it a good deep cleaning.

How to Clean the Microwave Using Baking Soda (for Medium Stains/Grime and Odor)

What you will need:

  • 2 Tablespoons of Baking Soda
  • One Cup Water
  • A small bowl
  • Washcloth

This method is most definitely superior to the “just water” method, although it does require an additional ingredient. In my experience, I find it handy to have a lot of baking soda on hand, including a box or two just for cleaning, as so many things can be cleaned using it.

All you need to do in this method is either apply the baking soda directly to the stains in the microwave or put the baking soda into a small bowl with some water and microwave it. You’ll then microwave it so it has some time to heat up, and then let the microwave sit for a while. 15 to 30 minutes will likely be sufficient to soften up even the toughest spots.

After the solution is done doing its work, it’s time for you to do yours. Some good scrubbing with either a sponge, washcloth, or magic eraser will do the trick. In some cases, you may want to use a toothbrush or deep cleaning brush to clean out the corners of the microwave, but most of the time it is not necessary.

The microwave turntable can be cleaned separately with some soapy water and a washcloth or sponge. This method is great for getting rid of nasty odors that may be stuck in the microwave due to food stuck in it that is long past its prime.

How to Clean the Microwave Using Lemon Juice (for Caked-On Food)

To clean a microwave with caked-on food with lemon juice, you will need the following:

  • Half a cup of lemon juice
  • 1 cup of water
  • A small bowl

This method is very similar to the baking soda method but in this case, you will be mixing the lemon juice with water and then microwaving it. Microwave it for about 3 minutes and then let the mixture sit for about 15 minutes or so. You can then use a washcloth or other cleaning tool to wipe out the inside of the microwave.

Not only should everything come off incredibly easy using this method, but the microwave will also smell really nice afterward. Just make sure to clean the turntable separately. This is my favorite method for cleaning the microwave, as I find that mine looks better than brand new after I have cleaned it using this method. You can use either lemon concentrate or squeeze a real lemon to get the lemon juice, and of course, you can always swap out the lemon juice for lime juice or a similarly good-smelling type of juice.

How to Clean the Microwave Using Cleaning Wipes (for Medium Residue and Minimal Caked-On Food)

To clean a microwave that has caked-on food and some residue, you will need:

  • Cleaning wipes
  • Paper Towels/Washcloth
  • Water

This method is one of the simplest ones included here. It is good for cleaning a medium amount of residue that you might get after a couple of weeks or so of microwave use. This method is great for cleaning the outside of the microwave as well.

You just have to use the cleaning wipes to get rid of all the gunk inside of the microwave. Make sure to thoroughly wipe down the microwave afterward with first a damp washcloth and then a dry one, as you don’t want to be microwaving the chemicals in the cleaning wipes along with your food.

How to Clean a Microwave Using Vinegar and Water (Light to Medium Food Residue)

What you will need:

  • Water
  • White Vinegar
  • Washcloth

This method is identical to the baking soda and lemon juice methods. It is good for cleaning lightly caked-on things out of the microwave. You just have to mix water with an equal amount of white vinegar, then microwave it till it boils for around 3 minutes. Let the mixture sit in the microwave afterward for around 10 minutes or so until the food residue has had a good amount of time to soften.

Degreasing the Microwave Using Dishwashing Soap and Sponge (for Greasy Messes)

What you will need:

  • Dishwashing soap
  • Sponge
  • Water
  • Paper Towel (optional)

This method is really great for super greasy messes (the kind that you might get after microwaving pizza a lot). All you have to do is get a good washcloth, some dish soap, and some water. Then mix the water and soap together until you are satisfied with the soapiness of the mixture. Simply wash out the inside of the microwave with the soapy mixture, and when you are done, wipe it clean with just some water to make sure no detergent is left inside.

I usually use a paper towel when I’m done to make sure that the soapy residue is completely gone and the microwave is dry.

How to Clean a Microwave Vent

To clean a microwave vent, you will need:

  • Dish soap
  • Sink
  • Gloves
  • Screwdriver
  • A coarse sponge or an old toothbrush
  • Cleaning gloves

Microwave vents or filters are a great feature that many built-in microwaves in modern kitchens have. When they become really dirty, this can reduce their effectiveness at sucking away bad air from the cooking environment. The first step in cleaning your microwave filter (or replacing it if it is a charcoal filter) is to unplug the microwave. After your microwave is disconnected from power, you can look on the underside of the microwave for the filter.

It should be relatively easy to remove, and there is often a tab that when slid releases the filter. You can take the filter and soak it in the sink in dish soap and water for 15 minutes or so. After it’s done soaking, give it a good scrub. Let it dry and then put it back in the microwave.

Charcoal filters are a little trickier. You will have to unscrew the hood at the top of your microwave, then take out and replace the filter. Charcoal filters by their nature aren’t really able to be cleaned, unfortunately. The video below is a helpful demonstration of how to do this.

How to Clean the Glass Door and Outside of a Microwave

What you will need:

  • Water
  • Microfiber cleaning cloth
  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar
  • Dish soap

Cleaning the glass door on your microwave is really simple, although it involves the caveat of having to use only non-abrasive tools to avoid ruining its delicate sheen. The first step in cleaning the door is to take a microfiber cleaning cloth or non-abrasive sponge and use them to clean the exterior of the door. Use some baking soda if it’s particularly bad. If your door is really greasy, you can use a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water to clean the door.

A microfiber cleaning cloth is really good for cleaning the front panel of the microwave door so that your microwave door will be sparkling clean and streak-free.

How to Keep Your Microwave Cleaner for Longer

There are a few things you can do to prevent your microwave from becoming a disaster area so soon after you clean it. One of the best ways of doing this is making sure to cover food with a paper plate. Don’t use metal to cover your food in the microwave. Make sure that things that are covered with plastic have a vent to allow air and moisture to escape without exploding.

In addition, microwaving your food efficiently by putting your food in rings with no food in the middle will allow it to cook faster and prevent as many heat pockets from forming in your food while you try to cook or heat it.

How Often Should You Clean Your Microwave?

Your microwave should be cleaned every week. This will keep food and nasty odors from building up in your microwave. Nobody wants the smell of burnt food filling their home every time they microwave a pizza roll. However, if you look at your microwave after a week and don’t think that it needs to be cleaned, you can wait another week before cleaning it.

Which Scrubbing Tools are the Best for Cleaning Out the Microwave?

The following tools are the best ones to use while cleaning out the microwave:

  • An old toothbrush
  • Melamine foam/magic erasers
  • Cleaning sponges
  • Microfiber cleaning cloths
  • Paper towels
  • Deep cleaning brush

An old toothbrush (sanitized) can be used to clean in between the seams of your microwave and in the corners. Toothbrushes with stronger bristles will do a better job than ones with soft bristles.

Melamine foam/magic erasers are a really great cleaning tool for your microwave. They are particularly great for making the outside of your microwave absolutely shine. I like to use them on the inside and the outside of the microwave when the bigger food particles and such are mostly gone to give it a brilliantly clean look.

Normal cleaning sponges can be pretty useful for scrubbing away gunk from the inside of your microwave. Using it on the glass door or viewing window of your microwave can tend to leave streaks. Because they can harbor bacteria inside them after extended use, it is good to clean them from time to time. One way to do this is to use the microwave itself: simply microwave a thoroughly dampened sponge for a couple of minutes. Make sure it is very damp so that it doesn’t catch fire. Don’t use these to clean the outside of the microwave, as they can scratch the outside.

Microfiber cleaning cloths are excellent cleaning tools, and they work great on microwaves. They can be used to clean both the inside and outside of the microwave really well. The only downside to these is that you may want something slightly more abrasive when removing stuck-on messes.

Paper towels are excellent at clearing a lot of gunk out from your microwave quickly. They can also be used to dry out your microwave after you are done wiping it down with something else.

A deep cleaning brush can be very useful for getting out particularly tough stains or food residue in your microwave. Combined with the lemon juice or baking soda methods featured above, there is virtually nothing that can withstand the cleaning power of a really bristly brush.

This is something I don’t feel is really necessary, but you can get the angry momma if you want something to remind you of how much water and vinegar you should ideally mix together. Considering that you can just use a bowl and that the combination doesn’t need to be that exact to work, I think it’s safe to say you can skip this one unless you feel it is necessary.