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How to Clean Your Microwave

a pair of hands clad in purple dish gloves wiping down the front of a microwave

Even though you heat your food on a plate or even in a covered bowl or container, microwaves still get dirty surprisingly quickly. Here’s how to clean yours to keep odors at bay

The smells from heated foods may stink up your microwave, and some foods are prone to splattering all over (particularly soups, meat, and tomato sauce). You may look in your microwave one day and realize it’s a bit grosser than you realized.

Rather than wait for your poor microwave to look in rough shape, you can proactively clean it (and make it easier to clean in the process). Cleaning your microwave doesn’t have to be a pain if you do it often (once a week, if you use it daily). It’s actually an easy task, and there are a couple of cleaning hacks that will make it so that you have less scrubbing to do even in a filthy microwave.

Before we dig in, let’s highlight the hard way to do it: If you want to put that elbow grease into cleaning your microwave, you can use dish soap and water with a rag and wash it all down by hand. You’ll need to do some scrubbing, and probably some soaking. The insides of microwaves can get greasy, and grease can be a pain to remove the “old-fashioned” way.

That doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun, though, and there are far more efficient ways to go about it. Let’s look at them now.

Two Easy Ways to Clean Your Microwave

The easier way to get your microwave clean, without getting a sore arm, is through steam cleaning. Steam helps to loosen food and helps melt away grease. It makes it so that everything easily wipes out, without the need for scrubbing.

Vinegar Steam Cleaning

Vinegar steam cleaning is the most popular “easy” method of cleaning your microwave. It’s such a simple task you may even be able to get your teens to do it—and who doesn’t like delegating chores?

The benefits of using vinegar, aside from making microwave clean-up super easy, are that it also sanitizes and deodorizes. No more germs and your microwave won’t smell like the last ten meals you cooked in it.

  • Pour a cup of white vinegar and a cup of water into a microwaveable bowl. Give it a good stir.
  • Place the bowl of water and vinegar in the microwave and run it for five minutes if your machine is on a high setting. You can run it up to ten minutes for lower settings.
  • Once the microwave stops, stand back and open the door. A face full of hot vinegar steam is no fun.
  • Remove the bowl with oven mitts (it will be hot).
  • Wipe out the inside of your microwave with a wet rag, or even a damp sponge). All of the gunk in there is loose from the vinegar and water mixture, so it will wipe out easily.

A great way to clean the outside of your microwave (because face it, that gets pretty gross too) is to use some rubbing alcohol. Put it on a microfiber cloth (a paper towel will leave lint behind) and buff the outside of your microwave. Get the top (which is probably dusty), sides, and the front.

Essential Oil Steam Cleaning

If you’re not a fan of the smell of vinegar, there is another option for steam cleaning your microwave. This option uses essential oils in place of the white vinegar.

  • Wet a sponge to full saturation and place it in the microwave.
  • Partly fill a spray bottle with a few ounces of water and add about five drops of lemon essential oil.
  • Shake the mixture and spray all over the inside of your microwave with it (all of it, from top to bottom).
  • Run the microwave for about two minutes, then let the sponge sit in there for a couple more minutes.
  • Once the sponge is cool enough to grab, use it to clean down the inside and outside of your microwave.

What Not to Do

Skip the bleach. It has an overpowering scent (that won’t air out of the microwave very well) and who wants to have bleach around their food? A reheated bowl of chili with a faint odor of bleach doesn’t sound appealing at all. The same thing goes for any other kind of general household cleaner—save them for mopping the floor or getting stubborn cooking grease off your cabinets.

You also don’t want to use abrasive cleaners that will scratch the inside of your microwave. Not only can deep scratches damage the shielding of the microwave, but even in the best-case scenario, the scuffed up surface is now a magnet for bits of food and oil.

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow is a professional writer with two decades of experience. She has written and edited for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and more. Yvonne is a published poet and short story writer, and she is a life coach. Read Full Bio »
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