Microwaves are convenient kitchen appliances, but they can be one of the biggest pains to clean when food is dried on the inside. There’s nothing worse than skipping a few weeks when cleaning your microwave, and sometimes you just end up with caked-on splatters on the sides that are difficult to remove by hand.
Sometimes you overheat a bowl of soup or spaghetti sauce and end up with a huge spill (or splatters) across the microwave and not only end up with a huge mess but also strong smells. All these issues can be easily fixed with simple tips and tricks that will help you clean your microwave and get it to smell fresh again.
Natural cleaning methods to consider
There are various methods to clean your microwave, especially if you want to go the natural route. Some natural methods can be done with ingredients already found in many homes, like the ones below:
- White distilled vinegar
- Baking soda
- Water–yep, even water
Note that I am using a 900-watt microwave at the highest power setting (level 10), so if you have a lower or higher-watt microwave, you may need to adjust the timing for these methods below.
How NOT to clean your microwave
It’s recommended not to use harsh chemicals or sprays inside your microwave because they can leave traces of the chemicals and potentially get into your food. Many brands like Clorox recommend only using their bleach wipes on the outside of appliances. You can also use water and some dish soap, but I wouldn’t recommend using this method because it can be messier due to the soap suds.
Make sure to read the directions of any cleaning product because you may be able to clean the microwave exterior but not the interior surfaces. Here are some items NOT to use when cleaning your microwave:
- Clorox or Lysol wipes
The best way to clean a microwave (vinegar & water)
Using white vinegar and water to clean the microwave is a natural method I like, which is in my opinion, also the best way to clean a microwave. White vinegar also has disinfectant qualities and also deodorizes your microwave. While it might smell of vinegar for a few minutes, leaving the door open will dissipate and leave you with a clean and fresh microwave.
- Mix ½ cup of white vinegar and ½ cup of water in a microwave-safe bowl
- Microwave for three minutes on high. Let the mixture stand for an additional two minutes with the door closed.
- Letting it stand will allow steam to help remove stubborn stains.
- Use a dish towel or sponge to wipe away stains. I also dip the dish towel into the vinegar mixture to quickly wipe the dirt off. Just be careful because it may be hot to the touch.
How to clean a microwave with lemon juice & water
People have been using lemon juice to clean kitchen and household surfaces forever, and it’s no wonder because several studies have shown that citrus juices (lemon and lime specifically) have antibacterial properties. Plus, it smells good!
- Dilute the juice of one lemon in 1 cup water and microwave the mixture for three minutes on high, making sure it’s long enough to create lots of steam.
- Once it’s done microwaving, leave the door closed for another two minutes to allow the steam to break down the baked-in spills.
- Carefully remove the hot bowl from the turntable (I would suggest using oven mitts because it can be hot) and use a clean towel to wipe down the spills.
During my tests with stuck-on spaghetti sauce, I did notice that the lemon mixture wasn’t as potent as the white vinegar and took a bit more scrubbing to remove after microwaving. There is a fresh lemon scent after cleaning, which some people may prefer more than the white vinegar scent.
How to clean and deodorize a microwave
If you have an especially smelly microwave, baking soda is more effective than vinegar at deodorizing. Baking soda helps to deodorize by neutralizing odor molecules. We tested some of the most odious smells (popcorn, curry, and more), making our microwave smell normal again.
- Mix two tablespoons of baking soda with one cup of water in a bowl and microwave for three minutes on high.
- Let the mixture stand for an additional two minutes with the microwave door closed. Finally, remove the mixture and discard it in the sink.
- Wipe down your microwave with a towel or paper towels. Your microwave should smell nice and clean.
One issue I experienced was overboiling the water and baking soda mixture. Only microwave it for three minutes and not more; otherwise, it might boil over and cause an even bigger mess in your microwave. Keep an eye on the microwave as you heat the baking soda and water in case you need to stop it earlier. You can also use a large mixing bowl to prevent overboiling.
Microwave cleaning recap
There are many effective ways to clean a microwave, but each has its own little perk. Here’s a recap of the methods we covered.
Lemon is best for a light mess and leaves you with a refreshing scent. The citric acid in the lemon helps to clean any spills quickly, but it is difficult to use for stuck-on debris. I like it best for its citrus aroma.
Baking soda is best when you have a smelly microwave. After testing burnt popcorn, overheated seafood, and spaghetti sauce, baking soda deodorized our microwave quickly and painlessly.
However, vinegar and water is the best way to thoroughly clean old and tough stains in a microwave. Compared to all the methods I’ve tested, the acidity in the white vinegar easily cuts through any grease and grime on surfaces, even days-old food residue.
Water and white vinegar are the easiest way to clean a microwave. Since white vinegar is a common household item, it’s a much more accessible and easy-to-use cleaning ingredient for the microwave and other surfaces. In addition, the high acidity in white vinegar helps remove even the stickiest and dirtiest surfaces. We tested this method with days-old, stubborn spaghetti stains, and it quickly wiped them out.
All you have to do is microwave a small bowl of water and white vinegar. The steam allows the stubborn stains to loosen and soften from the sides of the microwave, making it easier to wipe off. It’s really as simple as that; however, if you still have stubborn dirty spots, repeat the process.