How to Clean a Microwave—Easily—According to Experts

We show you how to clean your microwave in mere minutes and with supplies already in your pantry.

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Knowing how to clean a microwave is a necessary evil. When you do it well, you can avoid odors and stuck-on food that may contaminate the food you heat up. Plus, your microwave works better (and is safer).

"The buildup from spills and splatters can lead to decreased efficiency or potentially void your warranty," notes home expert Noell Jett, author of From the Ground Up ($21, "In the worst-case scenario, a dirty microwave can even cause a fire."

Fortunately, cleaning a microwave and keeping it sparkling is surprisingly easy. (Almost magically easy.) Follow our tips for cleaning your microwave inside and out, including how to clean the microwave filter.

How Often to Clean a Microwave

Aim to clean your microwave once per month and wipe down the exterior every time you wipe down the kitchen countertops. If you notice stains or odors accruing, then increase the frequency.

"Microwaves normally have a lifespan of about five to 10 years depending on [the] quality of care," says Vera Peterson, a cleaning expert and president of Molly Maid, a Neighborly company. "Regular cleaning helps your microwave stay in its best working condition."

What You Need:

To Clean a Microwave

To Clean a Microwave Filter

  • Large bowl
  • Grease-cutting dish soap
  • Baking soda (optional)
  • Sponge

How to Clean a Microwave With Vinegar

Feeling inspired to roll up your sleeves and deep-clean your microwave? Follow these simple steps.

Step 1: Spray Stains and Spills

It's helpful to spot-spray heavy, stubborn stains and spills in your microwave, similar to how you spot-clean garments before tossing them into the washing machine. Jett recommends combining equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle before spraying liberally.

Step 2: Create a Vinegar Cleaning Mixture

Fill a microwave-safe bowl with two cups of water and two tablespoons of vinegar. Optionally, add one or two drops of essential oil for a lovely aromatherapy moment. If you don't have any vinegar on hand, Peterson suggests swapping in freshly squeezed lemon juice instead.

Tip: Add a small wooden spoon to the bowl or place a toothpick in the mixture. This will allow bubbles to form against the wood as the water heats up, preventing the water from getting superheated and "exploding" into a boil.

Step 3: Microwave the Mixture

Place the mixture in the microwave, close the door, and microwave on high for three minutes. Then, let everything set for an additional 15 minutes without opening the door. This waiting time allows the microwave to get extra steamy, which helps break down stuck-on stains.

Step 4: Remove Mixture and Turntable

Using potholders or an oven mitt to protect your hands, carefully remove the bowl from the microwave and set it aside—don't pour it out just yet. Also, remove the turntable tray to wash it in the sink.

Step 5: Wipe Interior

Dampen a clean microfiber cloth with the vinegar mixture and wipe down the interior of your microwave. Most of the mess should slide right off, but if you have any stubborn spots or hard-to-reach crevices, Jett suggests using a non-scratch scrubbing tool.

Step 6: Wash the Turntable

In the kitchen sink, clean the microwave turntable with dish soap, hot water, and a sponge. Dry it with a clean dish towel and place it back into the now-clean microwave.

Step 7: Clean Exterior

Spray an all-purpose cleaner onto a clean cloth and wipe down the exterior. (Never spray directly onto the control panel.)

Peterson adds, "For stainless steel appliances, dip the cloth in water and dishwashing liquid, wring it out, and then wipe with the grain." Don't forget to wipe down the control panel, sides, top, and bottom.

How to Clean Microwave Filters With Dish Soap

Countertop microwaves don't have filters, but above-the-range microwaves with exhaust fans do. This is the vent you turn on when cooking on the stove to help with smoke and grease. Microwave filters need to be cleaned every three to six months, depending on how often the microwave is used.

A dirty filter is a fire hazard and prevents the microwave from working efficiently. Luckily, cleaning a microwave filter is easy and requires no tools. See the instructions below.

Step 1: Remove Filter

The filter is located underneath an above-the-range microwave and should pop out easily. Gently remove it with your hands.

Step 2: Soak Filter

Place the filter in a large bowl of very hot, sudsy water. If the filter looks extra greasy, add 1/4 cup of baking soda to the mixture. Let the filter soak for about 15 minutes to help break down grease.

Step 3: Scrub off Grease

Remove the filter from the hot water and brush it in the sink with a sponge. The grease should come right off.

Step 4: Rinse and Dry

Rinse the filter thoroughly and let it dry completely before replacing it in the microwave.

How to Keep Your Microwave Clean Longer

Having a sparkling microwave can feel like a significant accomplishment. Help keep it clean longer by doing the following.

Cover Food

Prevention is key. Before turning the microwave on, place a microwave-safe food cover or paper towel over any food that can splatter.

Clean Spills Immediately

Fresh spills are much easier to clean up compared to baked-on messes. "If spills do occur, most can be removed with warm soap and water or with a cleaner formulated for microwave ovens," says Peterson.

Use Microwave-Safe Dishes

Always use microwave-safe containers. Some materials can melt or spark, leading to messes or fires. The dish should say "microwave-safe" on the bottom (or on the original packaging) and shouldn't get too hot when used in the microwave.

Follow Cooking Times

One of the most common causes of microwave messes is overcooking food. To prevent this from happening, always follow the recommended cooking times. Lowering the power setting can also prevent food from overheating.

Clean It Routinely

In addition to on-the-spot wiping and cleaning, aim for a once-monthly deep clean of your microwave to keep it sparkling!

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