How to Clean a Microwave, the Easy Way

All it takes is mere minutes—and supplies already in your pantry—to make a messy microwave sparkle.

Sure, you mean to wipe down the microwave every time you use it, but three spaghetti and taco warm-ups later and it's a little scary in there. Before long, you've got stuck-on sauce splatters and funky odors to contend with.

"Additionally, 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: Building a Dream House—and a Beautiful Life—through Grit and Grace. "In the worst-case scenario, a dirty microwave can even cause a fire."

As it turns out, cleaning a microwave and keeping it sparkling is surprisingly easy. Almost magically easy, really. Keep scrolling to learn how to clean a microwave inside and out, including how to clean the microwave filter.

How Often to Clean a Microwave

Since the microwave is such a popular appliance in the kitchen, it's often used around the clock. As such, aim to deep-clean your microwave once per month and wipe down the exterior every time you wipe down the 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 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’ll Need

  • Spray bottle
  • Microwave-safe glass bowl
  • Distilled white vinegar (or lemon)
  • Essential oil (optional)
  • Toothpick or wooden spoon
  • Potholders or oven mitts
  • Grease-cutting dish soap
  • Sponge or scrubber
  • Lint-free cloth
  • All-purpose kitchen cleaner (optional)


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

  1. Spritz stains and spills. In the same way you spot-clean garments before tossing them into the washing machine, it's helpful to spot-spray heavy, stubborn stains and spills in your microwave. Jett says to combine equal parts white vinegar and water and spray liberally.
  2. Fill a microwave-safe bowl with water and vinegar. Fill a microwave-safe bowl with two cups of water and two tablespoons of vinegar. You can even add one or two drops of essential oil for a nice aromatherapy moment. If you don't have any vinegar on hand, Peterson recommends swapping in freshly squeezed lemon juice instead.
  3. Pro 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.
  4. Microwave for three minutes. 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.
  5. Remove the bowl 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 so you can wash it in the sink.
  6. Wipe down the interior. Dampen a clean microfiber cloth with your 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, then Jett suggests using a non-scratch scrubbing tool.
  7. Clean the turntable. Clean the microwave turntable with dish soap, hot water, and a sponge. Dry it with a clean dish towel and place it back into your clean microwave.
  8. Clean the 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

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 they're used.

A dirty filter is a fire hazard and prevents the microwave from working efficiently. The good news is that it's super easy to clean a microwave filter—no tools required!

  1. Remove the filter. The filter is located underneath your above-the-range microwave and should pop out easily. Gently remove it and place it in a large bowl of very hot, sudsy water. If the filter seems extra greasy, you can add 1/4 cup baking soda to the water.
  2. Let it soak. Let the filter soak for about 15 minutes to help break down grease.
  3. Remove and scrub. Remove the filter from the hot water and brush it in the sink with a sponge or scrubber. The grease should come right off.
  4. Rinse, dry, and replace. Rinse the filter thoroughly and let it dry completely before replacing.

How to Keep Your Microwave Clean for Longer

Having a sparkling microwave can feel like a major accomplishment. Keep it cleaner for longer by doing the following:

  • Cover Your Food: Prevention is key. Before turning your microwave on, place a microwave-safe food cover or paper towel over any food that can splatter.
  • Clean Spills Immediately: Fresh spills are way 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 dishes in your microwave. 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 should not get too hot when used.
  • Follow Cook 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 Routinely: Again, aim for a once-monthly deep clean of your microwave to keep it sparkling!

READ NEXT: 7 Microwave Cleaning Hacks That Will Save You Some Scrubbing

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles