September 21

Best Way to Clean a Microwave | Our Guide To Get Rid Of Grease and Food Stains


Author: Elena Apostolides and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

Exactly what is the best way to clean a microwave oven?

Easy – don’t let it get dirty in the first place!

Jokes aside, keeping microwaves (or any other kitchen appliances) clean and pristine long-term simply isn’t an option. Leftover residue quickly accumulates, transforming what was once a clean microwave oven into a health hazard.

It really doesn’t take much for a microwave interior or exterior to become unclean and unsanitary. Something as simple as a bag of burnt popcorn can wreak havoc with a microwave – as can the gradual accumulation of all other debris.


Along with being unhygienic, a dirty microwave can actually affect the way food tastes. Hot food fresh from an unclean microwave isn’t nearly as enjoyable as food heated in a clean microwave (see also 'Best Retro Microwave Ovens'). Not to mention the potential for an unclean microwave to fill your kitchen and your home with a highly unpleasant smell.

As for the good news – it’s easier to clean your microwave - see 'Best Microwaves Under 200' bucks - than you probably think. Best of all, you don’t need to resort to any harsh chemicals, or even invest a great deal of elbow grease. Cleaning the inside of the microwave and its exterior is something you can usually get done in about five minutes.


Additional scrubbing may be necessary if things are really bad, but the basic method for cleaning a microwave (see 'Best Microwaves Under 150' dollars) couldn’t be easier. It’s basically a combination of combining hot steam with a quick wipe – the hot water basically doing the hard work on your behalf.

How to Clean the Inside of a Microwave

Making sure the inside of the microwave is clean isn’t only about food hygiene and flavor. The dirtier the inside of your microwave gets, the more likely it is to eventually succumb to damage.

Cleaning the cooking cavity of a microwave and the inside of the microwave door really couldn’t be easier. Here’s how to get the job done with the basics you’ll probably already have in your kitchen:

1. Poor 1 cup of water into a microwavable bowl and squeeze in the juice of one lemon. It’s also possible to use lemon oil or ready-made lemon juice if preferred, but it’s better to use a whole lemon and drop the segments into the water too.

2. Next, add a few drops of white vinegar to the lemon water mixture.  You can also use apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar if that's what you have in your food cupboard at the time.

3. Place the lemon, vinegar, and water mixture into your microwave and heat on full power for about five minutes (or less). At which point, it should be well and truly bubbling and giving off plenty of steam.

4. Turn off the microwave at this point and leave the door closed for a further five minutes to allow it to cool.

5. Remove the lemon and vinegar solution from the microwave, take a clean rag or damp sponge and give the interior a good wipe. Wearing oven mitts may be necessary if the interior of your microwave is still hot.

hand cleaning a microwave

This technique has the potential to prove just as effective as any specialist liquid cleaner made specifically for cleaning a microwave. It’s an incredibly easy way of getting the inside clean, loosening even the most stubborn grease and residue to be removed with a simple wipe. In addition, here's a thorough 'How to Clean Microwave with Lemon' guide.

How to Clean a Greasy Microwave Door

The exterior of a microwaved door tends to become particularly dirty, given how it is the most touched part of the entire appliance. If you're looking to clean your microwave inside and out the easiest possible way, here’s how to restore the exterior of the door to a showroom shine:

1. Always do the job of the microwave door closed, as it’s a pain to clean when it’s open and to swing around all over the place.

2. Take a damp sponge or a bunch of damp paper towels and dip them in a little baking soda before giving the entire door a good clean. You can then simply wipe it down with a clean damp sponge or cloth to complete the job.

3. If the exterior of the door is particularly greasy, you can add a few drops of lemon if you like.

4. Classic soapy water can also get to grips with most food residue, massaged onto the affected area in a circular motion for no more than a few minutes. I was again, followed by a quick wipe down with a damp sponge or soft cloth.

cleaning the microwave

It’s also possible to use an all-purpose household cleaner (or window cleaner) on the exterior of your microwave’s door, as it doesn’t come into contact with food at any time. You’ll usually find the approaches above sufficient to banish all grease and grime from your appliance.

How to Get Rid of Burnt Smells

Make the mistake of burning something in your microwave, and you’ll pay the price. You can give the whole of the interior the most intensive scrub, only to still find your kitchen filled with a burnt smell after each use.

Here’s what you can do to clean your microwave and get rid of pretty much any unpleasant odor:

1. First of all, try leaving a bowl filled halfway with baking soda inside your microwave overnight, or perhaps even for a couple of days. This can be surprisingly effective as a natural odor absorber.

2. Try using the same cleaning method as above (where you boil water and steam the inside of the microwave) at least twice, in both instances, using some lemon oil or something similar to get to work on the odor.

black toast

In the meantime, keep the door of your microwave open while it is not in use in order to air it out.

Can I Use a Dishwasher a Clean a Microwave?

The biggest problem with a microwave where using a dishwasher is concerned is the fact that there really aren’t many removable parts. If the manufacturer states that it is okay to do so, you can take the plate (and other accessories) out of the microwave and place them in your machine accordingly.

However, this is not something that should be attempted if it is not specifically stated and recommended by the manufacturer. Even where a microwave does have several removable parts, it may only be safe to wash them by hand.

empty dishwasher

What is the Paper Towel Method of Cleaning a Microwave?

You may have heard that some people swear by the method of cleaning a microwave that involves nothing but a bunch of paper towels and some water.  The truth is, this can be an extremely effective way of cleaning the inside of a microwave.

In this instance, you substitute a microwave-safe bowl for a good handful of kitchen towels. You then moisten the towels in warm water – perhaps with a little added lemon juice and vinegar – before placing them inside the microwave and heating on high power.

white paper towels

After a few minutes, the heated water turns into steam, which gradually gets to work on the food residues and grease inside. You then leave it to cool before using an oven mitt to carefully remove the hot paper towel.

The only slight issue with this method is the way in which you need to watch it pretty closely. It’s not specifically dangerous in its own right, but it can be quite hazardous to microwave paper towels for too long. There are reports of instances where the method has been taken slightly too far, resulting in the paper catching fire.

Still, just as long as you turn off the heat at the right time – i.e., when it starts to fill the microwave with steam – this isn’t going to happen.

Can I Use Commercial Cleaners or Dish Soap in My Microwave?

Rounding things off, the use of chemical cleaners to wash the inside of microwaves is not recommended. Unless the cleaner you use is guaranteed 100% safe and excludes all potentially hazardous chemicals, it should be used exclusively on the outside of a microwave.

This is due to the fact that irrespective of how well you wash, wipe and rinse the surface, it is inevitable that at least some residue will remain. Given that this residue can then be transferred to the food you heat keeping chemicals out of microwaves is the way to go.

In any case, it really should not be necessary to resort to such measures. All you need is a microwave-safe bowl, some vinegar, a squeeze of lemon, and some water to get the job done. Combined with just a little elbow grease to deal with the worst of the mess, that’s really all it takes.

On a final note, each of the methods above is most effective when practiced on a regular basis. Cleaning little and often is far better than allowing tough stains and greasy residue to accumulate and cause you a headache.

It will also ensure you enjoy great-tasting food from your microwave as an added bonus.

About the author

Elena Apostolides

A professional chef and a passionate writer on all topics related to cooking, baking, appliances and kitchenware. Her posts resonate with foodies, home chefs and professionals.


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