This microwave cleaning trick removes burnt on food with ease – and makes your kitchen smell nice

Why lemon is your secret microwave cleaning weapon

Clean a microwave
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The humble microwave is arguably the most versatile appliance in the kitchen, but it does get a lot of use, which means it can often get messy. Using lemon, though, is a simple, natural and easy way to clean a microwave, and it makes your house smell fresh, too.

All you need to is steam-clean the microwave with lemon to break down burnt on food, and to get that side order of pleasant aromas you get when cleaning with lemon juice.

'Steam is an excellent cleaning method for microwave ovens because it eliminates the need for any chemicals,' says Sabrine Fierman, of high-end cleaning firm New York's Little Elves. 'It also does all the hard work for you, penetrating and loosening the food residue.' So, whether you're sprucing up the microwave as part of a big pre-Christmas kitchen clean, or doing a host of separate jobs, Sabrina's step-by-step guide below shows you how. 

How to clean a microwave with lemon

Kitchen with neutral cabinets, dark countertop and microwave

(Image credit: Future Publishing Ltd Photograph: Talbot Photography)

First of all, make sure you have all the products you're going to use prepared and ready. 

You will need:

  • Microwave safe bowl
  • Lemon, sliced (or other citrus fruit or white vinegar)
  • Cotton or microfiber cloths or absorbent paper towels
  • Baking soda, as needed, for stubborn stuck-on residue

1. Prep the bowl

Fill a wide microwave safe bowl with at least 1 cup of water. Add sliced lemon (one lemon will suffice), or two to three tablespoons of lemon juice. Place the bowl with sliced lemons inside and turn the microwave on for five minutes. Leave it, powered off, to steam with the door shut for a further 15 minutes.

2. Wipe down the interior

Open the microwave and let it cool for 30-60 seconds; remove the bowl. It should still be warm but not dangerously hot to your skin. Use caution taking the bowl out, as it will still be very hot. 

Wipe all surfaces (the circulating plate can be hand washed in the sink or most often run through the dishwasher) with your clean cloth or paper towels.

3. Clean the exterior with the lemony water

Don’t forget the interior and exterior surfaces of the door and the gasket. If you find these areas extra greasy, you can use some of the lemon juice or a couple drops of dishwashing liquid added to the lemon water.

How often should you clean your microwave?

'We recommend cleaning your microwave oven weekly, or more frequently as needed,' says Sabrina Fierman, cleaning expert.

'To prolong times between cleaning, cover all foods with a microwave safe cover to avoid splatters.'

Is it better to clean microwave with lemon or vinegar

'Lemon and vinegar are both effective at cleaning the microwave, but one is much more pleasant smelling – which is why lemon is usually the preferred choice,' says Sabrina Fierman, cleaning expert.

What is the easiest way to clean a microwave?

The easiest way to clean a microwave is by steaming it.

Cleaning expert Sabrina Fierman says: 'Definitely using steam with a mild acid to loosen residue is easiest and healthiest, particularly when dealing with appliances that heat food.'

What is the best thing to clean your microwave with? 

Using steamed lemon is one of the best ways to clean a microwave. Baking soda is another option if you have a lot of stuck-on food on the interior.

'Baking soda is not necessarily more effective, though it does provide some scrubbing action for stuck-on food items,' explains cleaning expert Sabrina Fierman. 'However, it will require more follow up rinsing to be sure to remove all the powder residue.'

Contributing Editor

Ruth Doherty is an experienced digital writer and editor specializing in interiors, travel and lifestyle. With 20 years of writing for national sites under her belt, she’s worked for the likes of, Standard, Ideal Home, Stylist and Marie Claire as well as Homes & Gardens.