How to clean a microwave – easy ways to get it spotless with vinegar, lemon and more

Discover the experts’ advice on how to clean a microwave and rid it of debris, splashes, and lingering odors

Clean a microwave
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The key to keeping a clean microwave is regular maintenance – every week, at the very least. When you notice splatters on your microwave's interior, grease stains and fingerprints on the controls or stuck-on food, turn to this essential guide on how to clean a microwave.

Microwaves make preparing a whole host of favorite foods as well as tasty leftovers easy, but spills and splatters happen, so knowing how to clean a microwave easily is valuable. As well as satisfying the demands of good hygiene when cleaning a kitchen, cleaning a microwave properly is a task that will banish lingering and unpleasant odors, while getting rid of food debris also ensures the interior of the appliance will remain in good condition.

Here, we look at the ways to clean a microwave, including using pantry ingredients, and the experts weigh in with their tried and tested methods.

How to clean a microwave

Effectively getting rid of food debris, grease, and spatters are why it’s important to know how to clean a microwave. But they’re all simple to deal with if you are aware of the right techniques, and these are the details.

1. Clean the microwave turntable

If your microwave has a turntable, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to remove it and wash using a mild soap. You might be able to put it in the dishwasher, but check the manual before doing so.

If there are any difficult-to-remove deposits, use a non-abrasive pad to tackle them. 

2. Clean the microwave interior

If you’ve been asking how to clean a microwave, you may be pleased to hear that cleaning its interior is easier than doing the same for the oven because spills and splatters do not bake on to interior surfaces in the same way. Therefore, wiping down with a soft cloth and warm water can freshen the interior of a microwave.

If there is residue that’s a little stubborn, cleaning the interior can still be straightforward. ‘Use a wet cloth and warm water and soap to wipe away the food residue and grease,’ says cleaning expert at Maids.com Jessica Samson. Use hot water to wipe down afterwards. 

Cleaning with baking soda is an alternative for a microwave with more soiling. ‘Add 4 tablespoons of baking soda to 4 cups of water,’ advises Toby Schulz, CEO and co-founder of Maid2Match. ‘Make sure you mix it well so the baking soda is completely dissolved. Dip a cloth in the mixture and wipe the inside of the microwave, making sure to get every nook and cranny.’ Rinse thoroughly using a cloth dampened with hot water.

An alternative if there’s dried-on food or grease is to use vinegar. ‘In a microwave safe bowl, add 1 cup of water with 1/2 cup of white vinegar,’ says Diana Rodriguez-Zaba, president of expert cleaning company ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba. ‘Set the bowl in your microwave and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Once this is done, wait a minute or two and then wipe the inside of the microwave clean with a microfiber cloth.’

3. Clean the exterior of the microwave

Getting in the know about how to clean a microwave also means being aware of the way to clean the exterior.

Just as when cleaning a dishwasher, mild soap and water are sufficient for the exterior; apply the solution with a soft cloth. Rinse with a damp soft cloth, then dry with another soft cloth. The window can be wiped with a damp cloth.

Wipe the control panel with a damp soft cloth, too, but make sure you dry it straightaway. 

4. Prevent tougher cleaning jobs

While you might be savvy about how to clean a microwave, it’s always worth adopting techniques that mean there’s less cleaning to do in the first place. 

’The best way to deal with spills is to prevent them, so try putting a microwave cover over your dishes,’ recommends Molly Maid president Vera Peterson.

What is the best way to clean the inside of a microwave?

There’s a choice of ways to clean the inside of a microwave, and a lot of them would also work on the best toaster ovens, but cleaning with lemon juice and the juice of other citrus fruits is a favorite of many experts. Try these simple steps from Roman Peysakhovich, CEO of national cleaning company Onedesk.

‘Combine 1 cup water and lemon, lime, or orange slices. You’ll need to squeeze juice from the fruit slices into the water in a microwave-safe bowl.

‘Place the bowl in your microwave and turn it on high power for 4 to 6 minutes until the mixture boils and the microwave’s window steams up.

‘Let the homemade cleaning solution cool for a few minutes before opening the door, then remove the bowl and wipe the microwave clean with a sponge.’

Lemon is also a great remedy for a malodorous microwave, if something you’ve cooked has left a lingering smell.

Country-kitchen-ideas-13-Mowlem

(Image credit: Mowlem & Co)

Can you put oven cleaner in a microwave?

You may think that if you know how to clean an oven you know how to clean a microwave. But you should never put oven cleaner in a microwave. ‘The finishes in a microwave are different from those in an oven,’ says germ prevention expert Tricia Holderman

It is possible to purchase microwave oven cleaner, if you prefer to use a specialist product. However, it’s not necessary to do so to clean a microwave effectively. ‘I would stick to soap and water and a vinegar solution,’ recommends Jessica Samson. ‘You will be able to do a full deep clean with just these three things.’

The best products for cleaning a microwave

Sarah Warwick
Sarah Warwick

Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor. Previously executive editor of Ideal Home, she’s specialized in interiors, property and gardens for over 20 years, and covers interior design, house design, gardens, and cleaning and organizing a home for H&G. She’s written for websites, including Houzz, Channel 4’s flagship website, 4Homes, and Future’s T3; national newspapers, including The Guardian; and magazines including Future’s Country Homes & Interiors, Homebuilding & Renovating, Period Living, and Style at Home, as well as House Beautiful, Good Homes, Grand Designs, Homes & Antiques, LandLove and The English Home among others. It’s no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house renovator.