How to clean a microwave in five quick steps

Mastering microwave maintenance is easy with our expert guide on how to clean a microwave

a woman demonstrating how to clean a microwave with a lemon
(Image credit: Getty)

Master how to clean a microwave in under ten minutes with our expert step-by-step guide.

Giving your microwave a regular clean might not be the most obvious task when you're cleaning your kitchen - after all, how much more than a quick swipe over the buttons and door can it need? But, if left uncleaned, microwaves can have the potential to harbor harmful bacteria - especially if splatters of food are left inside.

Luckily, the steps you need to take are quick and you can even do most of the work in the background while you complete other tasks.

If you're compiling your kitchen cleaning checklist, also check out our guides on how to clean an oven, how to clean a fridge, and how to clean kitchen cabinets.

How to clean a microwave in five steps

There are five fundamental steps to cleaning your microwave, namely:

  • Clean the exterior walls
  • Clean the inside of your microwave, including the inner walls, round plate, and arms
  • Remove lingering odors with either baking soda or an odor-eating gel
  • Clean greasy door handles, if needed
  • Once satisfied, leave the door open to allow the interior of your microwave to dry

Before you start cleaning your microwave you'll need to assemble your materials. For the exteriors, you'll need an all-purpose spray or soapy cloth. For the interiors, like all good cleaning hacks, all you'll need is a lemon.

Materials you need:

  • Microwave-safe bowl
  • Lemon
  • Soft sponge or clean microfiber cloth
  • All-purpose cleaning spray or dish soap
  • Optional: baking soda, vanilla

ingredients to use to clean a microwave - lemon and baking soda

(Image credit: Getty)

1. Clean the exterior walls

If you use the top of your microwave for storage, it’s important to clear it off before you begin, leaving you clear to wipe down all of the outside walls. 

“Pull the microwave out slightly so you can clean the underneath as well,” advises Lynsey Crombie, cleaning expert and TV's Queen Of Clean (opens in new tab). “Crumbs always seem to get trapped there! You might also want to clean the electrical cable - just make sure you turn the power off first.”

2. Clean the interior

When you move onto the interior, don’t just focus on the walls. The round plate can also benefit from a bit of regular TLC. “Remove the round plate and give it a clean in warm, soapy water,” Lynsey recommends. “If the spinning arms come off, do the same with them as well before putting them back securely.”

She continued, “My top tip for cleaning your microwave is to grab a microwave-safe bowl, fill it with water and add in four lemon slices. Lemon is a grease fighter, and this method and will loosen any built-up grime and grease, and will target every wall of your microwave, including the inner roof.”

Thea Whyte, small appliances expert at AO.com (opens in new tab) also recommends this approach. “The best way to get rid of visible stains on the inside of your microwave is to steam clean the interior," Thea agrees. 

"Pop a microwavable bowl filled with one cup of water and a whole sliced lemon into the microwave for 2-5 minutes. Once the time is up, leave the door closed for around 10 minutes to allow the steam to loosen any stains around the microwave and then simply wipe away with a cloth."

"For tougher stains, make a thick paste of baking soda and water, and leave on the marks for 15 – 20 minutes. Remove the paste with a scrubber or gentle toothbrush and finish by wiping it over with a damp cloth.”

Although the natural method is recommended, there are products you can buy specifically created to clean microwaves. If you opt for a shop-bought product, the technique is normally quite similar - you pour the solution into a dish and blast the microwave for a few minutes before wiping it clean. As always, check the manufacturer's instructions for specifics. 

If you have any lemon left over, you can keep the juice and add it to white vinegar for an effective mold cleaner or create a solution if you need to descale a kettle.

a woman turning a microwave on while cleaning it

(Image credit: Getty)

3. Remove lingering odors

The above method should get rid of most lingering smells, but if you're haunted by stubborn aromas, there are some extra steps you can take.

To tackle light aromas, simply pop a bowl filled with baking soda into your microwave, close the door, keep the power off, and let it work its magic.

Stronger scents might require something a little more heavy-duty; odor-eating gels can be found online or in your local supermarket and offer a fuss-free way to deodorize your microwave. Simply pop your product in your microwave and leave it to do its thing until you next need to cook.

4. Clean the door handle

To clean the door, sprinkle a damp sponge with a little baking powder. Wipe the door and then rinse clean with a cloth. If the window needs a little TLC, a half-and-half mix of vinegar and water should do the trick - simply rinse with a cloth for a sparkling finish. This is also a great way to clean other kitchen appliances, such as your best blender or your best food processor.

Not working? Consider a product like the aptly-named Elbow Grease, carefully applied and removed with a cloth or a sponge. Avoid spraying electric controls with chemical cleaners as they could damage the display.

5. Leave the door open

Once you've finished scrubbing and cleaning, it's advised that you leave the microwave door open to let it air out and dry.

And as with anything, using the right products is essential to avoid damage to your microwave. “Never choose an oven cleaner or a highly abrasive cleaner,” advises Lynsey. “These will be too harsh and potentially cause damage. Instead of using a hard scrubber or wire wool, use a soft sponge or microfibre cloth.”

In general, it's recommended that you air your microwave after use to avoid smells building up. “It’s always advisable to leave the door open after use,” Lynsey explains. “This allows smells from food to escape, as otherwise they can get trapped inside.”

a clean kitchen, demonstrating the importance of how to clean a microwave

(Image credit: Getty)

How to clean a microwave with vinegar

While our experts recommended using lemons to clean the microwave, you will achieve the same result using white vinegar.

The method is largely the same; mix half a cup of vinegar with half a cup of water and pop it in the microwave in an heat-proof container. Follow the same instructions detailed above for the lemon-in-water technique. 

Once the liquid has cooled a little, dip a cloth into it and wipe down the insides of your microwave; those hardened areas should have softened, making them easier to remove. 

How often should I clean my microwave?

Similar to the answer to how often you should vacuum, the consensus across the board is that you clean your microwave once a week.

However, in an ideal world, spills should be cleaned up as soon as possible with warm soapy water and a sponge or kitchen towel. As irritating as dealing with it instantly might be, your quick action will prevent food from drying in the interior of your microwave, while helping to reduce the potential for bacteria to breed. 

Katie Byrne is a contributor to woman&home and a writer whose interests span everything from homes and interiors, to pop-culture, travel, business and self-development. A former digital editor, her freelance journalism has featured across a wide range of print and online titles, including Raconteur, Digital Spy and more. When she's not writing, she loves reading (and has the groaning bookshelves to prove it...), dreaming up new décor ideas for her flat and devouring Netflix's latest true-crime series with her husband. You can find her on Twitter: @katie_b123 (opens in new tab).  

With contributions from