How to clean a microwave using dish soap, lemons and vinegar
Microwave maintenance is made easy by our expert guide on how to clean a microwave using natural ingredients
Keep on top of your kitchen cleaning chores with ease by mastering 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 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 easy, requiring minimal effort. Even the extra steps are simple, where you can try cleaning with vinegar, lemons, and baking soda to keep things natural – because like when cleaning an oven, cleaning a fridge, and cleaning kitchen cabinets it's best to avoid harsh cleaning chemicals.
How to clean a microwave in four easy steps
Before you start cleaning your microwave you'll need to unplug your appliance and assemble your materials. For both interior and exterior, all you'll need is a soapy cloth. For an extra deep clean, like all good cleaning hacks, simply look to your organized pantry for a handful of essentials.
Materials you need:
- Dish soap or all-purpose cleaning spray
- A soft sponge or clean microfiber cloth
- Microwave-safe bowl
- Optional: Lemon, Vinegar, baking soda
1. Remove and clean the turntable
When cleaning the interior don’t just focus on the walls, start by removing any components that can be washed in the sink with some dish soap – namely the round plate, which always benefits from a bit of regular TLC.
“Remove the round plate and give it a clean in warm, soapy water,” Lynsey recommends Lynsey Crombie, cleaning expert and TV's Queen Of Clean. “If the spinning arms come off, do the same with them as well before putting them back securely after you've finished cleaning the rest of the interior.”
2. Clean the interior
Cleaning the inside of a microwave is easier than cleaning the inside of the oven because the food spills don't get baked on in the same way – generally speaking, they are less problematic to clean. A simple wipe-down with a clean microfibre cloth and warm soapy water is enough to refresh the interior.
For tougher grime and odors you can use a number of natural ingredients to cut through the grease, such as lemons, vinegar, and baking soda – more on that below.
"For those who prefer to use commercial cleaning products, look for a microwave-specific cleaner or an all-purpose cleaner without harsh chemicals," advises Andrii Gurskyi, co-founder at HomeClean, a New York City-based maid service that specializes in professional cleaning services.
"One popular choice is the 'Weiman Microwave Cleaner & Degreaser' This product is designed to remove tough stains and grease without damaging the microwave's surfaces. However, it's important to follow the manufacturer's instructions for use and safety precautions."
3. Degrease the door handle
As the point of most contact, the door and door handle requires a little extra TLC. To clean the entire 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 deeper clean, 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.
4. Wipe the exterior
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.
Use your clean microfibre cloth and your soapy water to give the outside a thorough wipe-down.
“Pull the microwave out slightly so you can clean the underneath as well,” advises Lynsey. “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.”
Once you've finished scrubbing and cleaning, it's advised that you leave the microwave door open to let it air out and dry.
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.”
How to clean a microwave using lemons
Cleaning a microwave with lemons is a simple way to steam away dirt and odors. “My top tip for cleaning your microwave is to grab a microwave-safe bowl, fill it with water and add in four lemon slices," suggests Lyndsey. "Lemon is a grease fighter, and this method 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 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."
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.
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 fastest and most efficient way to clean a dirty microwave is to use a mixture of water and vinegar," says Andrii.
He suggests: "In a microwave-safe bowl, mix 1 cup of water with 2 tablespoons of white vinegar. Place the bowl in the microwave and heat it for 5 minutes on high. The steam from the heated solution will help loosen any grime and stains.'
"Allow the microwave to cool for 1-2 minutes before opening the door. Carefully remove the bowl using oven mitts or a towel, as it will be hot. Wipe the interior of the microwave with a damp cloth or sponge, including the ceiling, walls, and door. The stains should come off easily."
How to clean a microwave using baking soda
Another natural solution that's ideal for cleaning a microwave is to make a paste using baking soda. This remedy is particularly good for tackling stubborn food stains.
"For tougher stains, make a thick paste of baking soda and water, and leave on the marks for 15–20 minutes," suggests Thea. "Remove the paste with a scrubber or gentle toothbrush and finish by wiping it over with a damp cloth.”
What not to do when cleaning a microwave?
The key thing not to do when cleaning your microwave is to use potentially harmful, toxic chemicals to clean the inside of your appliance because of the risk of food contamination. Andrii says: "Do not use bleach or ammonia-based cleaners, as they can damage the microwave's finish and potentially create harmful fumes."
"Avoid using abrasive cleaning tools like steel wool or scouring pads, as they can scratch the microwave's surfaces."
"Never attempt to clean a microwave while it's still plugged in or turned on, as this poses an electrical hazard," Andrii warns.
"Don't ignore the exterior and the microwave's vents. Use a damp cloth and mild detergent to clean these areas to prevent dust buildup and ensure proper ventilation."
How often should I clean my microwave?
Similar to the answer to how often you should clean your oven, the answer will vary depending on your use and what you are cooking. But the consensus across the board is that you clean your microwave once a week.
However, 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.
Tamara is a highly experienced homes and interiors journalist, with a career spanning 19 years. Now the Lifestyle Editor of womanandhome.com, she has spent the last 16 years working with the style teams at Country Homes & Interiors and Ideal Home, and it’s with these award-winning interiors teams that she gained a wealth of knowledge and honed her skills and passion for shopping, styling and writing about every aspect of lifestyle and interiors.
With a keen eye for the latest interior trends, there's not a lot she doesn't know about home decor – whether it’s what colour we should be painting our living rooms next season, or if the latest 'must-have' buys are actually worth investing in.
A true homes and interiors expert, Tamara has served as an ambassador for leading interior brands on multiple occasions, including appearing on Matalan’s The Show and presenting at top interiors trend events such as the Autumn Fair and Spring Fair.
- Anna PaulDeputy Digital Editor