How to Clean a Microwave

Avoid heavy scrubbing and easily clean your microwave with natural ingredients like vinegar, lemon, and rubbing alcohol.

Project Overview
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $3

While microwaves see their fair share of everyday food buildup and the occasional full-blown disaster (hello, exploding spaghetti), you can tackle messes without batting an eye. Rather than reaching for a store-bought cleaner, you can use natural cleaning products and home remedies to clean a microwave. The best ways to clean a microwave are pretty straightforward. Grab a few cleaning basics and put the microwave to work, creating grime-loosening steam that makes achieving a like-new microwave effortless.

What You'll Need


  • Vinegar
  • Lemon
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Microwave-safe bowl
  • Washcloths


organized pantry
John Granen

How to Clean a Microwave with Vinegar

Even though you clean your microwave regularly, a layer of debris forms inside after oatmeal erupts or sauce splatters. The exploded bits linger through a few cycles, and soon the dregs become rock-hard. (Who has time to wipe down the interior after every use?) So how do you say hasta la vista to cooked-on carnage? Clean your microwave with vinegar and steam; you'll need a few minutes and a couple of quick swipes with a cloth. Easy-peasy!

Unplug your microwave or leave the door open when scrubbing the inside or exterior, so you don't accidentally turn the microwave on. Also, avoid getting cleaner or other liquids into the vents or inner workings of the appliance.

  1. Add Water

    Grab a microwave-safe bowl and fill it halfway with water.

  2. Add Vinegar

    Add a few tablespoons of vinegar (white or apple cider vinegar will do), and place the bowl in the microwave.

  3. Bring to a Boil

    Using high power, heat the vinegar and water for up to four minutes until boiling. (Some experts recommend placing a wooden skewer or wooden spoon in the water for bubbles, which may form when the water and vinegar mixture boils.)

    The amount of time to heat the water depends on the power of your microwave. Look at the stickers inside the door—your microwave's wattage will usually be listed there.

    Here's a handy list of microwave temperature cleaning times:

    • 1,200 watts = 1 1/2 minutes
    • 1,000 watts = 2 minutes
    • 800 watts = 2 1/2 minutes
    • 700 watts = 3 minutes
    • 600 watts = 4 minutes
  4. Let Steam

    Turn off the power and leave the door closed for several minutes, allowing the steam to soften the debris.

  5. Remove Water

    Open the door and use oven mitts or pot holders to remove the water bowl carefully.

  6. Wipe Debris

    Use a damp cloth to quickly wipe the food debris out of the microwave. Take out the turntable and any other removable turntable parts and wipe them down.

    Editor's Tip: Check your owner's manual—sometimes, these parts are dishwasher-safe and can be run through the dishwasher to get them sparkling clean.

  7. Wipe with Dry Towel

    Dry all surfaces with a clean cloth and return everything to the microwave.

Cleaning microwave with lemon
Getty Images

How to Clean a Microwave with Lemon

If your microwave emits a lingering cooking odor, lemon (and steam!) can be put to work again. As a fresh-smelling alternative, clean your microwave with lemon, everyone's favorite citrus home cleaner. Follow the same steps above for cleaning a microwave with vinegar to generate steam.

  1. Mix Ingredients

    Mix 1 cup water, the grated peel and juice of 1 lemon, and several whole cloves in a 2-cup glass measuring cup.

    Editor's Tip: You can slice or halve the lemon as well.

  2. Bring to a Boil

    Place in the microwave and bring to a boil by setting it for several minutes on high.

  3. Let Cool

    Allow the cup and mixture to sit in the microwave until cool.

  4. Wipe Down the Inside

    Wipe the microwave interior with a soft cloth.

microwave in kitchen island
Anthony Masterson

How to Clean a Stainless-Steel Microwave

Some newer stainless-steel appliances have particular easy-care finishes that may not require any more than simple soap and water for cleaning. Check your owner's manual before cleaning the exterior to avoid any mishaps.

  1. Remove Fingerprints

    Look to rubbing alcohol to eliminate fingerprints and give a microwave's exterior a little extra shine.

  2. Saturate a Rag

    Dampen a soft cloth with a few drops of rubbing alcohol and rub over the stain.

  3. Wipe with the Grain

    Always wipe with the steel grain to capture any small particles or pieces of fuzz.

How to Clean a Microwave Filter and Exterior

Handles (one of the most overlooked places when cleaning) and touchpads are dirt and grime magnets. They need a daily wipe-down and an occasional deep clean. Spritz an all-purpose cleaner on a damp rag for routine cleaning, then wipe down the microwave exterior. A vinegar-based homemade cleaner can also be used to clean the glass door, another stubborn spot where gunk loves to linger.

Give the underside of an over-the-range microwave some attention, too, especially if you've been cooking greasy foods. If your microwave sits on a countertop or other surface, unplug it and move it aside to clean it underneath the appliance. You'd be surprised how much debris burrows its way under there!

Read the owner's manual for instructions on cleaning or changing the filter if your microwave has an exhaust system. If the filter is removable and can be washed, remove the filter and soak it in warm water and a few squirts of dish soap. Scrub to remove any debris. Rinse well, shake to remove excess water, and dry, then replace.

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