Cleaning Hacks

How To Clean Your Microwave Properly—And Keep It That Way

Photo: Getty Images / Grace Cary
Even if you love cooking, you might find yourself side-stepping pots and pans, stovetops and ovens, to make a beeline for the microwaves. And hey, that’s just how life goes sometimes. You can cook everything from oatmeal to poached eggs in the microwave without a mess and in half the time. There’s no shame in the microwaving game, but keeping your microwave clean is a must. And remember: There's a right way—and a wrong way—to do just about everything.

Frequent use is no excuse for a nasty-looking appliance. Of course, that’s not to say that only messy microwaves are in need of cleaning. Even tidy appliances should be wiped down weekly. Before you go running any old cloth over it and calling it a day, consider reading on to learn how to clean a microwave, according to cleaning experts. If you don’t know which products to reach for or which steps to follow, keep reading to find out how to clean your microwave properly.

The Best Products To Clean a Microwave

Blueland Pop-Up Sponge, How To Clean Microwave
Blueland Pop-Up Sponge — $12.00

Since microwaves come in direct contact with foods and drinks that you consume, it’s important that the products you use within your microwave are as natural as possible. “For microwaves, you can grab some vinegar and lemon juice and have your appliance sparkling in no time,” says Leanne Stapf, COO of The Cleaning Authority.

affresh stainless steel cleaning spray, how to clean microwave
Affresh Stainless Steel Cleaning Spray — $5.00

In addition to vinegar and lemon juice, Lindsay Jones, new product brand Manager for Maytag Brand, says that having mild dish soap, a soft cloth or sponge, and a microfiber cloth on hand will also prove helpful when learning how to clean a microwave. Additionally, she says that if your microwave is stainless, you may want to add a can of affresh Stainless Steel Cleaning Spray to your microwave cleaning product arsenal.

Products To Avoid When Cleaning a Microwave

If you feel like heavy chemicals will get the job done quicker, think again. According to

Christine Trefethen, the resident household specialist at Therapy Clean, cleaners with solvents (disinfectant and/or antibacterial properties) can be incredibly harsh on your appliance.

Beyond avoiding chemicals, Jones says to be mindful of the sponges and formulas you use. “To avoid damage to stainless steel surfaces, do not use soap-filled scouring pads, abrasive cleaners, cooktop polishing creme, steel wool pads, or gritty washcloths,” she says. “Be sure to check your owner's manual for details on what else to avoid.”

How To Clean a Microwave

Now that you know the products to use (and steer clear of) when cleaning your small appliance, it’s time to learn the step-by-step instructions for cleaning a microwave. Check them out, below.

1. Clean the inside of your microwave.

This doesn’t mean just wipe it down with a wet rag and call it a day. Instead, Jones says to fill a microwave-safe container with one cup of water and set the microwave for three to five minutes to help steam and loosen the stuck-on gunk. If you find that plain water isn’t cutting it, Stapf recommends adding lemon juice to the water for more grime-busting action. “The steam mixed with the lemon juice will help loosen any food remnants as well as remove odors that may linger,” she says. “I recommend doing this before any scrubbing.”

Once all the gunk and grime have been steamed, it’s time to deep clean the interior of your microwave. To do so, you have options. Stapf suggests dampening a microfiber cloth with vinegar and wiping everything down, whereas Jones says a dilution of mild dish soap and water paired with a sponge works like a charm. “If you have a model with a stainless steel cavity, wipe in the direction of the grain to avoid damage,” she adds.

2. Clean the microwave turntable.

Once you’ve deep cleaned the interior walls of your microwave, turn your attention to the turntable. If it looks fairly clean, you can wipe it down with a vinegar-soaked rag and dry it off with a microfiber cloth. If it’s caked in food splatter, however, Jones recommends giving it its very own bath. “Soak the turntable in mild dish soap and warm water, then use a non-abrasive sponge or dishcloth to hand wash,” she says. “Some turntables can be cleaned in the dishwasher, but always check your microwave manual before doing so.”

One thing to note when cleaning a turntable is that the temperature matters. “Always start with a cool turntable before removing and submerging in water, as a heated one may break from the sudden change in temperature,” Jones warns.

No matter how you clean your turntable, Jones says not to replace it in your microwave until it’s completely dry.

3. Clean the microwave exterior.

After cleaning the inside of your microwave, it’s time to tend to the exterior. Jones says to begin by wiping down the handle, control panel, and exterior with a dilution of water and mild dish soap. “Then, rinse surfaces with clean water and dry with a microfiber cloth,” she adds.

To make the front glass panel of your microwave really shine, Jones says to spray glass cleaner directly onto a paper towel, then wipe accordingly.

Therapy stainless steel cleaner kit, how to clean microwave
Therapy Stainless Steel Cleaner Kit — $17.00

Furthermore, if you have a stainless microwave, Trefethen suggests using a dedicated stainless steel cleaner and polish to really make it glisten. As with cleaning the glass on your microwave, the best way to use stainless steel cleaning spray is to spritz it into a towel before wiping it on the surface of your appliance. That way, stray drops won’t make their way inside your microwave or onto any other cooking surfaces where they could come in contact with food.

4. Don’t forget about the bottom of your microwave.

As clean as your microwave may look after cleaning the interior, sides, and door, if you have a microwave hood combination, Jones says that you’ll find the grease filter on the underside of your microwave oven. “Grease filters should be removed and cleaned with mild soap and water or washed in a dishwasher, as instructed in your microwave manual,” she says.

The Takeaway

Cleaning a microwave is easy—you just have to make the time for it. Like most things, the more you commit to cleaning your microwave, the easier it will become. “Cleaning your microwave is an essential task in weekly kitchen maintenance to help avoid tough to clean, caked-on messes and prevent potential mechanical issues caused by soil build up,” Jones says. In other words, if you can’t remember the last time you cleaned your microwave, you know what it’s time to do. Why You Shouldn’t Wait Until Spring To Clean Your Home—And the All Season Cleaning List You Need To Keep It Tidy Year-Round

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