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The Right Way to Clean Your Microwave, According to Experts

An all-white kitchen with stainless steel appliances, including a microwave, an oven, a refrigerator, and a dishwasher

Cathie Hong Interiors

Your kitchen cleaning to-do list may be lined with classic items, like washing the dishes, wiping down the countertops, and taking out the trash. But, cleaning the microwave deserves a spot on there too. According to experts, we should clean our microwaves every 1–4 weeks. And when we do, a quick wipe-down won’t suffice.

“It is extremely important to clean your microwave regularly,” Will Cotter, COO of HappyCleans, says. “Failure to do so can result in an unpleasant look and smell, your microwave being less efficient, and a risk of fire.” Built-up oil can also damage your microwave’s inner coating, and in some cases, dirt and grime can even void your warranty.

Cleaning your microwave every 1–4 weeks may sound tedious. But according to experts, it’s easy to do. With a few kitchen staples and 15–20 minutes of spare time, you can take your microwave from scuzzy to spotless.

Meet the Expert

  • Will Cotter is the COO of HappyCleans, a cleaning company based in Oklahoma City.
  • Emil Perushanov is the owner of Top Cleaners London, a London-based cleaning company.
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Devon Grace Interiors

How Often Should You Clean Your Microwave?

You should clean your microwave every 1–4 weeks. Over time, spills, splashes, and sputters can build up, turning your microwave into a sticky, greasy mess. The sooner you get to the grime, the easier it is to clean up.

“You should clean your microwave between every week and every 4 weeks, at most,” Cotter says. “If cooking with typically messy foods, such as gravy or soup, you may need to clean it more often.”

Cotter also recommends spot-cleaning your microwave between deep cleans. “If you notice that your food has spilled, grab a paper towel and wipe it clean,” he says. “This will avoid the food drying and setting in the microwave, making it harder to clean later.”

A light wood-filled kitchen with built-in cabinetry and a built-in microwave

Devon Grace Interiors

Things You’ll Need

  • A microwave-safe bowl
  • White vinegar
  • Water
  • Dish soap
  • A cleaning cloth
  • Paper towels
  • A sponge (optional)
  • Vanilla extract (optional)
A light blue kitchen with a microwave built into the cabinetry

Cathie Hong Interiors

How to Clean Your Microwave

Step 1: Fill a Bowl With Water and Vinegar

Grab a microwave-safe bowl, and fill it with water. Then, add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar. 

Step 2: Microwave the Mixture for 3+ Minutes

Pop the filled bowl in the microwave, and microwave it for 3+ minutes. According to Cotter, you want the mixture to be microwaved long enough “to boil and create steam, but not bubble over the top.” He suggests microwaving the mixture for 3 minutes.

Our other expert, Emil Perushanov, owner of Top Cleaners London, recommends microwaving it for 10 minutes.

Some microwaves are more powerful than others. Start by microwaving the mixture for 3 minutes. And if it doesn’t boil, try microwaving it for longer.

Step 3: Let the Mixture Sit for 3 Minutes, Then Remove It

Leave the bowl in the microwave for 3 minutes before removing it. This will give the steam a chance to break down stains and kill bacteria, Cotter says.

Before removing the mixture, peek inside your microwave. “Ensure the water has condensed on the sides of the appliance,” Perushanov says. If it has, remove your mixture-filled bowl from the microwave. Be careful—it might be hot.

Step 4: Clean Your Microwave Turntable With Dish Soap

Once you’ve removed your microwave-safe bowl and dumped out your DIY mixture, carefully remove the turntable from your microwave. Then, clean it with dish soap, warm water, and a sponge or cleaning cloth.

Step 5: Wipe Down the Inside of Your Microwave

Before putting the turntable back in its place, wipe down the inside of your microwave with paper towels or a cleaning cloth. Work your way from top to bottom—and don’t forget to clean the microwave door.

If you encounter persistent grease or stubborn food stains, Cotter recommends scrubbing them with a sponge. Once you’re finished cleaning the inside of your microwave, you can reassemble it.

Step 6: Clean the Outside of Your Microwave With All-Purpose Cleaner

Spray some all-purpose cleaner on the outside of your microwave and wipe it down with paper towels or a cleaning cloth. Be sure to clean high-touch areas, like buttons and your microwave’s handle.

Step 7: Microwave Vanilla Extract to Get Rid of Stubborn Odors

If your microwave still smells after all that cleaning, Perushanov recommends grabbing the vanilla extract. 

Fill a microwave-safe bowl with water, and add a few drops of vanilla extract. Then, microwave this mixture for about 2 minutes. You’ll want to let the mixture sit in your microwave for 30 minutes before removing it. And when you do remove it, take a moment to wipe down the inside of your microwave with paper towels or a cleaning cloth.

If, after your deep clean, your microwave smells overwhelmingly like vinegar, microwaving a mixture of vanilla extract and water can help you get rid of the smell.

A kitchen with dark-stained wood cabinets and a built-in microwave

Naked Kitchens

Tips to Keep Your Microwave Clean Longer

Want to keep your microwave in tip-top shape between deep cleans? Spot-clean it any time you see a spill or splash.

“If an egg bursts or a spill occurs, you need to clean it right away,” Perushanov says. “This will keep the machine in good shape, remove odors, and maintain a properly sanitized environment inside the microwave.”

You can also cut down on mess by using a splatter cover every time you microwave food. “The large plastic cover will protect the inside of your microwave from oils, fumes, and food splashes,” Perushanov says. This will give you even less work to do during your deep cleans.