You need to clean your microwave from time to time in order to keep it working beyond its (typical) 10-year warranty. After a decade, anything goes with this electric appliance. Naturally, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.
Always keep a (slightly ajar) lid atop your microwaveable bowl, especially if heating up or cooking oily meats or saucy dishes that could pop or sizzle all over the walls of the oven. Take out the turntable and wash it on your sink as well. Scrub those walls after every meal to avoid heavy scrubbing down the line.
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How to clean the microwave? Here’s what you need to do.
What You’ll Need
You’ll need the following equipment in order to properly clean your microwave.
- A toothpick
- Glass cleaner
- Terry cloth rags
- Microfiber sponge
- Lemon juice or oils
- Wet and dry dishrags
- OXO specialty brushes
- A bowl of warm water
- A microwave-safe bowl
- Liquid dishwashing soap
- 2 tablespoons of vinegar
- 1 cup of water (for vinegar mix)
- Dan Platinum Advanced Power Dishwashing Liquid
- ½ cup of water added to 6 tablespoons of baking soda
- Wyman’s Stainless Steel Cleaner and Polish or Sprayway Stainless Steel Cleaner and Polish
Here come the ins and outs of cleaning your microwave. Read every entry carefully and follow the instructions to the letter and with common sense in mind.
Regular Microwave Maintenance
In today’s pandemic reality involving endless Zoom meetings and countless TV dinners, the likelihood of you not regularly cleaning your microwave probably charts quite high. You might not even remember the last time you’ve cleaned the oven, embarrassingly enough.
It should be done “on the reg”, but the average person tends to forget to even clean up after every microwaved dish.
They believe that once a microwave ends up out of sight then it has become out of mind.
However, doing so could lead to a busted microwave, especially if it already went past its 10-year warranty.
Avoid Your Bad Mentality of Neglect
You clean your pots and pans after every use, right? You probably do the same with your stove and your gas oven. Why shouldn’t you do the same for your microwave? Thinking that a microwave barely ever needs cleanup translates to a bad mentality.
You end up with an unsanitary oven according to cleaning expert Becky Rapinchuck, who also authored the books “The Organically Clean Home” and “Simply Clean”.
If a new food is put into the oven, it could get contaminated with the remnants of old food as well as their rotting residue left inside your appliance.
Don’t let the bits of food and oil set into the metal and plastic surface of your oven. Like with cars, regular maintenance should keep your microwave in tiptop condition.
Otherwise, use the suggestions laid out above to return your oven to its hygienic, serviceable self.
Refer to the Owner’s Manual and Safety Tips
Aside from giving you tips and tricks when it comes to fixing or troubleshooting an errant microwave, your owner’s or user manual also offers the best advice for maintenance, cleaning, and safety tips when handling your beloved oven.
It offers advice like removing residue and spilled food as soon as they happen so that they won’t leave a stain.
A dishrag soaked in warm water deals with small residue or food remnants rather effectively. When dealing with bigger messes and spills, this calls for using a bit of dishwashing soap or even baking soda.
Avoid using anything dangerous on your microwave interior, which includes tough cleaning materials like steel wool, oven cleaners, and abrasive cleaning agents. Baking soda tends to clean up an oven with remarkable effectiveness, to be honest.
The Longer You Leave a Microwave Unclean the Harder to Clean It Will Be:
You’ll end up with a harder and more time-consuming cleanup process if you put off cleaning for a long time.
The longer it’s delayed the more cleaning you’ll do, so says the president of Clean Home Inc. Amy Medrud. She’s the president of a home cleaning service based in Colorado, to be more specific.
5-month-old offensive odors and splatter stains are harder to get rid of compared to splatters and smell right after they happen in 5 minutes.
How frequently you clean your microwave box depends on how often it runs. The frequency of cleanup relies proportionately on the frequency of usage, in other words. According to Madrud, wipe it clean anytime you spill anything inside.
Actually, to err on the side of caution, wipe it down even when you don’t have any accidents. The sooner you clean up any would-be stains and remnants, the cleaner your unit will become, especially if you’re a daily microwave user.
According to Rapinchuck, at least clean it once every 7 days. Sporadic usage entails monthly cleanup.
Clean the Microwave from the Inside Mostly
Speaking of common sense, unplug your microwave before doing any cleaning. Go to the best place to start with cleaning your microwave—inside the oven itself.
Get a wet dishrag, soak it in warm water, put some liquid dishwashing soap on it, and scrub down the interior of the microwave full of suds, particularly the oily areas that could leave a stain. Use the toothpick to pick at the gunk on the sides.
Remove the turntable and rollers (carefully) for good measure and clean that round glass container up on your sink separately. Wipe down the microwave of all the suds and grime completely with a separate dry dishrag.
Finish up cleaning the turntable and put it back in the device. Remove the remaining moisture care of evaporation by plugging in your oven and zapping the water away into steam for a minute or so.
Cleaning Up the Turntable and Rollers
Clean the turntable and rollers by placing them in the dishwasher. According to Rapinchuck, you should individually scrub the moving parts of the roller to make sure no gummed up food keeps the wheels from rolling properly on their axle.
Medrud also claims that if the plate comprises material you can’t use with a dishwasher, clean it in your sink with hot water and soap.
Even if you seldom use the microwave, regular cleaning habits should save you time, effort, and headaches in the long run.
Clean it now so that you don’t have to clean a lot more later or deal with stains that won’t come off after many cleanings afterwards.
Both Medrud and Rapinchuck agree that the best tips to cleaning your microwave box involve pro-active preventive maintenance rather than reactive cleanup when the appliance becomes too filthy.
Extra Strong Soap and Microfiber Sponge
If your dishwashing fluid lacks a strong enough impact on the stains and remnants, an extra-strong soap might be called for. Medrud specifically vouches for using a microfiber sponge and Dawn Platinum Advanced Power Dishwashing Liquid.
Don’t use a regular dishwashing sponge with a course and smooth side, she claims. A microwave could get scratched up by those pads, especially if you use scouring pads.
Saturate or moisten rather than completely soak the sponge with hot, soapy water. Afterwards, wipe down the inside with all the warmth and suds the sponge could muster.
Don’t drench your microwave oven with it though. Squeeze the sponge on a nearby bowl or sink instead of inside the microwave itself. Too much water running down the vent and open holes could lead to a short circuit, after all.
Avoid contact with the Mica Waveguide Cover
Avoid contact of the sudsy sponge with the filter on the side walls covering the hole emitting the microwave rays. Naturally, the cover shouldn’t have grease and/or food on it. However, according to Medrud, it also shouldn’t be doused with water or scrubbed to hard.
Rather, just use a moist rag to get the major gunks out, and don’t get too focused on any splatter marks. After the entirety of the microwave unit’s insides have been wiped clean, get a moist terry cloth rag, wring out the excess, and wipe the insides of your box further still until the whole interior of the oven has been dried out.
Keep The Rest of Your Microwave Spic-and-Span Too
Don’t forget to clean your microwave’s exterior as well. The facade of the appliance can also get gunk on its edges or at least have dust settle in along with food oils.
The soap and warm water soaked into a dishrag technique can deal with such issues post-haste before they can worsen to serious issues like ugly staining or, worse, corrosion of the metal parts of the appliance.
Regularly clean up your microwave from inside and out, preferably after every meal zapped or every frozen meat defrosted. This keeps those food remnants and residue from ending up in awkward areas of your microwave, such as the latches of your microwave door.
As any microwave owner should know, the microwave won’t turn on as long as the door won’t close. Keep food from gumming up the door lock by cleaning it off along with the exterior.
How to Buff Up the Microwave Exterior
Compare polishing the outside of your microwave to cleaning your microwave’s interior. The latter proves tougher than the former.
According to Rapinchuck and Medrud, you should go spraying the exterior with a glass cleaner. You could get a DIY glass cleaner or a commercial one. Just make sure to use a microfiber toel to do the wiping for you. Medrud says if the microwave suffers from too much filth, use a terry cloth rag instead.
If the manufacturer built the microwave exterior with stainless steel instead, expect some difficulty in buffing the appliance.
Use a wax-based product such as Wyman’s Stainless Steel Cleaner and Polish in order to clean this microwave exterior type with finer grain steel. You can also get an oil-based product such as Sprayway Stainless Steel Cleaner and Polish for units with rougher grain steel.
The glass portions should be cleaned with glass cleaner only to prevent streaking.
The Baking Soda Technique in Cleaning Microwaves
If tough food grime or dried residue defies removal from ordinary means like warm water or soap then you should bring out the big guns.
Fill up a bowl with 6 tablespoons of baking soda mixed with ½ cup of water. Put the concoction inside your microwave then zap it up for about 2 minutes. The mixture’s steam should loosen up the interior food residue real well.
You can now clean up the microwave normally with warm water and soap. Instead of baking soda, you can add lemon with half a cup of water for microwaving to end up with a fresh citrus smell after microwaving.
Alternatively, you have the option of applying the baking soda paste you just made unto the microwave, letting it sit in, then wiping everything off with a dishrag soaked in warm water for a more thorough close-contact removal of the residue.
A More Concentrated Lemon Cleansing Technique
Rapinchuck’s specifics on the lemon technique differ from other sources. It involves instead cutting a lemon in half then cutting that half of a lemon into smaller wedges.
From there, fill a glass bowl or measuring cup with 4 cups of water and put the lemon wedges in it.
Put the bowl in your oven then zap it on the highest level until the water boils for about 1 minute.
Afterwards, turn off the unit and let the bowl stay inside for about 15 minutes. The citric steam filling it inside is much more concentrated compared to lemon mixed with half a cup of water. If the microwave lacks steam, just boil the lemon water again.
After the 15 minutes have passed, open the microwave door, take out the bowl, then wipe down the interior with a clean cotton dishcloth or paper towels. Repeat as necessary with a new batch of lemon wedges.
The Vinegar and Steam Microwave Cleanup Technique
Like when cleaning your microwave with water mixed with baking soda, fill a bowl with equal parts vinegar and water.
Add a bit of oil or lemon juice if you wish. Go microwave the vinegar solution to a boil for a few minutes.
Vinegar is a weak acid that can also loosen up food residue that has hardened and stained your microwave interior.
The vinegary steam or vapor works as effectively as the baking soda solution in order to make the grime and food remnants looser and easier to wipe away with a cloth soaked in warm water or even just a dry cloth.
Careful when the oven door opens because the resulting vapor and the bowl itself will have quite a high temperature. In other words, hot to the touch. Take care so that you don’t get scalded.
Removal of the Particularly Grimy Gunk
When dealing with the grimiest of food remnants or debris inside your microwave, clean them out with your terrycloth rag moistened with hot water prior to using any soaps and some such. Or use the vinegar/lemon steam bath technique to loosen the gunk. The wipe down helps a lot in getting most of the debris.
If the splatters got stuck and won’t move, use a used toothbrush to brush it off and pick them off with the toothpick if called for.
The toothpick serves as a handy item that picks at corners of the interior, especially the hard-to-reach stains and food remnants that you can’t brush off with a toothbrush.
Otherwise, get a specialized cleaning brush like the OXO brush to scrape the food debris away.
Getting Rid of Nasty Smells
When microwaved, foods made up of fish, turkey, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and so forth tend to stink. Many a dish doesn’t smell pleasant or appetizing after exposure to microwave rays.
These smells might even stick or linger long after you’ve zapped, removed, or even eaten the food. Even you’ve digested the food already, the microwave might remain stinky.
An easy solution for all this according to Medrud? You can leave the door open at all times until the odor disappears or aired out.
Just make sure the microwave is placed in a location that isn’t central or above a stove. You risk bumping your head on the open door if that’s the case.
Afterwards, use the vinegar and steam or concentrated lemon cleansing technique to deodorize the unit when push comes to shove.
Points to Ponder
You cannot question the versatility of microwaves. However, this versatility comes with a price. As you use the oven, it gets dirty really fast. The more you use it the filthier it gets.
Gunk from cooking pizza rolls to oils from reheated oily, fatty pork chops can turn the insides of the oven into a filthy mess. To keep your microwave sanitary and free from stains, scrubbing in advance serves as the best option.
Anyway, have you enjoyed the tutorial? It’s important to follow the steps outlined above to improve upon the hygienic condition of your microwave after every use. If you have further feedback to share, just write a comment down below.
- “How to Clean Your Microwave“, AllAreaApplianceLLC.com, March 25, 2016
- Jenny McCoy, “How to Properly Clean, De-Crust and De-Stink Your Microwave, According to Experts“, CookingLight.com, August 2, 2018