How do you clean a Microwave Oven?

If you use a microwave for long enough, eventually, the inside will become a disgusting mix of foods from meals past. Don’t sweat it, there are a few ways to get your oven looking brand new again. 

There are at least six ways to clean your microwave. These methods include: 

  • Vinegar and water
  • One lemon
  • Dish soap
  • Kitchen surface cleaner
  • Water
  • Vinegar and baking soda

Five of the six ways to clean your microwave oven require steam to be generated by the microwave itself. In addition to these tricks mentioned above, you will need gloves and a sponge with both a rough and gentle side. 

Continue reading for details on how to correctly clean your microwave oven.

All of the solutions mentioned above are very easy to use, but may require different levels of elbow grease. 

Vinegar and water

Vinegar and water are one of the most commonly used approaches to cleaning a dirty microwave. Simply pour two parts vinegar and one part water into a microwave safe container. Next, adjust your microwave to the highest power level, and turn on for 5 – 10 minutes. Note: this length of time will vary based on the wattage of your microwave.

What you are looking for is steam being created from your vinegar and water solution. The steam breaks down the dried food which makes for easier cleanup. Once the steam has been going for a while, or the microwave stops, remove the vinegar/ water solution (caution its hot!), and place it in the sink. Next, make a bowl with hot water and a bit of dish soap, and dunk your scrubbing pad. 

Before you begin scrubbing with the bar, take a few paper towels and wipe the entire microwave. If all of the old food wipes up, you are done. If not, take your went pad, and scrub away. It should be pretty easy to wipe up caked on food at this point.

If food is still stuck to the microwave, or you don’t want to scrub as hard, repeat the first step of placing the vinegar and water solution in the microwave. 


One Lemon Solution

The one lemon solution is simply cutting one lemon in half and placing them in the microwave. Just Like the vinegar and water solution we are going to cook this lemon on full power for 5 minutes. Once the microwave stops, carefully remove the lemon from the microwave.

Again, first wipe down the microwave with a paper towel to see what shakes loose, then use hot water, soap, and scrubbing pad to clean the reset. 

There are two benefits to using this method instead of the vinegar and water solution. First, it is a more organic solution. Vinegar is made up of all sorts of things including ethanol and acetic acid. Second, your home will smell better. To me, one of the worst smells in the world is freshly opened vinegar. 

Remember: The lemon will be hot to the touch. Please be careful 

Dish soap

The dish soap method cuts out the first steps of the lemon and vinegar methods. Simply put water in a microwave safe bowl, add a few drops of dish soap, and cook in the microwave. Cook on high for 5 to 10 minutes, then remove.

The type of dish soap doesn’t really matter as most of them are made up of the same ingredients. 

Grab some paper towels and wipe away the easy stuff first. Next, use the solution you just removed from the microwave to clean the remaining food from the microwave. 

You may want to wait a few minutes before dipping your hand into this solution as the soap and water will be very hot.

Kitchen surface cleaner

This way of cleaning is also pretty easy. Simply find a kitchen rated cleaning solution you are comfortable with, and follow those directions. In my experience, you may need a little more elbow grease to clean the microwave completely. To prevent this, use the commercial cleaning solution in addition to one of the other methods. 

One final step I like to take after cleaning with a commercial cleaner is to take hot water and wipe down the microwave. While this probably isn’t needed, I feel better wiping away chemicals that have the potential to be around my food. 


If you don’t anything else, you can use just water. Believe it or not, the steam is doing all of the hard work, and water is the medium to get the steam. Because you are only using water, it will take a lot more elbow grease. Don’t be surprised if you are cleaning the microwave twice as long if you are only using water.

Vinegar and Baking soda

Somehow, baking soda fixes everything. If your cake didn’t turn out, you should have added more or less baking soda. If your child wets the bed, a baking soda solution will fix that also. 

In this solution, mix together 2 parts water, one part vinegar, and a tablespoon of baking soda. Next mix together, then place in the microwave to cook. Microwave on high for 5 minutes, then follow the steps mentioned above. 

When to clean your microwave?

I think you should clean your microwave at least once a week, or once every two weeks. If you clean your microwave once a week, it should prevent you from having to expend a ton of energy into cleaning it. If you clean the microwave once a week, the microwave should only require a quick wipe down with a scrubbing pad, soap, and water. 

If you go longer than two weeks, you run the risk of caked on, dried up, disgusting microwave that you won’t want to use.

Where to clean your microwave?

The obvious place to clean your microwave is the inside where you cook your food. In addition, also wipe down the buttons for the numbers, the handle, glass, and the vent (if you can reach it).

The buttons and microwave handle should also be wiped down because there is where you will find dried up food, and harmful bacteria. Recall the last time you used the microwave, were the buttons a little harder to press than usual? How about the handle, did you see any dried on food from meals past?

The outside can become dirty from dust particles that have been floating around. Simply take a dry paper towel and wipe clean. Cleaning the outside of the microwave may help your microwave work more efficiently. 

Who should clean the microwave?

This one is easy, if you are old enough to use it, then you are old enough to clean it. Cleaning the microwave is a nice introduction to cleaning because it is a small space, it is important, and you can see the results after a short period of time. Kids can take pride in cleaning the microwave, and parents have one less thing they have to worry about during Saturday morning cleaning sessions. 


What do you think? Have you tried any of the solutions above? If you haven’t, what trick do you use to clean your microwave? Whose responsibility is it to clean the microwave in your home?

Comment below!

Additional questions

How do I clean my microwave without vinegar or lemon?

As I mentioned above, there are a few different methods for cleaning without lemon or vinegar. Those methods include a dish soap and water solution, or Just water solution. Also, you can purchase a kitchen cleaning product to clean your microwave. Remember to wipe down your microwave after using commercial cleaning products.

The purpose of vinegar and lemon is for the acid to break down the food that has been sitting from one or two months. Without this assistance, you are going to work harder to remove stick on food. Also, it will take you longer to remove the move that is stuck to your microwave. 

Can you use a magic eraser in a microwave?

Yes, you can use a magic eraser to clean your microwave. The magic eraser may be best suited for recent spills, and not spills that are caked on. If a spill has been there longer than a mouth, I would use one of the methods recommended above. 

Also, after using the magic eraser, I suggest wiping the microwave down with soap and water. Wiping down the area with soap and water will remove any chemical residue left from the magic eraser. 

Can vinegar explode in a microwave?

Yes, vinegar can explode in a microwave if you microwave it for a longer period of time. However, if you set the timer to 10 minutes or less, you should see or hear an explosion. 

One way to reduce the chances of an explosion is to monitor the vinegar and water solution. Do not leave liquids in the microwave unattended. You also have the option to set the timer for short periods. For example, instead of one five minute period, you could do two-two and a half minutes.