How to clean a microwave that caught on fire

Scrub the burnt away

A microwave, lemon slices and white vinegar on a purple bubbly background
(Image credit: Getty / Future / Beth Mahoney)

We’ve all been there. You read a label wrong or leave something in the microwave for too long and the inside of your microwave — and the food or packaging within it — catches fire. Sigh. 

If you’ve caught your microwave on fire don’t beat yourself up — it happens to us all and (speaking from experience here) I can confirm it’s seriously easy to do. If it’s still working safely but has that god-awful burnt smell leaking from it, taints your food, or is just coated in black soot, it’s probably in need of a good ol’ clean. 

The good news is that (in most cases) it’s possible to revive a microwave that’s caught on fire and get it looking and smelling clean and fresh again with some microwave cleaning hacks. And, FYI, doing so is far easier than you might think. 

Good to know

Time: 15 minutes 

Difficulty: Easy

Helpful hints: After you get the smell out, make an effort to clean your microwave often to prevent constant odors and keep it free of debris that can catch on fire.

Here’s what you’ll need

How to clean a microwave that caught fire

Step 1: Fill a bowl with water, white vinegar and a slice of lemon 

Take a microwave-safe bowl (like one of these Pyrex glass nesting bowls from Amazon) and fill it halfway with tepid water, a cup of vinegar (we always recommend Heinz distilled white vinegar from Amazon), and a few slices of fresh lemon. 

Step 2: Place the bowl in the microwave and turn on 

Put the microwave-safe bowl inside the microwave, close the door, and turn the microwave on for seven minutes — or until the water is steaming. 

Step 3: Leave to sit in the microwave

Once the microwave has turned off, leave the bowl and steam to sit inside the microwave with the door closed for five minutes. 

Step 4: Remove the bowl

Once the steam has sat inside the microwave for a while, it should have loosened any stubborn soot, grease, or grime, and can be removed and the solution disposed of.  

Step 5: Fill a bowl with warm water and dish soap

Next, fill a bowl with a mixture of warm water and a squirt or two of dish soap (you can’t go wrong with Dawn dish soap from Amazon), dip a sponge into the solution, and give your microwave a wipe. 

Helpful hint: If doing this once doesn’t clear all of the dirt away, repeat the process with fresh water. 

Step 6: Dry the inside of the microwave 

Once the microwave has been completely cleaned, use paper towels to dry the interior, removing any leftover water or soap sud residue. 

Step 7: Place baking soda inside the microwave 

To deodorize the microwave and ensure that any remaining burnt smell is removed, place a bowl of baking soda (this one from Arm and Hammer at Amazon is our normal go-to) inside the microwave, shut the door, and leave overnight. Cleaning your microwave with baking soda is a great way to boost the cleaning power and get all that grime off.


Is it safe to use a microwave that had a fire in it?

If you’re unsure whether your microwave is safe to use after catching on fire, it’s important to refer to the manufacturer’s safety instructions or contact the manufacturer's customer care line. 

Is it safe to use a microwave that smells burnt?

If your microwave smells burnt because food has caught on fire or burnt, but no damage has occurred to the microwave itself, it should be safe to use. However, if the microwave is damaged, then it’s best to avoid using it until you have spoken to the manufacturer. 

Beth Mahoney
Freelance journalist

Hi! I’m Beth Mahoney and I’m a former staff writer at Real Homes. I’ve been a journalist for the national press for the past six years, specializing in commerce and trends-related lifestyle articles, from product reviews and listicles to guides and features. With an eye for pretty things (think: quirky wall prints, scalloped edge furniture, and decadent-looking tableware) but a limited budget, I love nothing more than a bargain buy.