How to clean a microwave – get rid of grease and smells with baking soda and more

This is how to clean a microwave using natural ingredients like lemon, vinegar and baking soda to have yours looking brand new and smelling great in no time

clean inside of microwave
(Image credit: Getty images)

Microwaves are relied-upon kitchen appliances but to ensure that yours in a pleasure to use and sure to last for years to come, you need to know how to clean a microwave properly. Thankfully, using natural and potent kitchen cupboard staples like lemon, vinegar, baking soda and dish soap too is a hugely effective way to clean a microwave.

Because it only takes one spill of your leftovers to turn yours into a grimy (and smelly) mess that you wouldn't want to touch with a barge pole let alone heat your food up in... Whether yours is riddled with burnt on soup or a bad smell from 2020, use one of our failsafe methods to bring up your best microwave like new.

We spoke to Smeg about the simplest and most effective ways to clean a microwave: 'Microwaves can be easily cleaned with hot soapy water. Another trick is to heat up a slice of lemon in a water bath which will remove odours and keep your microwave smelling fresh. Smeg's built-in microwaves can also be cleaned easily using their vapor clean method.'

From cleaning the inside to perfection, to tackling greasy microwave doors (all without a drop of bleach) this complete guide will leave your microwave looking and smelling as good as new.

How often should I clean my microwave?

First things first, you need to wipe your microwave down on a daily basis – if you use yours frequently – to keep on top of grime and bad smells. This will make deep cleaning your microwave, which should be done at least once a month, far easier.

Starting from the inside out:

How to clean a microwave with lemon

Lemon is naturally antibacterial and a great way to clean the inside of your microwave as it's tough on dirt and smells too. 

1. Simply cut your lemon in half (you could also use lime or an orange if you only have these citrus to hand) and squeeze the juice from one half into 200ml of water. 

2. Place both halves of the lemon, leaving the rind on, into the water. 

3. Turn the machine on high for several minutes (five should be fine) allowing the solution to boil and make the window steamy. 

4. Let the microwave cool a little and then simply wipe down the inside with a damp, clean sponge afterwards.

5. Let the microwave dry out completely.

spring cleaning hacks

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How to clean a microwave with vinegar

White vinegar is a potent cleaning agent, you can use apple cider vinegar also) and you can combine it with lemon for an even more intense clean.

Fill the microwavable bowl with 200ml of water and add two tablespoons of white vinegar. Place a toothpick into the bowl, shut the door and run on high for five minutes. When the timer goes off, don’t open the microwave right away. Leave the door shut for a couple of minutes to let the steam continue to work. The steam will help loosen caked-on bits of food and the vinegar will help eliminate any odours.

When you open the door, be careful pulling the bowl out; it will be very hot. Remove the turntable tray carefully, it will be hot as well and wash it in the sink in soapy, warm water or put it in the dishwasher if okayed in your microwave's manufacturer leaflet. Using a damp cloth, sponge scourer or a magic eraser wipe down the inside of the microwave and watch the dirt come right off. Allow to dry with the door open.

cleaning the inside of a microwave

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How to clean a smelly microwave

A smelly microwave isn't a pleasant one, but whether you've been heating up spicy food or managed to burn something in there, there are ways to fix it. If you've followed the above methods to clean the inside, your microwave is likely smelling better already. But if it's just a smell you need to deal with, start by airing out your microwave by leaving the door open. Then add a small bowl of baking soda to your microwave when you shut the door. This will absorb the bad smells. For extra potency, add a few drops of lemon juice.

You could also try microwaving a small bowl of 2 tbsp white vinegar and 1 cup water for a couple of minutes. Then let the microwave air out. The vinegar  will absorb the bad smells.

How to clean a microwave door

To clean the rubber seal around the door,  dip your sponge in a little baking soda and rub it in then remove the residue with warm water. To tackle a really greasy microwave glass door, make a mixture of warm water and vinegar in equal parts and this should be enough. 

Cleaning with baking soda is a good idea as it's tough on grub and works well both inside and when cleaning a microwave door and its exterior. You can try using dish soap if yours isn't so bad and if you need something more hardcore, spray an all-purpose cleaner like HG microwave combi cleaner onto a wet sponge and scrub away any residue.

Note: When cleaning a microwave's exterior, don’t spray any cleaning solution directly onto the microwave as you may risk getting cleaner in the vent holes. Instead, spray on a wet cloth or sponge and wipe all over the surface. Dry off with a clean paper towel and dust with a duster.

Cleaning a microwave door

(Image credit: Getty)

How to remove stuck on food in a microwave

For any stuck on, spattered food spots you might find on the walls or ceiling of your microwave (even following the lemon and vinegar methods above) try the following:

1. Use a scourer or hard bristled toothbrush dipped in hot, soapy water, or a little baking soda.

2. You can wash most removable pieces, like the turntable, in the dishwasher or in a sink of soapy water. Just make sure you read the manufacturer's manual before you remove any intricate parts from inside.

clean inside of microwave

(Image credit: Getty images)

Why you shouldn't use bleach to clean a microwave

Avoid using strong chemicals, such as bleach to clean your microwave. Why? Well, products like this don't mix well with food – if you don't rinse the microwave thoroughly after you've cleaned it with bleach, your food will taste of it. Another good reason? Some manufacturers advise that the bleach makes any plastic components within the microwave brittle over time.

A very clean microwave inside and out

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How to maintain a clean microwave

  • Daily wipe downs: In order to make it easier to clean your microwave next time wipe the inside of your microwave every day, depending on how often you use it.
  • Treat spills immediately: Try and remove any splattered food as quickly as possible, it’s easier to remove when the food is warm and yet to harden.
  • Cover food: Always cover your food before cooking using something like a anti-splash plate cover.

Expert tips on how to clean a microwave

Mrs Hinch's top microwave cleaning tip

Mrs Hinch offers more advice on how to protect your microwave from getting dirty. in the first place. Very clever indeed. "My oven liners, as you can see, work very well when it's a microwave. Because any sort of splattering that you get from most microwaves, to be fair, go straight on my oven liner. And I just take this out and wash this. Brilliant."

Lynsey Queen of Clean's microwave cleaning tip

Lynsey Crombie uses the lemon method also and also advises "If you have some really tough old food stain add a little white wine vinegar to a cloth and then rub and this should then come away easily."

Martha Stewart's top microwave cleaning tip

Martha Stewart recommends you "Start with the top of the microwave and work your way down. After you've wiped the ceiling and walls of the interior, take the tray out of your microwave and wash it according to the manufacturer's directions; then wipe out any crumbs you find underneath it before wiping the inside and outside of the door, the handle, and the keypad."

microwave on surface

(Image credit: Russell Hobbs)

Your essential microwave cleaning kit

Shop   MultiWare 3 x Teflon Non Stick Oven Liner Heavy Duty 40 x 50cm

Shop  MultiWare 3 x Teflon Non Stick Oven Liner Heavy Duty 40 x 50cm at Amazon

Protect your microwave from spills in the first place.

Shop Flash Magic Eraser Ultra Power (2 Erasers)

Shop Flash Magic Eraser Ultra Power (2 Erasers) at Amazon

Gets rid of stains and burnt on grease – fast!

Shop Heinz All-Natural Distilled White Vinegar

Shop Heinz All-Natural Distilled White Vinegar - White Vinegar for Cleaning, Pickling, and Cooking, 1.89 Litre from Amazon

A must for natural cleaning around the kitchen and beyond.

Shop Arm and Hammer Baking Soda - Baking Powder, Baking Soda for Cleaning, Pure Baking Soda

Shop Arm and Hammer Baking Soda - Baking Powder, Baking Soda for Cleaning, Pure Baking Soda from Amazon

Another hero product in the world of natural cleaning.

So goodbye caked on beans and crusty cheese, and hello sparkly clean microwave!