How to clean a microwave — eliminate the ick super quick

Time to get that gross microwaved fish odor out for good 🐟

Place setting in kitchen during dinner with white microwave
(Image credit: Getty / Jordan Lye)

Working in an open-plan office, I wish more people knew how to clean a microwave. While I'm immune to the odd oatmeal explosion in my microwave, you can bet your bottom dollar the ick factor intensifies when you're sharing a communal micro oven.

This small kitchen appliance is the most used item in the office and at home, but it isn't bulletproof when it comes to stains. Tomato soup, spaghetti, baked beans, and even egg are the most common culprits when graffitiing the walls of this useful kitchen gadget.

If your microwave oven looks like a piece of abstract art (ask your mom about Jackson Pollock), then follow this guide on cleaning a microwave. I'll talk you through how to get rid of funky smells, too, using eco-friendly ingredients you'll most likely already have in your cabinets.

Good to know

Time: 5–15 minutes (depending on how gross it is)

Difficulty: Easy

Frequency: If you're wondering how often to clean your microwave, I've got some bad(ish) news. 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.

Even the most trivial tasks can be troublesome... too long in this machine and the energy produced from inside can cause quite the explosion!

Here's what you'll need

Step 1: Steam clean the inside of the microwave

Add two tablespoons of dish soap with one cup of water to a microwavable bowl and heat it for one minute on high. The steam from this microwave cleaning hack will soften the dried-on food, so you can easily clean the microwave using a damp sponge to wipe off any debris, leaving your microwave squeaky clean and ready to heat up all those delicious leftovers.

Alternatively, content creator and TikTok cleaning influencer, Melissa Metrano uses two tablespoons of distilled white vinegar, mixed with one cup of water in a microwave-safe container.

For any stuck-on, spattered food spots you might find on the walls or ceiling of your microwave, use a scourer or hard-bristled toothbrush dipped in hot, soapy water, or a little baking soda (we always use Arm & Hammer from Amazon).

BTW, 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 the inside.

Step 2: Clean the 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 (Heinz's option (from Amazon) is our fave) 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 onto a wet sponge and scrub away any residue.

WARNING: 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.

If yours is an on-show stainless steel microwave, you'll want to brush up on your stainless steel cleaning knowledge to achieve sparkling results!

Step 3: Clean the microwave viewing window and controls

It's easy to clean up the everyday smudges, fingerprints, and grease that keep your microwave from looking its best. Use dish soap and water or a dedicated appliance cleaner on a soft cloth or sponge. If you have glass controls, you can use a good glass cleaner instead.

We love Bar Keepers Friend, which is a multi-purpose cleaning powder that you can buy from Amazon.

Helpful hint: On some microwaves with touch controls, you can turn on the control lock to avoid accidentally activating buttons while you clean. Remember to unlock it once you're done cleaning.

Top tips for maintaining a clean microwave

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Keep your microwave clean with these accessories

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What cleaning products can you use in a microwave?

Natural ingredients such as lemon, baking soda, and white vinegar are all fantastic cleaning solutions for your microwave. While specialized cleaners and all-purpose sprays are fine, natural products and items you likely already have in your cabinets and fridge work just as well.

What should you not use 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.

How do I get rid of a bad smell in my 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 of water for a couple of minutes. Then let the microwave air out. The vinegar will absorb the bad smells.

Meet our experts

Melissa Metrano headshot
Melissa Metrano

Melissa Metrano is an author, digital entrepreneur, and lifestyle content creator.  Best known for her home, family, and wellness videos on YouTube and TikTok, Melissa shares updated content daily across her social media channels which reaches over 10 million people. Melissa is passionate about connecting with her community and sharing her journey in hopes to inspire others.

Christina Chrysostomou
Former acting head ecommerce editor

Hi, I'm the former acting head ecommerce editor at Real Homes. Prior to working for the Future plc family, I've worked on a number of consumer events including the Ideal Home Show, Grand Designs Live, and Good Homes Magazine. With a first class degree from Keele University, and a plethora of experience in digital marketing, editorial, and social media, I have an eye for what should be in your shopping basket and have gone through the internal customer advisor accreditation process.