How to clean a microwave with lemon for super fresh results

Steam the grime away

A microwave on a pink background with lemon slices around it.
(Image credit: Future)

There’s something about the smell of the inside of a microwave that just gives me the ick. I can’t deal with a microwave that smells bad or has a food odor that hangs around, which is why I frequently go through my list of microwave cleaning hacks to avoid stinky smells and built-up splatters.

On a day-to-day basis, I usually just quickly wipe down my microwave. But you'll want to clean your microwave more often when food hits the fan. Some occasions will call for a deeper clean, and one that's going to put a damper on the ghost of leftovers past. For doing that, lemon is the perfect cleaning tool. 

According to Jade Piper, who runs a professional home cleaning service, using lemon to clean offers an eco-friendly, natural, and safe option for refreshing your microwave. “Lemon odorizes and leaves the microwave smelling citrusy, while also sanitizing surfaces and preventing the inside of the microwave from harboring bacteria," she says.

Have a lemon on hand? You won't need much else to tackle a dirty microwave. Just follow these steps.

Good to know

Time: 10 minutes 

Difficulty: Easy

Helpful hint: Using fresh lemon slices rather than bottled lemon juice tends to work best, so aim to use fresh lemon if you can. 

Here’s what you’ll need

Here’s how to clean a microwave with lemon

Step 1: Fill a microwaveable bowl with water 

Grab a microwaveable bowl (glass is usually a good bet) and fill it halfway with water. 

Step 2: Add lemon slices to the bowl 

Next, add your lemon juice. If you're using fresh lemon, use a knife to finely slice the lemon and place the lemon slices into the microwave-safe bowl with water. Alternatively, if you're using bottled lemon juice, add a generous amount of the juice directly to the bowl. Looking to boost the cleaning power? Try cleaning the microwave with baking soda to remove even more grime.

Step 3: Microwave the lemon water

Microwave the lemon and water mixture on high for three minutes, and then leave the solution to sit in the microwave with the door closed so that the steam can help to loosen stuck-on grease, dirt, and grime. Think of it like a spa day for your microwave — the more steam, the better. 

Step 4: Wipe the microwave clean

After about five minutes of steaming, remove the bowl of water and lemon (being careful not to burn yourself). Then use a damp microfiber cloth (we love using one from this set on Amazon) to wipe out the inside of the microwave, before using a paper towel to dry it. 


Why is lemon good for cleaning?

Cleaning expert Jade Piper explains that "citric acid, which is found in lemons, is one of the best natural disinfectants and antibacterial agents,” which is why it’s so great for cleaning.

Is it better to clean microwave with lemon or vinegar?

Both lemon and vinegar work well when it comes to cleaning a microwave. In fact, many people opt to combine lemon and vinegar together (with water) to make cleaning their microwave even easier. 

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.