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How to clean a microwave oven

Cleaning your microwave is easy with a few simple items found at home (no harsh chemicals needed).

bowl_of_sliced_lemon_and_water_in_microwave_oven
Last updated: 30 August 2021
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Need to know

  • Clean and deodorise your microwave oven using water and common household ingredients like vinegar, bicarb soda and lemon
  • Never use scourers or abrasive materials when cleaning your microwave
  • Regular cleaning is important to avoid food residue building up in your microwave

We all know the dreaded microwave moment when food explodes and splatters all over the inside.

Apart from being unsightly and unhygienic, food remnants in your microwave can increase cooking times because they absorb some of the microwave energy. They may even shorten your oven's lifespan. Luckily, it's not that hard to clean and maintain your microwave using readily available, natural household ingredients.

How often should you clean your microwave oven?

This depends on how often you use it, but you should give your microwave a wipe every few days to avoid food residue building up. At the very least, make sure any spills are immediately removed with a damp cloth.

A handy tip is to wipe the interior down with a microfibre cloth immediately after cooking steamy foods such as vegetables and rice, as the sides will be warm and damp. Make sure you reach into the corners too.

What do you need to clean a microwave oven?

You don't need harsh, specialist chemical cleaners to make your microwave sparkle. Generally all you'll need is:

  • water
  • bicarbonate of soda
  • lemon slices or white vinegar
  • a soft sponge or microfibre cloth.
ingredients_you_need_for_cleaning_your_microwave

Water, baking soda, vinegar, lemon and a microfibre cloth are generally all you need to clean the inside of your microwave.

How to quickly clean your microwave

The simplest way to clean your microwave is to let steam and a mild acidic ingredient do their work.

To tackle caked-on food and smells, try the following steps.

  1. Place a tablespoon or two of vinegar or a lemon (cut into slices or halves) in a small bowl of water.
  2. Place the bowl in the microwave and run it on high for three minutes, or until the water is boiling.
  3. Leave the door closed for five minutes to let the steam loosen the residue.
  4. Open the door, remove the bowl and wipe away.

You can also remove the turntable, rinse it off and wipe each side down with a paper towel to let your microwave shine once more.

CHOICE tip: Stay nearby during the heating step to make sure the liquid doesn't boil over.

How to give your microwave an extensive clean

Apart from cleaning the inside using the quick microwave cleaning method, it's important to clean away food that may accumulate in cracks and crevices.

1. Clean the turntable

Soup or other liquid may also make its way onto the turntable, and this can be removed for cleaning in your regular sink or dishwasher (if it's small enough to fit – check to make sure it's dishwasher safe first).

Check under the turntable where the spindle is and make sure any residue is also wiped away.

2. Wipe the exterior

To clean the microwave exterior you'll just need a warm, damp cloth in a mild solution of soapy water. See your microwave instruction manual for any specific precautions.

Generally, you should never use abrasive cleaning products or scourers inside or outside the microwave, as these can cause permanent damage.

3. Clean off greasy residue

For tougher, harder stains that don't respond to warm soapy water, make a paste with water and bicarb soda, and scrub gently with a non-scratch sponge.

4. Check door frames, dials and buttons

Make sure doors seal properly and gunk doesn't build up around buttons or seals. Anything that's made its way into cracks or crevices may need a soft toothbrush, cotton bud or toothpick to gently prise away any hard foods, but take care not to rub or scratch the surface as this may damage it. Never use anything metal and make sure the microwave is unplugged before you start.

5. Clean the sides, top and back of the microwave

Over time, dust may accumulate on the microwave vents, making them less efficient. You may not notice this if the microwave doesn't sit on your benchtop. Grease and grime may also gather on the top of your microwave over time. It may be necessary to unplug it and give it a good wipe over once in a while.

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Gently wipe around the microwave with a soft, damp cloth.

What about cleaning convection microwaves?

You can use the steam-cleaning method in a convection microwave oven. However, baked-on fatty foods can splash onto the interior walls (which are usually stainless steel) and the glass door, and this food may be harder to remove. 

To avoid build-up, make sure the oven is wiped with a cloth and mild soapy water after each use (as soon as the oven's had a chance to cool down enough for you to reach in). You can remove residue that's extra hard to remove by using a paste made with bicarb soda and water, then scrubbing with a non-scratch sponge.

How do you get rid of microwave smells?

While lemon and vinegar can obliterate smells from your microwave, the scent can be quite overpowering.

Vanilla extract is also a food-safe way to leave your microwave smelling fresh. You can mix one or two teaspoons in a spray bottle filled with water. Spray it onto a cloth, wipe over the interior, leave for a few minutes, and wipe dry with a paper towel.

Alternatively, combine a cup of water and a teaspoon of vanilla extract in the microwave and heat it for a minute or so. Don't leave the microwave unattended when you're doing this.

Easy-to-clean microwaves

In the CHOICE kitchen lab, ease of cleaning is an important factor when our experts assess a microwave oven's ease of use. When buying a microwave, look for one with sealed touch controls and fewer crevices on its outside surfaces. You may also want to consider models with no turntable (known as flatbed microwaves), as they're easier to wipe out.

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