Courtney Omell | 

How to Clean a Microwave Without Commercial Cleaners

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We’ve been walking you through how to clean many of your daily-use home items (think hair brushes and humidifiers) that may get overlooked during spring cleaning. A dirty microwave can harbor harmful bacteria and germs that can cause illness. Second, food stains and spills can leave behind unpleasant odors, affecting the taste of your food. Additionally, a buildup of grime and grease can affect the efficiency of your microwave, leading to longer cooking times and potentially damaging the appliance.

Regularly cleaning your microwave can help ensure that it functions properly and remains a safe and hygienic kitchen appliance. We’re about to dive into all of the basic steps for how to clean a microwave with household products you likely already have on hand.

The products we recommend are all easy to find, and when we can, we suggest more natural or chemical-free alternatives. When cleaning with things like vinegar or lemon, you’re keeping your home safe for kids and pets. Plus, you’re doing your budget a favor since these products are overall less expensive than their commercial counterparts.

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Clean the stainless exterior with a vinegar and water mixture.

a person spraying the exterior of a microwave with a vinegar mixture

To safely clean the exterior of your microwave, including stainless steel, mix an equal amount of white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Depending on how much you have to clean, 1/2 cup of each is a good starting point. Spray the vinegar solution onto a soft, lint-free cloth and then wipe the stainless steel going with the grain.

We love using vinegar as a budget-friendly cleaner for kitchen appliances. Stainless steel cleaning wipes are a really convenient way to wipe down stainless, but they cost about $0.15 per wipe. If you use one wipe per appliance, you’ll spend about $0.60 in total. A 1/2 cup (four ounces) of vinegar, which will clean all of your appliances in one go, costs $0.10.

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How to clean a microwave interior.

a person squeezing a lemon wedge into a bowl full of water

You can clean a microwave using steam.

If your microwave is free of debris and has minimal stains, you can get away with a simple steam clean. This is an affordable and effective way to make the inside of your microwave sparkle. Fill a microwave-safe bowl with water. Microwave the bowl for three to four minutes until the water boils and produces steam. Then let the steam sit in the microwave for a few minutes before wiping the interior clean with a damp cloth or soft sponge. The steam will help loosen and remove any food stains or grime, making cleaning easier.

Clean the microwave with lemon or vinegar.

For more stubborn stains, you can try the above method, but add vinegar to the water or a few squirts of fresh lemon juice. The acids from the vinegar or lemon juice help break up the stuck-on food and spills.

Related: Read this post for even more information on how to clean a microwave with vinegar.



For greasy interiors, use dish soap and a soft sponge or cloth.

a person spraying dish soap into a microwave

We love Dawn dish soap for its many uses, and cleaning a microwave is definitely one of them. If you need a tougher cleaner, Dawn should be your next step. Combine a few drops of Dawn dish soap with warm water in a bowl and mix it until it’s nice and sudsy. Dip a sponge or cloth in the soapy mixture and wipe down the interior of the microwave, paying special attention to any stubborn spots or stains. Finally, rinse the sponge or cloth and wipe down the interior again to remove any soapy residue.

You could also give your microwave a good spray with Dawn Powerwash. The foam coats the inside of the interior and makes less of a mess. Just spray the Powerwash all over the interior, close the door, and let the Dawn do its magic for about five minutes. Open the door and wipe the interior out with a clean, damp cloth.

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For burnt-on food, try gently abrasive baking soda.

a person holding a can of baking soda

Now we’re getting to the nitty-gritty cleaning tips. If you’ve got some seriously stuck-on food in your microwave, you’ll want to use something a little more abrasive, but still gentle. Baking soda is a perfect cleaning tool for this! Mix a few tablespoons of baking soda with water to create a paste. Apply the paste to the interior of the microwave and let it sit for five minutes to loosen any stubborn grime or stains. Then use a damp cloth or sponge to wipe down the interior of the microwave, using a circular motion to ensure you cover all areas. Rinse the cloth or sponge and wipe down the interior again to remove any remaining baking soda residue.

Note that some guides say that baking soda is safe to clean the stainless steel exterior of your microwave, but we suggest trying other options. Though baking soda is gentle, it’s still abrasive enough to potentially scratch.

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To remove odors, use a bowl of baking soda to absorb the smell.

a person putting a small bowl of baking soda into a microwave to absorb the smell

Once your microwave is looking shiny and new, remove any residual odors by placing a small container with two tablespoons to 1/4 cup of baking soda inside. Close the door of your microwave and let it sit overnight. The baking soda will absorb any leftover odors and leave your microwave smelling like absolutely nothing at all.

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