How to clean a microwave - fail-safe methods to get your microwave sparkling

Say goodbye to grease, stains and nasty odours in your microwave with these natural cleaning hacks

White kitchen with tiles and cooker
(Image credit: Future PLC / David Giles)

Whether we're in desperate need of a quick and easy dinner, or in the mood for a five-minute mug cake, we rely on our microwave more than we probably like to admit. One of the unsung heroes of kitchen appliances, it's essential that we learn how to clean a microwave properly, so it can stay in tip-top condition.

Even the best microwaves can fall victim to nasty odours and stubborn stains if we don't take care of them. The good news is that learning how to clean a microwave doesn't have to be a chore we dread. In fact, it can be quite simple, and only require products that you probably already have in your store cupboard.

'Cleaning your microwave is an essential task,' says Laura Harnett, Founder, Seep eco cleaning products. 'It helps keep it running for longer, makes sure your food tastes just right and will stop any unwanted smells lurking around the kitchen.'

We've asked the experts to share their best tips and tricks on how to clean a microwave, so you can banish nasty smells and unsightly food stains for good.

How to clean a microwave: best hacks

White kitchen with tiles and cooker

(Image credit: Future PLC / Fiona Walker)

Both the inside and outside of your microwave will need a good clean, and once a week is probably a good frequency to ensure that this appliance remains in tip top condition. Try one of the microwave cleaning hacks below, and get your microwave plate, door and general interior back to squeaky clean condition.

How to clean a microwave with baking soda

As baking soda is a mild alkali it's perfect for cutting through grease and other dirt around your home, and that includes any that might have built up in your microwave. 

Fill a microwaveable bowl with 1 cup of water and 2 tablespoons of baking soda, place it in the microwave and set the timer for three to five minutes on high heat. 'This will eliminate odours and steam off stubborn stains,' explains a spokesperson from Method.

Try this hack first before following the steps below, and cleaning the microwave will be a lot easier. You'll need to have some kitchen gloves and a clean cloth to hand.

  • Remove your microwave plate and turntable ring
  • Sprinkle 1/4 cup of baking soda around the bottom of your microwave
  • Use a dampened cloth to work the baking soda into any stains in your microwave
  • Rinse your cloth and wipe away any remaining soda. Do this twice if any residue remains.

How to clean a microwave with lemon

Learning how to clean a microwave is easy if you have a lemon to hand. 'Lemons contain citric acid, which is one of the best natural cleaners and antibacterial ingredients', explain cleaning gurus Steph and Jade, @stade_clean. 'The antibacterial properties of lemon juice make it the perfect cleaning agent.'

Banish bad smells from your microwave by following the steps for this natural cleaning hack below:

microwave with lemon with jug and bowl

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Tim Young)
  • Fill a microwavable jug or bowl with water until around the halfway point
  • Slice a lemon in half and place in the water, squeezing so some of the juice is released
  • Place this in the microwave on high heat for three minutes
  • Wearing oven gloves, remove the bowl and dampen a clean cloth in the water 
  • Use the cloth to wipe away the grime from the interior of the microwave. It should now come away easily. 

How to clean a microwave with washing-up liquid

It works for cleaning our dishes so it naturally follows that it will work for other areas of our kitchen too. And whether you've got a bottle of Fairy or a supermarket own brand to hand, you can learn how to clean a microwave with washing-up liquid either way.

White kitchen with sink and microwave

(Image credit: Future PLC / Talbot Photography)
  • Remove your microwave plate and turntable ring
  • Fill a microwave safe bowl with warm water
  • Add in a few drops of washing up liquid and stir to create suds
  • Dip a sponge into the water/washing up solution and use it to clean the microwave interior and exterior
  • Use a damp cloth to wipe both the interior and exterior until they're free of suds.

How to clean a microwave with vinegar

Cleaning with vinegar is a fool-proof method for many areas in the house, including the microwave. Vinegar has both antimicrobial and antibacterial properties, and will clear your microwave of any nasties that may be lurking as a result of old food remnants. Simply follow the steps below to learn how to clean a microwave with vinegar:

kitchen with microwave and cabinet

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Colin Poole)
  • Fill a microwave safe bowl with 2 cups of water and 2tbsps of white vinegar
  • Add a few drops of your favourite essential oil if you want to leave a nice scent - the only downside to cleaning with vinegar is the strong smell it leaves behind
  • Put the microwave on for 2-3 minutes on a high setting
  • Use oven gloves to remove your bowl
  • Dampen a clean cloth in the bowl and wipe down dislodged grease and dirt.

Microwave steam cleaner – do I need to use one?

You can pick up portable microwave steam cleaners for under £10 on Amazon, such as the popular Angry Mama microwave steam cleaner, but you will still need to add a mix of water and white vinegar to them and it may prove just as easy to follow the tips above.

However, the benefit of microwave steam cleaners are that these products can be reused up to a hundred times and require minimal prep.

If your microwave is beyond saving with a deep clean, it might be time to look at our pick of the best microwaves and invest in a new model, and endeavour to clean this one more often in the future.

How do you clean a microwave naturally?

'The best way to tackle unwanted smells and bacteria from a microwave is to fill a microwaveable bowl halfway with water and half a lemon,' says cleaning experts Steph and Jade. 'Heat on high for 3-5 minutes until boiling and leave the steam to work its magic. Once it’s cooled, wipe out with a microfibre cloth.'

Lemon is acidic enough to break down stubborn grease and leftover food stains, and it will work just as well if not better than cleaning products specifically formulated for microwave cleaning. Other natural products that work well are baking soda and vinegar. Trial out each one and see which you prefer.

The top tip for learning how to clean a microwave is to let a bowl of water mixed with either lemon, vinegar, or baking soda sit in the microwave for three minutes on high heat before you start scrubbing with a cloth. The steam created from the water solution will work wonders, and make cleaning ten times easier. 

'If you're still left with any stubborn marks after this, add a bit of plain white vinegar to a cloth,' says Lara Brittain, Kitchen Expert, Currys. 'And always leave the door of the microwave open for a few minutes to air after cleaning.'

Silver microwave in white kitchen with book shelf

(Image credit: Future PLC / Emma Lewis)

What products can I use to clean inside the microwave?

Aside from natural cleaning agents such as lemon, vinegar, and baking soda, washing-up liquid is a tried and tested product that you can use to clean the microwave. You can use a little bit of washing-up liquid and water for more frequent cleans, then stick to the natural cleaning agents when the microwave needs a deeper clean. 

'Microwaves should be wiped out after every use and then cleaned fully with a warm damp cloth and a little washing up liquid once a week,' says Sophie Lane, Product Training Manager, Miele. 'Be careful not to use too much water as this can damage the appliance.'

Regular anti-bacterial cleaning sprays are fine to use inside the microwave as well. 'But you should never use harsh chemicals or bleach to clean your microwave,' says Lara from Currys.

No there's no excuse for a grubby microwave.

With contributions from