How to clean a microwave safely and correctly

From late-night leftovers to the occasional frozen burrito, our microwaves are always there for us. This small appliance can handle just about any kitchen need you can think of. Heat food instantly, set timers, vent your stovetop, and more. But take a closer look at your microwave and try to remember the last time you cleaned it.

If your microwave is covered in splattered food particles or lets off a foul smell, it’s time to give it a proper cleaning. This step-by-step guide will walk you through safely and effectively cleaning your microwave. And while you’re on a cleaning kick, you can also check out our posts on how to clean a dishwasher and how to clean a washing machine.

Frigidaire Gallery Black Stainless Steel Microwave Jenny McGrath / Digital Trends

What you’ll need

  • A medium-sized microwave-safe bowl (one that fits about 4 cups of liquid)
  • Vinegar or dish soap
  • A pot holder
  • Paper towels or a clean rag
  • An abrasive sponge
  • Disinfectant cleaner (like Lysol)

How to Clean Your Microwave

AmazonBasics Microwave Review
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

Step 1 – Fill a microwave-safe bowl with one cup of water and 1/4 cup of white vinegar. If you don’t have vinegar handy, you can substitute one teaspoon of dish soap.

Step 2 – Put the solution in your microwave and cook it for approximately one to two minutes (this depends on what wattage you’re using). For example, if you have a 1,200-watt or higher microwave, between one and one and a half minutes should suffice. If you only have a 700-watt microwave, you may need to cook the solution for two minutes or longer if necessary. The goal is to steam the solution without having it boil over or spill out of the container. Microwaving first lets the steam do most of the work for you. 

Step 3 – After the time is up, make sure to keep the door closed for three minutes or so. This will allow the steam to heat the bottom, sides, and top of your microwave. 

Step 4 – Once you’ve waited three minutes, carefully remove the bowl from the microwave. Be sure to use a potholder to avoid getting burned.

Step 5 – Wipe the sides of your microwave with a paper towel or washcloth. You may need to use a heavy-duty sponge to scrub off any stubborn food stains. We recommend not using Clorox wipes.

Step 6 – Take out the rotating plate and wash it with soap and water in your kitchen sink. You can also put the plate in the dishwasher if that works better for you. 

Step 7 – Take a damp paper towel or washcloth and add soap or a disinfectant. Use this to wipe down the exterior and control panel. Keep the cleaner away from the vents by not spraying it onto the microwave. Spray it onto the paper towel or washcloth first. 

Step 8 – If you have a seal or gasket on your microwave, you can use the wet paper towel or cloth to clean it. Make sure to wipe down the roller wheel as well. Take a dry paper towel and wipe off any soap residue left on the inside of the microwave. 

Step 9 – Once you’re finished cleaning the roller wheels and the rotating plate, place them back into the microwave. 

Step 10 – Now, you can use your impeccable microwave to cook whatever you need. 


  • If you don’t have dish soap or vinegar, you can place half a lemon in a bowl of water and cook it for five minutes. This all-natural cleaning option comes with the bonus of a fresh citrus scent.
  • Heating a sponge inside the microwave will clean it.
  • Never use harsh or abrasive chemicals when cleaning your microwave.
  • Keep your microwave clean and prevent spills by covering food while it’s heating inside.
  • When heating splatter-prone foods, use a low power setting and clean any spills right away.

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