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How to Clean a Microwave Naturally

Looking for a more eco-friendly way to clean your microwave? Try these four simple techniques to clean a microwave naturally without harsh chemicals.

Image of clean kitchen with a clean microwave

Microwaves are common household appliances that help with everything from reheating leftover spaghetti to boiling water for tea. Convenient as they are, they’re also prone to getting dirty quickly from splatters of food, grease, and that bowl of soup that spilled over one time. Harmful bacteria can build up along with stains and unpleasant odors the longer your microwave goes unwashed.

And while cleaning your microwave (inside and out) is important to your health, how you clean it also makes a big difference. Household disinfectant sprays shouldn’t be used inside of the microwave, as their potentially toxic residues can linger on the surfaces and get into your food.

Naturally cleansing and disinfecting a microwave is a quick and safe process that you can undertake with a few common kitchen ingredients, like white vinegar or lemon juice. Below are four ways to clean the inside of a microwave to remove lingering odors, bacteria, and stains.

Tips for Cleaning a Microwave

Before you get started with your microwave cleaning, there are a few things to keep in mind. The first is safety. As with any household cleaning, avoid getting electrical components or heating elements wet. In most cases, there shouldn’t be too much to worry about for your microwave as it’s designed to get steamy and. It’s also a good idea to unplug your microwave before cleaning.

Also, steer clear of abrasives when cleaning. The soft side of the sponge is safe, but something like steel wool will damage your appliance’s interior surfaces.

Lastly, if it’s been some time since you’ve cleaned your microwave, work in phases. You may find you’ll need to repeat steps once or twice to get all of the food debris and residue out. Once you’re finished, make sure any cleaning product residues (such as vinegar or baking soda) are fully removed to avoid making your food smell or taste weird. You can always leave the door open to air out any fumes.

How Often Should You Clean Your Microwave?

As for how often you should clean your microwave, it depends on your use frequency and what you tend to reheat.

Do a basic wipe-down of the interior of your microwave every week or two — simply use a slightly damp paper towel with a few drops of liquid dish soap. Go back over the surfaces with a dry towel to lift residues and prevent staining. This is also a good time to wipe the exterior with a surface cleaner or diluted vinegar spray.

For a more robust clean, try one of the methods outlined below every one to two months, or when you notice food particles starting to build up. And of course, the more you routinely clean, the less often you’ll need to go into your microwave with gloves and the elbow grease of a superhero.

How to Clean a Microwave With Lemon

One of the best ways to clean a microwave is by using lemon! In less than 15 minutes, your microwave will be polished clean and free of the residues of reheated food.


Here’s what you’ll need to get a clean microwave with lemon juice:


Here’s how to clean a microwave in a few quick steps. Adjust the ‘cook’ time of the lemon water depending on your microwave’s power.

Step One – Fill your heat-safe bowl or glass measuring cup up with about one cup of water. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice into the water, dropping in the halves. Make sure there’s enough room in the bowl or cup so that the liquid won’t spill and boil over.

Step Two – Microwave the bowl of lemon water on high for three to five minutes and let it sit for five more minutes in the microwave once it’s finished, keeping the door closed. The acidic steam from the citrus will help deodorize and loosen up stains while decreasing the need for excessive elbow grease to scrub.

Step Three – Take your lemon water bowl out of the microwave (carefully, it will be hot!). Remove the turntable (if your microwave has one) and clean it separately in the sink with soap and water.

Step Four – Use dry paper towels to wipe the interior of the appliance. Make sure to get all of those nooks and crannies, from the ceiling to the inside of the door.

For stubborn stains and encrusted food particles, dip your towel into the lemon water and spot treat as needed. You can also use a sponge for added scrubbing power. (And again, avoid putting water directly on the side vents and using a scouring pad or other abrasives on the interior.)

To finish, wipe the surfaces dry with a microfiber cloth for a little polish, replace the turntable once it’s dry, and you’re good to go! Repeat this process as needed.

When to Use Lemon Juice for Microwave Cleaning

Lemon juice possesses natural antibacterial and antiseptic qualities and helps get rid of lingering odors in places like your microwave.

Lemons won’t have the same effect at killing bacteria as something white vinegar or bleach (but please don’t bleach your microwave), though if you’re looking for a simple way to clean your microwave, lemon is a great starting point that’s highly effective at lifting surface debris. For getting rid of deeper-set stains, you try one of the methods below.

Cleaning a Microwave With White Vinegar

Getting your microwave clean from spills, splatters, and stains is easy with white vinegar. It works as a mild but effective disinfectant that kills off food-borne bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella.

Follow the exact same steps as above for cleaning your microwave with lemon, except substitute the lemon juice with ¼ to ½ cup of white vinegar. To finish, wipe the surfaces dry with a microfiber cloth for a little polish, leave the microwave door open to air out the vinegar smell, and you’re good to go!

Cleaning a Microwave With Baking Soda

Baking soda is another natural cleaning powerhouse. You can use it to deep clean your oven, with vinegar to clean an air fryer, and even as the primary ingredient in a DIY jewelry cleaner recipe.

When it comes to cleaning your microwave with baking soda, follow the steps below for optimal results. Expect this to lift out deep stains and splatters due to baking soda’s alkaline properties and mildly abrasive texture.


Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Microwavable bowl or glass measuring cup
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 2 tablespoons of baking soda
  • Paper towels
  • Soft microfiber cloth
  • Sponge (optional)
  • Protective gloves (optional)


Here’s how to clean a microwave with baking soda:

Step One – Stir the baking soda and water together in your microwave-safe bowl or glass measuring cup. Ensure there’s enough room so that the mixture won’t spill and boil over.

Step Two – Microwave your solution for three to five minutes on high. Keep the door closed when the timer beeps and let the container stay in the microwave for about five minutes.

Step Three – Remove the bowl from the microwave, being careful as it will be quite hot. Use a dry or slightly damp paper towel, sponge, or soft cloth to wipe out the interior of the microwave. The food residues and grease should come off pretty easily now. You can also take out the center turntable and ring and clean them separately in the sink.

Step Four – Go back over the interior surfaces with a soft cloth to dry and polish. You may want to leave your microwave open to let any baking soda smells air out. Don’t forget to wipe off the exterior door, handle, number pad, and any other areas while you’re at it.

Another Way to Use Baking Soda

Want to leverage the gentle abrasiveness of baking soda to lift food gunk from your microwave? Remove the center turntable and ring, sprinkle baking soda throughout the floor of the microwave, let it sit for five minutes, and wipe clean with a damp paper towel until all of the baking soda is gone. Go over the surfaces with a dry microfiber cloth to lift away any remaining residues.

Cleaning a Microwave With Dish Soap

Rounding out our list of the best ways to clean a microwave naturally is the simple and sudsy use of dish soap. There are two ways. The first is to follow the steps above for cleaning with lemon juice, substituting in the lemon for two tablespoons of liquid dish soap. The second way is to wipe the interior of your appliance with warm soapy water.


Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Microwavable bowl or glass measuring cup
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons of liquid dish soap
  • 1 cup of warm water
  • Soft sponge
  • Paper towels
  • Soft microfiber cloth
  • Protective gloves (optional)


Try this if you’re looking to deep clean your microwave and have a little more time on your hands. For especially dirty appliances, try one of the methods above as a first step, like cleaning the microwave with lemon juice. This helps loosen food debris and makes deep cleaning with dish soap (see below) more impactful.

Step One – Remove the center turntable and any other removable parts. Clean these separately in the sink (if applicable) or wipe them down with a damp paper towel or sponge.

Step Two – Wipe loose crumbs and surface-level food debris from the interior of the microwave.

Step Three – Prepare your cleaning solution in a bowl by mixing the liquid dish soap with warm (almost hot) water.

Step Four – Dip your sponge in the soapy water, ring it out so it’s not dripping wet, and begin cleaning your microwave’s interior. Pay special attention to any stains or crusty spills.

Note: Avoid getting the side vents wet. Condensation and steam are safe in a microwave, but too much liquid can hurt your appliance besides being messy. The same goes for cleaning the exterior. A towel lightly dampened with warm water and soap (or vinegar) should do the trick.

Step Five – Go over the interior surfaces again with a damp paper towel or soft cloth. Once you’re satisfied, use a dry microfiber cloth to dry all surfaces. Replace the center turntable and other components once they’re clean and dry. Leave your microwave door open for 10 minutes to air out any lingering soap smells.

Now your microwave should be clean, deodorized, and free of food residues and bacteria. Repeat different processes as needed. For more eco-friendly cleaning tips and sustainability ideas, head over to the Public Goods blog.

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