By Larissa Runkle
Mar 28, 2022

(Getty Images)

Sometimes the hardest household items to clean are the ones we use the most—we’re looking at you, microwave! In between heating up leftovers for lunch and making popcorn for movie nights, our microwave does a lot of work. Yet, it doesn’t often get the cleaning treatments it needs and deserves.

Instead, our oven spins day after day, cooking all of our delicious, smelly, and messy foods.

In this installment of “Beat the Stink,” we’ll show you how to deep-clean your microwave and keep those stinky, burnt smells from coming back. Here are the top microwave-cleaning tips we gleaned from the experts.

Use microwave heat to deep-clean

One of the best ways to deep-clean your microwave is by running it and using the heat to create a steam bath that cleans the interior.

“You can use the microwave’s heating to ‘power up’ your cleaning agent as well, which will spread easily along the walls,” says Alex Varela, general manager of Dallas Maids.

Varela recommends heating a cup of water in a microwave-safe container for 2 minutes. Then, wait 2 more minutes (to let the steam settle on surfaces and to avoid burning yourself) before opening the microwave and cleaning it out with a microfiber cloth and dish soap.

Be sure to remove and clean the microwave tray as well. Finally, dry the interior with a clean cloth and leave the door open, to let it air out for several hours.

Steam-clean with citrus

Close-up Of Woman Putting Bowl Of Slice Lemon In Microwave Oven (Getty Images)

If any odors linger after you give your microwave a steam bath, you might want to up your cleaning regimen. You can do this by including citrus, a powerful cleaning and deodorizing agent.

“Lingering smells like fish and popcorn are harder to remove, and in this case, you’ll need a stronger cleaning agent than just soap and water,” says Varela. “I would go with lemon juice—a great natural deodorizer that also leaves a fresh, clean citrus smell afterward.”

For a citrusy steam bath, follow the same steps as above, but this time, add several slices of fresh lemon to your container of water. After microwaving for 2 minutes, let it sit for another few minutes before opening the door, and then wipe down the interior as usual.

Take advantage of natural deodorizers

Once your microwave has been thoroughly cleaned with citrus, you might still smell that spicy curry you made last week. For this, work with another natural deodorizer.

“For persistent smells, you can also try out coffee grounds and boiling water, or even just place a bowl of coffee grounds in the sealed microwave overnight,” says Paul Moody, chief editor and founder of Pro Mover Reviews. “Coffee grounds are like scent sponges and work in other smelly parts of the home, too.”

How to prevent microwave stink

Now that your microwave is thoroughly cleaned, you’ll want to find ways to keep it that way. One of the best things you can do to prevent that caked-on burnt smell from coming back is to cover your food when heating it, to contain the odors and spatters.

“Use plate or bowl covers to stop splatters and smells before they cause problems in the first place,” says Moody. “You don’t even have to go out and buy fancy microwave dishware guards, either.”

He also recommends covering your bowls and plates with a paper towel, to prevent spatters and any caked-on messes.

“It’s quick, commonsense, and cheap,” he says, “and prevents these microwave messes before they even start.”

Give your microwave regular wipe-downs

Woman hand cleaning microwave oven with sponge. (Getty Images)

Another way to keep your microwave from getting all sticky and smelly again? Clean up food spatters when they happen, and wipe down your microwave after heating any particularly fragrant food.

“Try cleaning your microwave more often, using a natural cleaning agent like vinegar after each use,” says Varela. “And don’t forget to let it air out! If you’re worried about the oven’s light remaining on, unplug your microwave when not using it.”