Of all the nooks and crannies in our kitchens, the inside of the microwave may be the grimiest. Grease, food, and germs can build up with each use, yet many of us delay thinking about how to clean a microwave until a cooking catastrophe leaves us with no other option. But it shouldn't take burnt popcorn or a tomato sauce explosion for you to give this appliance a little TLC.

What's the best way to keep your microwave clean? Let's start with some preventative measures: First, anticipate and control any potential messes by covering food with a wet paper towel or a microwave-safe splatter screen while cooking. You can also try heating food in your microwave in shorter increments, flipping or mixing regularly to prevent explosions (this will help your food cook evenly, too).

If you still find yourself in a sticky situation, don't lose hope! We checked with the professionals, and it turns out there are a few tried-and-true tricks—and most of them call for homemade cleaners using items you already have on hand, like dish soap, lemon, and vinegar. Here's everything you need to know about how to clean a microwave with ease.

How often should you clean your microwave?

Believe it or not, you should clean your microwave pretty frequently—once a week, give or take a couple of days depending on how heavily you use it. Regular maintenance is the best way to prevent food residue from building up and baking into the interior of the appliance. Remember to clean the outside, too: The door handle and buttons can harbor a lot of germs, so wipe them down as often as you clean your kitchen counters and other high-touch surfaces.

Don't leave sporadic disasters for your weekly cleaning session, though. "Speed is key to attacking messes in the microwave," says Brian Sansoni, a spokesperson for the American Cleaning Institute in Washington, DC. Wipe out splatters and spills with a paper towel or cloth right away—once they dry, they'll be more difficult to remove!


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What's the best way to clean the inside of a microwave?

You probably have everything you need to get the job done on hand! Avoid heavy-duty oven cleaners, bleach, and other abrasive chemical solutions, which could damage the microwave's interior. You can tackle just about any microwave mess with natural ingredients and mild cleaning solutions.

The first solution, according to Whirlpool's microwave cleaning guide, is steam cleaning. Add one tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to the cup of water. Heat the mixture for two to five minutes and leave the door closed for a few more minutes, allowing the microwave to fill with steam. This process will loosen caked-on grime so you can easily wipe it out with a sponge or paper towel, no scrubbing needed.

The second option is an underrated household product: dish soap! "When it comes to cleaning a microwave, dish soap and warm water can be your best friends," Brian says. Wiping down the interior with dish soap and warm water will help remove food particles and grease. Whirlpool recommends doing this with a soft cloth. You can also wash the turntable with soapy water—just be sure to let it cool completely first, since hot glass can shatter in water. Some turntables are also dishwasher safe; check your microwave manual to see if that's the case.

How do you remove stuck-on food from a microwave?

Some dried-on messes are more stubborn than others. If you aren't able to remove 100% of the grime with steam or dish soap, try this suggestion from the cleaning service company Merry Maids: Apply a paste of baking soda and water to the interior of the microwave. Wipe it down with a microfiber cloth, applying gentle pressure to problematic spots. Repeat as needed until the microwave is sparkling clean. You can also grab a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, which should work wonders.


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How do you clean a greasy microwave door and handles?

When you're cleaning, don't forget the microwave's exterior. Remove greasy fingerprints and smudges from the door, handle, and control pad with soap and water on a soft cloth or sponge. Some models have a control lock option you can engage to avoid activating the microwave while cleaning.

If you do want to use a stronger cleaning solution, General Electric and Whirlpool suggest products specifically designed to clean microwaves and other appliances, such as Cerama Bryte Appliance Cleaner or Affresh Stainless Steel Cleaner. Spray these solutions onto a cloth first, rather than directly onto your microwave, and dry immediately.

How do you get rid of smells in a microwave?

The only thing more unpleasant than a dirty microwave is a smelly one. Reheat last night's fish dinner or burn a bag of popcorn, and you could find yourself living with the odor for days. The steam cleaning method with lemon or vinegar should not only clean but deodorize as well, taking care of both problems. Still notice lingering traces of the odor? Molly Maid, another cleaning service company, recommends this trick: Leave a dish of vinegar in the microwave overnight and repeat until the scent disappears. Or you can opt for an odor removing gel like Fresh Wave.

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